‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Theatrical Review
Well, here we are again. Sixteen years after Bryan Singer first dipped his toes into the mutant gene pool, we have X-Men: Apocalypse. Days Of Future Past ended with a huge teaser for this movie. The fans went wild with speculation as to what Singer would do with the titular mutant and who would play him. The hype machine went into overdrive as a new trailer was released seemingly every month, each revealing a little more. So does the movie live up to the hype? Yes and no.
Lets start by looking at the premise. Mystique has become a kind of hero-figure after the events of DOFP while Magneto has settled with a wife and daughter under an assumed name. Prof X. is now teaching full time in his mansion and welcoming new students regularly. So far, so good. Meanwhile, an ancient mutant named En Sabah Nur has awakened to a new world that he doesn’t like too much. He recruits four horsemen and decides to pull down this new world to recreate it in his own vision.
This is incredibly promising. It builds on the lore established in the previous two movies and introduces a new threat to challenge the status quo. Where it falters slightly is this new threat. Apocalypse, En Sabah Nur, whatever you want to call him, just doesn’t feel threatening. I’ve read a lot of X-Men comics and watched the animated series and Apocalypse was always a very serious threat. When he and his horsemen arrive, the excrement hits the cooling device.
However this Apocalypse comes across as more of a religious fanatic than a world-ending monster. He’s very softly spoken and at times just leaves it to his horsemen. Actor Oscar Isaacs is incredibly talented but I feel like the fault here is with the writers who seem unsure how to utilise him to his full potential. The result is a weak villain that causes the focus to fall back to Magneto again.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Magneto, and Michael Fassbender does a great job in the role, but he’s become the Wolverine of the newer X-Men films. The focus seems to always be on him even when the story may not be entirely about him. This may have been fine in First Class, which was about his and Xavier’s relationship, but not here. Apocalypse is the bad guy. That said, Fassbender’s performance was fantastic as usual.
One major complaint fans had about the promotional material for this film is, they’re really pushing Jennifer Lawrence as the star. I’m pleased to say she doesn’t get as much screen time as indicated. Not that Lawrence is unwelcome onscreen, simply that it’s nice to see other characters shine. And shine, they do.
Finally! A Cyclops that can hold his own in an X-Men film. One of my huge issues with the series was that they keep leaving out Cyclops or making him take a back seat. He’s the leader of the team for crying out loud. In this film he’s played by the talented Tye Sheridan and he kicks some ass. Joining him is Sophie Turner as Jean Grey turning in a not too shabby American accent in her first major film role. I admit I was unsure of her casting when I first heard, but she actually impresses. Special shout out to Kodi Smit-McPhee, whose fun turn as Nightcrawler is endearingly clumsy.
For all the well developed characters, there are a few who have little to no development at all. Among these are three of the four horsemen. Olivia Munn fills out Psylocke’s costume very nicely but beyond one or two action sequences has very little to do, and the same could be said for Ben Hardy’s Angel. Storm fares a little better in this regard, with a little more dialogue and a lengthier recruitment scene. The thing that irked me about the horsemen, however, is that it’s unclear whether they’re following Apocalypse against their will. In the books he brainwashes them, but here it’s not made clear. When Storm switches sides, I don’t know if she broke his programming or if she’s just fickle.
This has some of the best action in any of the X-men films and really feels like they’re a team when they’re fighting Apocalypse’s buddies. The violence is a little more graphic than we’re used to. This film is rated a 12A in the UK, which I believe is the equivalent of a PG13 in the US. We’re treated to a sequence in which Angel painfully gets his metal wings, and a certain Canuck goes berserk in a scene that will certainly go down as one of the movie’s two great crowd-pleasing moments.
That’s right, I said two crowd-pleasing moments. What’s the other? Well, you may have guessed it involves Quicksilver. In a sequence that is an absolute joy to watch, he saves a buttload of people from an explosion to the pulsing sound of ‘Sweet Dreams’ by the Eurhythmics. I dare anyone to not associate that song with this scene from now on.
Special effects continue to impress–in particular the devastation wrought by Cyclops’ optic blasts and the sequence in which they’re used on Apocalypse in tandem with other mutants’ powers. A little underwhelming on the effects-front is the destruction brought about by Apocalypse in reshaping the world. I understand he’s reducing everything to dust but it just feels lazy and it’s something that’s been done before. Heck, Phoenix did just that in X-Men: The Last Stand, and we know how well that film was received.
All in all, this is a fairly solid addition to the franchise with some standout new characters and old ones finally being used properly. Also nice to see another X-Men flick not relying entirely on Wolverine to be successful. It’s just a shame the main villain is a little underwhelming and that it’s following Captain America: Civil War. Everything pales in comparison to that. But X-Men: Apocalypse puts in a fine effort and, while it may not be the best X-men movie, it’s better than most.