After the recent revitalization of the X-Men franchise starting with the jolly goodness of First Class and a decent, if rushed feeling Days of Future Past, it looked like X-Men was on steady tracks. Apocalypse seems to have a lot going for it and it accomplishes what it sets out to do, albeit with a number of annoyances that make me less excited with the direction the franchise may or may not go from here on.
The first mutant to exist was Apocalypse a blue skinned alien brute who was a revered god in Egypt, enslaving humanity to build his pyramids, before he was plunged into sleep for centuries. His whole deal is that humanity should be wiped out along with their technology to make way for mutant kind. In the 1980s Apocalypse resurfaces and the fractured X-Men unite and take sides to thwart Apocalypse’s… Apocalypse.
This new X-Men delivers on the action and it’s a competent effort, however there were many barriers getting in the way of the enjoyment of the film. Starting with the overall writing, you see, you can’t make a superhero film these days without fulfilling the quirky Joss Whedon-espue flippant comedy writing quota. This film does not do comedy well, it is referential, the comedy set pieces continually interrupt the drama and suspense of the action, Nightcrawler is reduced to a comic relief character. There is literally a scene where Cyclops and crew go watch Return of the Jedi then after some banter Jean Grey says something like “I guess the third movie always sucks”, that level of fourth wall breaking humour was jarring and obnoxious. At its least worst the writing only serves to belabour the scenes such as Magneto’s loss when his daughter dies, Fassbender is trying his best to not make the lines sound trite when all the scene needed was silence and the look on Fassbender’s face.
Entire scenes seem to exist either for fan service or to establish continuity in other films in the franchise because apparently that’s incredibly important. There’s a bit where Hank (Beast) shows off the X-Men stealth plane to Mystique, it’s never used or brought up again. About halfway through the film, a bunch of mutants get kidnapped by Col. Stryker, Wolverine’s captor from X-Men 2 and taken back to his dam prison. You can cut this entire section out, going from Apocalypse screwing with Xavier leading to the mansions explosion, then just have the mutants assemble, fly off and fight Apocalypse. But no we have to have a glorified Wolverine cameo, who’s only used for plot convenience and then leaves the film.
Along with some rather cheap looking production design, from naff green screen backgrounds to scenes where costumed characters are standing around looking like people in costume, rather than the powerful mutants they embody. The new young actors simply haven’t been given enough time to get into their roles properly, nor have we been given the chance to really care about them. It’s a typical case of too much going on and yet there was ample opportunity to make cuts and focus on what needed to be established properly, in the characters, in plot, in execution.
With all that said, there is an enjoyable action movie to be found in Apocalypse. Not all of the special effects look crummy, there’s occasional wit even if that wit has been rehashed, and James McAvoy along with Michael Fassbender are on point. Apocalypse is a suitably intimidating character and the make-up applied to Oscar Isaac feel accurate to the comic and to the characters Egyptian origins. For what it’s worth the film isn’t a confusing mess even with all the characters deployed and the plot concludes satisfactorily. This latest outing in the X-Men franchise leaves me unoptimistic for the future of the franchise, it lacks the confident direction Matthew Vaughn had in First Class as well as that films ambition. There are a list of contrivances and problems with the production and script that leaves me a bit disappointed, but there wasn’t anything to hate about Apocalypse, for the most part.
Dir: Bryan Singer
Scr: Simon Kinberg
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn
Prd: Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner, John Ottman, Bryan Singer
DOP: Newton Thomas Sigel
Music: John Ottman
Runtime: 144 mins
X-Men: Apocalypse is in cinemas now.