X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

It's worrying that the publicity machine has bought into Apocalypse's philosophy.
It’s worrying that the publicity machine has bought into Apocalypse’s philosophy.

“Only the Strong Will Survive”

Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Issac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till, Evan Peters, Kody Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp and Ben Hardy

In ancient Egypt, the first mutant, En Sabah Nur is betrayed by his people as his consciousness is being transferred to the body of a mutant with healing powers (Isaac). Millennia later, his cult dig up the pyramid and trigger his revival, leading CIA agent Moira McTaggart (Byrne) to accept the suddenly offered aid of mutant expert Charles Xavier (McAvoy).

En Sabah Nur, better known as Apocalypse, seeks out powerful mutants – Storm (Shipp), Psylocke (Munn), Angel (Hardy) and Magneto (Fassbender), the last of whom loses his wife and daughter to a mob when his powers are revealed – intending to destroy the human world which coddles weakness. He hijacks Cerebro to force all nuclear missiles to be launched into space, then kidnaps Xavier, intending to take his body and with it his telepathy. It is up to McTaggart, Beast (Hoult) and Mystique (Lawrence), and the young mutants Jean Grey (Turner), Notquicksilver (Peters), Cyclops (Sheridan) and Nightcrawler (Smit-McPhee) to rescue the Professor and stop Apocalypse.

What’s wrong with it?

As is par for the course, holy shit that’s a lot of characters right there. Given how many they throw in on top of those from Days of Future Past, it seems especially harsh that poor Havok (Till) only got to introduce his brother and then blow himself up.

Maybe I’ve just seen too many movies, but the beats here are all fairly predictable. In particular, Magneto’s family were pretty much just walking around with targets on their chests and a long-standing reservation for the refrigerator express.

“The third movie is always the worst.” Cheap shot, Singer, however true it is of The Last Stand.

Um… Did Wolverine just… impress on Jean? Like a baby bird or creepy werewolf?

Sophie Turner is hampered by a not-quite-there American accent which diminishes her overall performance.

What’s right with it?

The movie does have the necessary sense of scale, and the implications of Apocalypse’s ability to amplify Magneto and Xavier’s powers to global scale are terrifying. You can really see why people would be scared of mutants.

The world-building, especially as it deliberately deviates from the first round of X-Men movies by making mutants well known and loosely tolerated much earlier than before, is fascinating.

How bad is it really?

X-Men: Apocalypse suffers from a number of flaws in its storytelling method which render it somewhat predictable, but do not detract from its virtues as a barnstorming summer blockbuster.

Best bit (if such there is)?

So, the obvious pick is the Quicksilver scene. Yes, it’s a knock off of the one from Days of Future Past, with ‘Sweet Dreams Are Made of This’ in place of ‘Time in a Bottle’, and it’s perhaps a little too long, but it’s still a rare looks at the world from the viewpoint of a speedster; something even The Flash hasn’t really dealt with. Unfortunately, it gets disqualified for being all fun and cool despite the fact that clearly someone just died. The tonal whiplash is pretty huge.

So I think I’m going to go for the scene where Magneto confronts the workmates who dobbed him in and got his family killed, with his chilling and personal menace utterly undercut by Apocalypse’s casual slaughter of the entire room for being a distraction from what he wants to talk about.

An honourable mention goes to Xavier restoring McTaggart’s memories and fessing up that he was wrong to take them away in the first place.

What’s up with…?

A is for Apocalypse, or will be after the Greeks...
A is for Apocalypse, or will be after the Greeks…
  • Apocalypse’s symbol? Did he invent A or something?
  • The gratuitous yet inevitable Wolverine cameo? I mean, we knew it was coming as soon as we saw the lake, but I could have lived without the implication that he crushes on Jean later because of memories of her as a teenage girl.

Ratings

Production values – Well, I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that the production itself is pretty much top notch. 0
Dialogue and performances – Apocalypse has a stellar cast of actors, with McAvoy and Fassbender making their own marks on characters who once looked like being owned outright by Stewart and McKellan, and an excellent run of newcomers. Isaac deserves special mention for carrying off Apocalypse with the necessary gravitas; as the old cartoon series showed us, it’s easy for him to get campy. Unfortunately, Sophie Turner, lumbered with an accent she can’t quite make natural, is a weak link in a pivotal role. 4
Plot and execution – The story is decent, but ultimately predictable, and certainly for a comics fan offers no surprises whatsoever. From the death of Magneto’s family to Jean’s revelation as the proto-Phoenix. 12
Randomness – The film is pretty on task, although whatever you say about The Last Stand, recasting Angel as a hard-drinking cage fighter was a little left field. 2
Waste of potential – Apocalypse is basically as good a movie as it could be, but almost because it is as good as it is, I kind of expected more of it. Just a little… je ne sais quoi? A few surprises, perhaps. 4

Overall 22%

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