X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Prepare for the Apocalypse.

The X-Men films have had their fair share of ups and downs. From Matthew Vaughn’s terrific X-Men: First Class (2011) — which kinda worked as an origin-type re-boot for the franchise after Brett Ratner’s poorly received X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) left a bitter taste in patron’s mouths — to the middling X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), which saw director Bryan Singer return to the franchise he started in order to repair the damage that Fox had caused. Unlike most, I saw the latter as a convoluted, forced attempt (by a desperate studio) at bridging the earlier X-Men pictures with the prequels (although I think I’m in the minority with this opinion). Any which way, whatever your feelings are towards the X-Men movies, it’s safe to say that they can’t match up to Marvel — or even DC for that matter. Sure, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) was far from perfect, but heck, it at least tried to do something different! X-Men: Apocalypse on the other hand, finds long-time X-Men helmer Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg sticking to a tired worn-out formula, one we’ve seen a dozen times before.

With Apocalypse fast approaching, Armageddon outta here!
With Apocalypse fast approaching, Armageddon outta here!

Apocalypse takes place ten years after the events of 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (well after those of 1973, if you take the flash back into account). It’s now 1983 and Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has successfully established his school for ‘gifted youngsters,’ while Erik Lehnsherr or Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has made a quiet life for himself in Poland under a bogus new identity. Anyhow, the two big kahunas of the X-Men universe cross paths yet again after the arrival of En Sabah Nur or Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), an ageless mutant of seemingly infinite power. Exalted and glorified in ancient times, Apocalypse is reawakened after 5,000 years of slumber, only to find a world that he detests as ‘his kind’ are no longer treated as gods. Determined to destroy humanity and start anew, Apocalypse scours the globe to recruit and empower four mutant helpers, referred to as the four Horsemen. Consequentially, this messianic foe enlists the aid of a grief-stricken Magneto, a Kenyan-American pickpocket named Ororo Munroe or Storm (Alexandra Shipp), a psychic sword-wielding fox named Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and the winged mutant Angel (Ben Hardy), whose damaged feathered limbs are given a metallic upgrade.

Seeing as I just mentioned Angel, let’s use the guy to illustrate my overarching issues with the entire X-Men franchise — its inconsistency. Okay, if you cast your minds back to 2006, we last saw Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand being played by a ‘then’ 25-year-old Ben Foster. In Apocalypse it’s now 1983, 20 odd years before the said film, and Angel is back, but this time a 25-year-old Ben Hardy is taking on the role. The age discrepancy just doesn’t add up. In the same regard, given that Singer’s original X-Men movie came out 16 years ago, the new cast members simply don’t match up with their older variations. But wait, there’s more. None of the characters appear to have moved on since we last saw them ten years earlier in Days of Future Past. As it stands, Singer wants us to believe that Raven Darkhölme or Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) has been lurking around the shadows rescuing oppressed mutants for about decade (I repeat a decade), while the scene stealing speedster Peter Maximoff or Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is still living in his mother’s basement playing arcade video games. Come on Singer!

So how’s the actual film one might ask? Simple answer … meh. You see, Apocalypse (the ninth installment in the superhero saga) starts off strong but fizzles out long before its overcooked climax kicks into gear. We’re also force fed a whole bunch of Weapon X stuff, material that’s obviously been shoehorned into the narrative to set up future chapters. On the other hand, the filmmakers should at least be commended for their decision to stick closely to the picture’s source, which will no doubt please fanboys.

'Stop ... you're making a Mystique!'
‘Stop … you’re making a Mystique!’

That said, there’s nothing overly new here; we get the usual story beats and customary smorgasbord of destruction on a global scale (including an uncomfortable moment where Magneto destroys Auschwitz), a bunch of blatant fan service and an overpowered baddie with very little in the way of empathy or motivation (why’s he even assembling the Horsemen? Just destroy the world already). We find out how Storm’s mohawk turned white and how Professor Xavier lost his locks … riveting stuff indeed. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) shows up in a scenery chewing cameo, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) gets an acceleration of sorts as she showcases her Phoenix-like abilities this early on in the game, while Quicksilver is given yet another extended slow-mo scene (albeit this one’s much better, and even more explosive than the last). Don’t get me wrong, there’s some unusually violent fun to be had here and there but it all comes with a sense of been-there-done-that cinematic déjà vu. And oh, those who grew up in the ’80s might get a kick out of the picture’s retro production design, which utilizes the era’s outrageous fashion and mullet hairstyles.

Things are a little hit and miss over on the acting front too. The clear highlight is Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games (2012), with the seasoned actress bringing added depth to the shape-shifting mutant Mystique, a character that was essentially used for eye candy when Rebecca Romijn donned the blue-scaled bodysuit back in 2000. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs (2015), is magnetic as the metal manipulating mutant Magneto — I just wish the dude would stop switching sides. Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road (2009), provides some solid comic relief as Nightcrawler — a scene that sees the indigo-colored teleporter try to blend in by dressing up in some Michael Jackson-inspired attire is sharp — while Olivia Munn, Magic Mike (2012), has the bathing-suit-costumed babe Psylocke down pat. Rose Byrne, Neighbors (2014), is a welcome addition to any picture, even if the CIA agent she’s playing, Moira MacTaggert, has nada to do throughout the flick’s 144-minute runtime. Tye Sheridan, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), lacks genuine emotion as Scott Summers or Cyclops, while Nicholas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), is sidelined as Hank McCoy or Beast. The biggest letdown however is Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina (2015), who’s almost unrecognizable under layers of latex make-up, with his villainous antagonist coming across as one-dimensional and dull. All in all though, this is a decent effort from the cluttered ensemble.

Apocalypse Wow!
Apocalypse Wow!

Look, I’ve said it in person now I’ll say it in writing: I seriously think that the X-Men should be handed over to the guys at Marvel/Walt Disney. While X-Men: Apocalypse is by no means a ‘bad’ film, I do honestly think that injecting new blood into the franchise would do these merry mutants a whole bunch of good. Alternatively, Fox could just handball them over to the folks who managed the Deadpool (2016) flick. Either way, I’d be happy.

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

X-Men: Apocalypse is released through 20th Century Fox Australia