X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence
Director: Bryan Singer
Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men Universe for a fourth time in the sixth direct X-Men movie. Set during the eighties the latest instalment finds the Xavier school in full swing while Magneto leads a happy life as a family man. Unfortunately Apocalypse, the first mutant who has godlike powers, rises from a centuries-long sleep and causes havoc, recruiting four mutants to his cause and attempting to wipe out the weak; which in his view is most of the population of earth.
It’s been a mixed bag of superhero movies this year, from the wonder of R-rated fun that is Deadpool to the disappointing response to Batman V Superman, followed by the ensemble hit Captain America: Civil War. Sadly the latest X-Men movie falls closer to BvS than the other films, offering a CGI feast for the eyes but lacking in characterisation, memorable moments and cohesion.
The movie follows on from the events of Days of Future’s Past, although as always continuity in the X-Men movies is strained to put it mildly. The story is simple and rather dull for the most part- Apocalypse wants to destroy everything, the good guys want to stop him. A few characters are given their moments to shine with the actors savouring what they can, particularly Fassbender, however some barely speak and one can’t help but get the impression that too much has been thrown at the screen to see what sticks.
Angel and Pyslocke barely register while the overuse of Lawrence as Mystique (often seen in human form due to the actress’ star status rather than the character’s mutant pride) hopefully brings her role in the franchise to a close. McAvoy does his best however screaming at CGI is always going to be hard work and his impending baldness was highlighted in the trailers so comes as little surprise. Hoult, one of the four core cast members, also gets short shrift in this movie with no real storyline available for his version of Hank McCoy aka Beast. Several new faces appear as familiar characters seen in previous movies and a superfluous Wolverine cameo is shoehorned in for no real reason. Evan Peters is a delight in his returning role of Quicksilver, enjoying himself immensely and cementing his status as the ‘fun’ version of the mutant while Oscar Issac’s Apocalypse is somewhat effective but merely fulfils the role of ‘villain wanting to destroy everything’.
The action scenes are well done and the effects stand up to scrutiny however the magic of Marvel’s Merry Mutants has faded. This is probably due to a sense of ‘been there, done that’ which is apparent when looking at the previous movies. We have another Cerebro scene, another visit to Alkali lake with cameos from Stryker and Wolverine and another Quicksilver speed scene (although this is quite a pleasure to watch). Plot elements are recycled too with Cerebro/Xavier’s telepathy being exploited by the villains and the somewhat standard villains switching sides during the finale trope being played. Add in a typical boatload of CGI buildings being destroyed and some bizarre plot holes/unanswered questions and the movie struggles to find its feet.
Is the film entertaining? To a degree yes, however there is so much wasted potential and convoluted plotlines that the movie fails to truly ignite. For those looking for cohesion between the movies after Days of Future’s Past hit the reset button, then don’t bother. Plot threads from DoFP are left unexplained while the continuity of the series is head scratching to say the least- apparently changes in the timeline has caused some mutants to be born decades earlier than in the original trilogy while the returning stars of First Class have barely changed in appearance despite twenty years having passed within the films. It seems that continuity is taken with a grain of salt which, compared to the intricately plotted Marvel Cinematic Universe and the groundwork being laid by the DC Movie Universe, is all the more noticeable.
To summarise the movie one can simply refer to a scene in the actual film which features several younger characters leaving a showing of Return of the Jedi, commenting that the third film is always the worse in a trilogy. Meant as a backhanded comment of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, this unfortunately applies to Apocalypse as well.