This is a hard review to write. The X-Men have always been my favourite comic and one of my favourite film franchises (bar a few stumbles). I knew it would be hard to follow the incredible Days of Future Past but when the negative reviews came flooding in I was shocked; Surely we couldn’t have fallen so far. Yes…and no. Overall I cant say that this is a great film, maybe not even a good film…but it still has the amazing characters, actors and set pieces we have grown to love. The sum of its parts may not work but its hard for me to hate it when the parts themselves are just that good.
The biggest issue I found was the plot itself, while the characters were still written very well, the pacing was honestly dreadful. Long stretches went by with little to no action or thrills, leaving us to take in heavy dumps of exposition and set up for the countless new characters. We jumped around so much that I felt myself getting lost: just as I got invested in a scene, it would move halfway across the world to a completely different event. As a result, it became increasingly apparent that the film had been savaged in the cutting room, scenes removed and characters downgraded to supporting roles (Jubilee). Other X-Men films would jump around too but they had something Apocalypse did not: an anchor. Be it wolverine or the relationship between Xavier and Magneto, the other films had a strong character at its core to keep things grounded. Without this, Apocalypse never becomes as focused, it never grabs the audience in the same way as we are constantly switching protagonists. Despite prominence in the advertising, the horsemen; Storm, Angel and Psylocke, barely register and are given barely any screen time. They show potential for future instalments but are wasted here. Instead, Singer focuses on our main antagonist ad title character Apocalypse.
Apocalypse is the worst thing about this movie.
That’s right. the outcry against a character is for one justified. Apocalypse is neither intimidating or charismatic. He lacks any originality and frankly, his presence completely took me out of the movie due to the cartoonish appearance and utter unoriginality. Oscar Issac is an amazing actor but, buried under heavy makeup and forced to speak monologue after monologue about ‘building a better world’, he just couldn’t salvage this iceberg sinking the entire film.
However, I still have to say that X-Men: Apocalypse is worth the price of admission. Singer has pooled together some of the hottest young talent to play the younger versions of already established characters – Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner and Kodi Smit-McPhee all give strong performances, especially McPhee who rivals Alan Cumming in his portrayal of my personal favourite X Man Nightcrawler, providing essential comic relief to battle the blandness of Apocalypses evil plans. Once again McAvoy and Fassbender are perfect, giving Oscar worthy performances to what many people see as a purely commercial franchise. On the other hand Jennifer Lawrence seems to be channelling blue Katniss in her role as Mystique, completing her transformation into a dull, emotionless form from her more conflicted portrayal in First Class.
Several set pieces left me breathless and showed just how much potential was lost in a muddled and overstuffed script. Both the opening and closing action sequences were incredible in both spectacle and creativity, thrilling the audience with what they expect from an X Men film – unique powers and strong visual effects. Another example of this is the Quicksilver sequence, clearly trying to top the scene from Days of Future Past and succeeding. A bloody appearance from Wolverine kept the momentum going in an otherwise mediocre escape sequence but wasn’t enough to distract from the repetitive nature of the plot, feeling more like a greatest hits compilation of the X-Men franchise than its own independent story.
So many things worked, so many showed potential for great things but this isn’t the film to take advantage of that. Its simply too choppy and weighed down by clichés and a weak villain to become the magnum opus it could have been. While underwhelming though, it is no where near as poor as some critics may lead you to believe- still possessing the high production values and performances one would expect from a key franchise behind the current superhero renaissance.