DIR: Bryan Singer • WRI: Simon Kinberg • PRO: Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer • DOP: Newton Thomas Sigel • ED: Michael Louis Hill, John Ottman • MUS: John Ottman • DES: Grant Major • CAST: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
The 2016 box office has been abundant with success. Much of that is thanks to receipts from this year’s superhero blockbusters. Whether they have been panned by the critics or celebrated, this genre does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Sure it’s more about spectacle than character, action over logic, but we go to the movies to be entertained, and they deliver on that, right? Unfortunately, the superhero movie is a body of films that feels obliged to stay true to its (comic book or movie predecessor) roots while still trying to offer something fresh. Oftentimes, this has a hit-and-miss result. Thus for every witty Deadpool and thrilling Captain America: Civil War, there is a so-so contribution to the saga. Now, onto X-Men Apocalypse…
We are dropped into the heart of the action and visual splendour that one expects in the film from the very opening scene, set in (an unbelievably pristine) Ancient Egypt. Here we are introduced to our villain Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac – Star Wars: The Force Awakens), who is worshipped as a god there. However, a rebellion by the locals causes him to be buried under ground, where he will be trapped for the next thousand years. Flashing forward to the 1980s, we then observe Erik a.k.a. Magneto (Michael Fassbender, flawless as ever) living out his new and humble life as a smelter, keeping his mutant powers a secret. His abode is an idyllic countryside house where he lives with his wife and young daughter. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (the lovely James McAvoy) continues to run his school for mutants and expresses enthusiastic plans to develop a university for mutants also.
In another storyline, Raven, otherwise known as Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), does her part in protecting mutant-kind by discovering mutant prisoners around the globe and setting them free. Though all three are living separate lives and their futures seem to be going in different directions, the return of Apocalypse will force Xavier and Raven to work together when he enlists Magneto and three other mutants – Storm (Alexandra Shipp – Straight Outta Compton), Angel (Ben Hardy – Eastenders), and Psylocke (Olivia Munn – Magic Mike) – to help him rule the world.
Obviously, there are a lot of storylines and characters going on here, and this isn’t even getting into the return of Moira McTaggart (Rose Bryne), or Xavier’s new students (Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler) who stand in as the young versions of the characters who featured in the original X-Men films.
In fairness to Bryan Singer though, who knows this world inside and out having already directed X-Men, X2 and Days of Future Past, he manages to maintain a comprehensive layout, giving each arc attention and appeal so there is never a dull moment or character. The exception to this may be the new Jean Grey, who spends much of her time being grumpy, pouting, or looking helpless. Turner struggles to pull off the enigmatic and hard-core persona that Famke Janssen originally brought to the role.
A particularly impressive accomplishment of the director’s is a slo-mo sequence involving Quicksilver, played charismatically by Evan Peters. A similar sequence involving the character also marked one of the highlights of Days of Future Past. The scene here in Apocalypse is in equal parts amusing and exhilarating.
Perhaps because the film had so much narrative to work through and characters to give the spotlight to, the end of film feels like the story has exhausted itself. The final action sequence goes off with a whimper, not a bang, and lacks the energy the rest of the movie had. While there is nothing wrong with being ambitious and diversified in one’s approach, the problem here is that oftentimes the film feels simply like it is trying to hit as many targets as it can, hoping something sticks. It forces the introduction of a number of new characters when there is still much development to be had from ones we already know, and who, let’s face it, see performances from talented actors that the producers are lucky to have. McAvoy and Fassbender as the top ranked characters will surely eventually get sick of this backwards and forwards nature of the characters they play, which never sees them actually progress into something new and exciting. If this sixth instalment is not the apocalypse to the X-Men universe, then maybe it should be.
12A (See IFCO for details)
X-Men Apocalypse is released 20th May 2016