X-Men: Apocalypse

Genre: Action

Director: Bryan Singer

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg, story by Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Luca Till, Josh Helman, Ben Hardy, Lana Condor, Zelko Ivanek, Anthony Koneehny

Running Length: 143 minutes

Synopsis:  Since the dawn of civilization, he was worshipped as a god. Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel’s X-Men universe, amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible. Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) with the help of Professor X (James McAvoy) must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction.

Review: The good news is that X-Men: Apocalypse is not the worst superhero movie released this year (Batman v Superman is a very tough act to upstage, after all). The bad news is that after the superlative First Class and Days of Future Past, the entire X-Men franchise seems to have taken a huge step backwards with Apocalypse. Even the collective thespian prowess of Fassbender, McAvoy, Lawrence and franchise newcomer Sophie Turner cannot combat a movie that is overstuffed with inconsequential characters and subplots, as well as one of the least menacing arch-villains in recent memory.

It does start off well enough, and the opening sequence set in the Nile Valley in 3600BC introducing Apocalypse holds good promise. However, once the film segues into 1983, the script starts to make questionable advances – Apocalypse is supposed to be immensely powerful, but ends up spending almost all of his screen time behaving like a blue Nick Fury (there are a LOT of blue characters in this movie, by the way) and convincing mutants to join his cause as his horsemen. While three of the mutants he recruits are of highly questionable use (sorry, fans of Angel, Psylocke and Storm), Apocalypse does manage to get Magneto on his side as well, but the recruitment sequence involving Auschwitz borders on the tacky. Apocalypse is such a generic villain that he poses no menace whatsoever, and even his scheme for total global annihilation feels underwhelming.

X-Men: Apocalypse runs a (nowadays) relatively standard 2-plus hours, but due to the bevy of characters being introduced and the number of subplots, the film feels very scattershot, often jumping from one plot to another before they have time to sink in. This also deprives a bunch of very good actors from doing much, though not for lack of trying (congratulations to James McAvoy for emoting well in an almost incessant chain of extreme closeups). Of the newcomers, the only actor of note is Sophie “Sansa Stark” Turner, who does a decent job of giving depth to Jean Grey in her limited screen time, and would be the one to look out for in the inevitable sequel.

What truly does X-Men: Apocalypse in is the lack of any newness to its proceedings. Everything feels been there, done that, and even one of the best sequences in Days of Future Past – the Quicksilver slow-mo musical number – is given a rehash here, and proves that lightning does not strike twice. The second time round, this Quicksilver musical number feels uninspired and perfunctory, mirroring much of the remainder of the movie. In one sequence, a bunch of X-Men exit a Return of the Jedi screening, throwing a barely veiled dig at both the “old” X-Men trilogy as well as the Star Wars franchise of how the third film is always the worst, but what Singer and team does not realise is that X-Men: Apocalypse falls to the same curse, and is a shocking low point for the franchise despite everyone’s best intentions.

Rating: * * (out of four stars)

 

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