Film Review: 'X-Men: Apocalypse'
Opened: 27 May 2016 (UK)
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till, Evan Peters, Alexandra Shipp, Ben Hardy, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Director: Bryan Singer
Producers: Bryan Singer, Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker
It is time to admit what we have all been suspecting for a while now, director Bryan Singer is not an X-Men fanboy. It’s not just that he skews character’s traits and development to fit the story arc, but that he (along with the studio) is now twisting the story arc to fit the established Hollywood cast. Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique really are shoe horned into this X-jaunt. It makes you wonder how many times these characters can go war with each other (and James’ MvAvoy’s Xavier) and keep finding redemption.
The X-Men have always been a team so it is nice to see this in X-Men Apocalypse. The original trilogy was heavily centred on Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine (more recently Mystique and Magneto) and this is no longer the case. Cyclops (Tye Sheridian), Jean Grey (great performance by Sophie Turner but that US accent needs some work), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) all get a decent character arcs, and there's an even better Quicksilver sequence this time round, along with Beast where Nicholas Hoult goes from strength to strength but the make up job needs special attention to perfect it next time. Equally, this movie does a lot of world building ahead of potential spin offs and undoubtedly more sequels – big clues for the clued-up in the post credit scene.
The movie’s eponymous villain is an ancient mutant able to steal the abilities of other mutants, as he possesses one body after the other in order to cheat death. So powerful in fact that he and his ‘horsemen’ were worshiped as gods. The tradition of weak comic book bad guys in movies is observed with Apocalypse and his horsemen weak in character and power. The original characterisation this version is loosely based on had completely different abilities and was not obsessed with collecting powers (because he was already badass enough). Instead Singer’s Apocalypse is a self-aggrandizing soft toy that can be knocked around like a padded punching bag. A dark blue smurf lord who towers over no one – short and underwhelming!
Singer has always shied away from the double page spread sprawling action sequences that fans want to see (which Marvel Studios now delivers), his decision tine down the main villain’s abilities a sad casualty of this approach. Ultimately this latest chapter is a step backwards after the hectic battles of Days of Future Past. As the world is possibly coming to an end there is still time for a chat with old friends to see if things can be worked out – this is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but over tea and biscuits.
For all these criticisms X-Men Apocalypse is reasonably satisfying fare but audiences will leave screenings feeling a little short changed. The X-Men franchise has recovered since the horrifying days of X-Men Origins Wolverine and the pop-culture abortion, X-Men The Last Stand, but it still has a it’s work cut out in bridging the gap with its competition. If the franchise cannot put the plot before casting considerations, and amp up the action it will continue to trail behind it’s main rivals and it’s own spin offs!