Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Lana Condor, Olivia Munn | Written by Simon Kinberg | Directed by Bryan Singer
With Days of Future Past arguably a series high, but with a plan for what was to come already in mind enough for a post-credits sting in that film, X-Men: Apocalypse had the makings of taking what had been achieved with the talented cast at the centre and pushing onwards. With a top drawer addition in the form of Oscar Isaac on bad guy duties and well regarded up and comers added to the mix, it should have been a slam dunk. However, the marketing for the film has met with little acclaim and after the insane accomplishment of Captain America: Civil War, this instalment has felt a little underwhelming on the lead up into it. Unfortunately this has come to pass.
X-Men: Apocalypse is a film which does itself very few favours. The film’s opening act sees a wide variety of plotting attempting to establish itself. The burgeoning relationship of Tye Sheridan and Sophie Turner’s Cyclops and Jean Grey, Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique taking a sudden transformation into mutant icon, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto’s new life in Poland, James McAvoy’s Professor X’s slightly stalkerish looking attempts to reconnect with Rose Byrne’s Moira McTaggart AND the introduction of our bad guy all jostle for position with the stuff you care about given the bare minimum needed, with Fassbender actually looking like he still cares but then the introduction of Apocalypse being brought about by a rug not being positioned correctly. It is a film maddeningly deaf in tone, alternating from genuine human tragedy to silliness in the space of two scenes yet still trying to ask us to care about it all equally.
But saying all this, when it works it’s as good as the franchise has been up to this point, it just doesn’t happen all that often. Some of the action, particularly one scene, has an intensity which pushes the 12a certificate and certainly makes you take notice. The aforementioned Fassbender gets some solid dramatic meat to chew on in the opening act before being ordered to stand around for the entire climax and Kodi-Smitt McPhee along with Evan Peters breath life into fresher characters who have little in the way of angst and bring a requisite level of fun to their scenes. They certainly offset Turner and Sheridan who are rather sunk by trying to bring teenage personality to characters full of conflict and raging emotions.
It’s also fair to say that the new villains aren’t fantastic. Oscar Isaac’s career won’t be done much harm as non film fans will barely know it’s him but a rentakit vengeance on the world plot and a look which is just as bad as in the early marketing make for probably the worst villain of the mainline X films. Also, Olivia Munn and Ben Hardy make less than no impression as two of his horsemen, getting introduction scenes and barely anything else to do. Alexandra Shipp is a bright spot here though, her adulation of Mystique bringing some much needed character and marking herself out as a decent face for the future of the franchise. Add to all this a third act which insists upon a cacophony of CG and actors screaming at each other in front of green screens all hinging upon a dream fight (oh yes, a DREAM FIGHT) and let’s just say the whole endeavour doesn’t end on the strongest note.
X-Men: Apocalypse is a film of few highs but quite a lot of cg addled, tone deaf lows. While not a deathly blow for the franchise, it does give the impression that Fox don’t quite know what to do with the series and perhaps a creative refresh is needed at this point.
X-Men: Apocalypse is in UK cinemas now. The film releases in the US and Canada on May 27th.