Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Josh Helman, Ben Hardy
Run Time: 144 mins
(POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD)
‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ is the latest instalment in this high-profile franchise and its story follows hot on the heels of 2014’s ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’. Luckily for this film, it is once again directed by Bryan Singer who directed that and also the original ‘X-Men’ and its sequel, ‘X2’ so expectations for this film are very high. This instalment looks to crank things up to 11 following ‘Days of Future Past’ as it deals with the threat of En Sabah Nur (aka. Apocalypse), one of the X-Men’s biggest foes in the comics and this is also the first film in the alternate timeline that ‘Days of Future Past’ sets up, so the film doesn’t have too much pressure on it story-wise and this really is an opportunity for a fun X-Men film that doesn’t have to be too concerned with past films.
‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ severely drops the ball big time – it is far and away the worst entry in the entire franchise and apart from a promising first 45 minutes or so, is a CGI bore. The story is incoherent and sloppy and particularly towards the film’s climax, the film is unwatchable. Even the acting which is normally stellar is very underwhelming and there are many examples of both old and new characters phoning it in. There is some stuff to like here – there are a couple of good sequences and the film opens up rather promisingly but other than this, the film is an outright disaster.
The biggest problem this film has is undeniably its story. What made ‘First Class’ and ‘Days of Future Past’ both worthwhile were their original stories mixed in with history and pop culture which in both cases, was a great blend. ‘Apocalypse’ however almost completely does away with this, except for a mean-spirited scene in the middle when the younger characters comment on how ‘The Return of the Jedi’ is the worst film in the original Star Wars trilogy clearly taking shots at Brett Ratner’s ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ (which I happened to quite like) when actually it is shooting itself in the foot being the third entry in the prequel trilogy. There is also another ill-natured scene part-way through the film which has the potential to annoy audiences set in Auschwitz.
The other problem which feeds into the poor narrative is the botching of the titular villain, Apocalypse, who is played by the always-wonderful Oscar Isaac but here he is made to shout whilst looking uncomfortable in a blue outfit. It is embarrassingly bad and the character’s villainous plan is so by-the-numbers. The stakes are never high enough and the character is so easily defeated, despite his mighty strength in the comics. Oscar Isaac clearly tries to do the best he can with the material but fails as the character is so poorly written.
The final action sequence and climax to the film is especially badly handled and it goes on and on for what seems like an eternity. The CGI looks unfinished and for the first time in any X-Men film, not only was I bored, I was also close to shouting at the screen for having to sit through this. The script by Simon Kinberg is ropey and at some points, laughable – I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word, ‘systems’ so many times in a film especially constantly being blurted out by Oscar Isaac’s villain!
The acting here is generally underwhelming with pretty much everyone phoning it in especially Jennifer Lawrence but Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler, a character so beloved and excellently portrayed by Alan Cumming in X2 is particularly awful here. ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ has recanted a lot of the most well-known characters in a younger iteration who aren’t particularly good with the exception of Sophie Turner’s portrayal of Jean Grey who is excellent and encapsulates the role very well. What particularly annoyed me with this film is how Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, easily the standout in ‘First Class’ and ‘Days of Future Past’ is badly handled here and even his performance is mostly uninspired, save for a great scene that sends his character off hating the entire world, but particularly as the film progresses, Fassbender seems bored and unhappy.
That’s not to say ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ is a complete waste of time – there are a couple of thoughtful sequences particularly in the first 45 minutes or so and the film begins very well with a well-crafted sequence showing the progression of time following the temporary demise of Apocalypse. I also thought that the extended cameo by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine that was teased in the final trailer is well done and demonstrates the brutality and sheer violence of the character to a tee and although Singer tries to outdo himself with another similar sequence to ‘Days of Future Past’ with Quicksilver, it’s still quite fun and there is a great standoff scene with Magneto vs the Police that for a brief period of time, holds up to Fassbender’s portrayal of the character in the previous two films. But all this is not enough to save what is a dogged and uninspired film.
Unfortunately, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ proves to be the low point for this franchise and as a superhero film in itself is an overstuffed and incoherent mess. It is the worst comic book film of the year so far by a big margin and over the past couple of years where there has been a strong run of superhero films, is second-worst to ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ which had virtually no redeemable qualities. It’s a real shame as it’s not as if it’s just a step-down from previous films – it’s a near-complete slam into bad territory. Here’s hoping ‘Suicide Squad’ and ‘Doctor Strange’, the final two comic book offerings of the year which I have very high expectations for, don’t drop the ball to this level.