When X -Men first came out in the year 2000 comic book movies were still finding their feet as we didn’t yet have the MCU, The Dark Knight trilogy or even Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy. Now 16 years later the X-Men Universe has been joined by Marvel and DC in the superhero movie universe brigade/thing. Having helmed three of the previous X-Men films, including Days of Future Past, Bryan Singer has again been trusted in bringing the mutants to the big screen.
It’s now the 1980’s and the first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) has awoken and displeased by the culture he has awoken within (perhaps if he had awoken in the 60’s he would have been more chill) decides to eliminate humans from the planet so that mutants can truly rule supreme. He recruits the orphan girl Storm (Alexandra Shripp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), cage fighter Angel (Ben Hardy) and everyone’s favourite metal detector Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Elsewhere Professor X (James McAvoy) is running his institute for the gifted with Hank (Nicholas Hoult) and new student Scott/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) arrives alongside current student Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) also stops by with Nightcrawler (Kodi-Smit Mcphee) as she is worried about Magneto’s wellbeing following a traumatic event. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is also alerted to this as he feels he needs to bond with Magneto who is his father. Whilst Professor X looks into Magneto’s disappearance he comes across Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) again, as there were not enough sub-plots apparently.
Basically there’s a lot going on, and it’s mostly entertaining but doesn’t really feel weighted in anything because there isn’t enough time for the film to fit everything in. Apocalypse was one of my favourite villians from the old cartoon series and I didn’t feel his more ‘subtle’ design was effective. Oscar Isaac is a terrific actor but his performance felt very repetitive and stifling, not because of his lack of ability, but there wasn’t enough time or nuance devoted in the film’s runtime to keep him interesting. All of the returning players perform ably; Fassbender delivers a fine mix of gaunt expressions and passionate vengeance of a man going over the edge. Whilst the newcomers all perform promisingly in their roles they don’t get enough material to truly flourish and end up simply being promising additions. Whereas in Captain America: Civil War Tom Holland was a great Peter Parker/Spiderman in Apocalypse Sophie Turner seems that she could be a good Jean Grey, and Tye Sheridan could be a good Cyclops etc. but they hover on the periphery battling for screen time with all the other characters. Having stolen the show in Days of Future of Past with a breath-taking slow motion (or fast motion I suppose?) sequence Quicksilver returns with a similar scene here. It isn’t as good, going for a bigger is better approach, it is funny in parts but lacks the surprise and intricate detail it had in Days of Future Past. Then we get lots of worldwide destruction that makes Man of Steel look conservative by comparison, say what you will about DC’s attitude to city wide destruction at least in Batman vs Superman they showed the destruction from a personal perspective to add dramatic weight. In Apocalypse we watch as cities are sucked into the sky and feel simply that the animators did a stylish job with it, but no empathy whatsoever.
Despite my hang ups X-Men: Apocalypse has enough impressive action beats to be entertaining without being immersive. There are some funny gags, and impressive special effects but very little dramatic stakes. It’s definitely the weakest film of the “New class” trilogy (First Class and Days of Future Past being superior) but with an impressive cast to sell it does the job.
Film Rating 3/5
Review by Alexander Halsall