Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

So I realised the other day that the first X-Men film came out SIXTEEN years ago, which is crazy! It’s been a long time, and this third prequel/reboot/sequel strains at the seams to try and give the franchise another refresh, but neglects what made Days of Future Past and First Class great – making for a strange, wacky and laughable entry as poor as X-Men: The Last Stand.

It’s the ’80s, and the world has recovered from the events of Days of Future Past, aware of mutants – with our familiar cast gone their separate ways. Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) hides in Poland with a wife and child (and chickens), while Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) continue to work hard on helping younger mutants at Xavier’s school. Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) meanwhile saves mutants from mistreatment at human hands, but all are taken by surprise by the reawakening of the “first mutant”, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), a mutant of seemingly unlimited power who wants to destroy the world, seeing it as weak.

So far, so typically end-of-the-world superhero shenanigans. And other than some X-Men exclusive quirks to the story, it goes pretty much as you might expect, disappointingly. Gone are the interesting, thought-provoking and (sometimes) radical stories of the last two films, in favour of something more rote – impending apocalypse. Any interesting ideas it might have – links to human religion, what exactly the hell En Sabah Nur is and a potentially controversial trip to a certain real-life location – are passed over for some strange choices from director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinsberg, and acting isn’t high on the agenda either.

Some story decisions made in Days of Future Past are forgotten, not addressed or breezed over, and the desire to try and redo everything again is obvious with the return of one particular mutant about halfway through. It really did make me think First Class was a chance to make this series something exciting, and Days of Future Past was brave enough to try even when it sometimes fell short. This is Transformers-level stakes (the world is not going to end, we know that from the outset), with a bunch of actors who look bored!

Musically, the soundtrack is unforgettable besides ’80s music used at specific points, and some impressive effects (the destruction in particular towards the end) have no depth or resonance, while Oscar Isaac’s ‘Apocalypse’ suffers from one of the most ridiculous movie make-up jobs I’ve seen. You thought Jennifer Lawrence had it bad? You’ve seen nothing yet – he looks like a joke bad guy from some mad Japanese children’s programme of the 1990s.

Fassbender and McAvoy are the best actors in this film, and they barely have anything to do. Magneto, as per usual, is the antihero, but some odd story decisions mean all Fassbender’s good work early on is squandered, and as with so much else in the film, the actor’s scenes feel either rushed or cut down. McAvoy tries hard in the many talky scenes Xavier is part of, and I felt bad that he seemed to become more of an expository character – at times, his superior powers are forgotten, leaving him a near damsel-in-distress.x-men-apocalypse-launch-quad-poster

Jennifer Lawrence’s role is a huge, huge waste of a spectacular talent, and Raven/Mystique’s conflict in previous movies is ignored in favour of a bland storyline that underserves the character completely. The same can be said almost identically of Oscar Isaac’s ‘Apocalypse’, who plays a laughably one-note character that you fail to be interested by in any meaningful way. He doesn’t even feel threatening, because he looks so stupid, and having your main antagonist made up in such a hilarious costume kills the mood of impending doom. Nicholas Hoult may as well not have been in this, and the same can be said of many other characters – Apocalypse’s three other “Four Horseman” are bland, naff and boring, and you can’t really understand why he chose them as his harbingers of the end of the world.

The reboot-like nature of the series means we have a few new mutants, who – despite their obvious roles as the future stars of the series – are not only given few scenes to, well, act in, but are almost laughably bad in them when they do. These include Sophie Turner’s Jean Gray, Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops and Kodi Smitt-McPhee’s Nightcrawler, as well as the wasted Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who stole the last film from everyone else. The younger characters aren’t sympathetic, they aren’t fleshed out enough, and yet the film throws them at the audience as a new line-up for future entries.

I usually like to talk about a film in more detail, when it warrants it. I don’t want to waste any more of my time on Apocalypse. It’s just bad – a real wasted opportunity. It’s dour, ridiculous when it means to be sincere, inexplicably over two hours long (so little of note happens you don’t realise this) and a waste of time. Pretend it all ended with Days of Future Past, and everyone lived happily ever after.

 

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