X-Men Apocalypse: Film Review
Cast: James MacAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Evan Peters, Olivia Munn
Director: Bryan Singer
It's back into X-territory for the latest outing in the mutant franchise.
This time around, ten years after the events of Days of Future Past the mutants of Charles Xavier (MacAvoy) are forced into action when the First Mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is re-awakened. Intent on destroying the world and unleashing chaos, Xavier's problems are further compounded when Magneto (Fassbender) joins Apocalypse's team...
That the latest X Men film feels a misfire is more a script issue rather than any kind of fault in its execution.
Granted, there's plenty of at times impressive CGI destruction to behold as Apocalypse and Magneto join forces to raze civilisation, but the script's lack of singular focus or clear vision means parts feel muddled and overly saggy without any real reason.
It may be that part of the story's rehash of how a mutant comes to be (in this case, Scott Summers, played by Mud's Tye Sheridan) feels so familiar having been explored before. Other characters in the film such as Angel, Storm and Psylocke have good opening sequences and introductions before falling away into narrative obscurity.
It's symptomatic of so much being juggled but yet nothing being fully fleshed out in X Men Apocalypse, that it leaves the whole thing feeling relatively soulless and without any real sense of jeopardy.
It's a shame because the opening in Egypt feels like a mutant version of the start of The Mummy but gives the film a sense of scale and threat that's lacking elsewhere.
The problem comes that Apocalypse is a bit of a weaker villain for the piece, preferring to be an enabler of those recruited to his Four Horsemen gang, rather than an actual menace worthy of the series and of the tease that was proffered up at the end of Days of Future Past. Isaac does as much as he can under the blue prosthetics but he's saddled with scenes that simply find him in the action scowling and grumbling, rather than bringing a level of fear that the so-called First Mutant should evoke.
For the sixth film in this revamped series, the latest X-Men curiously defers all the personal interplay that helped lift the previous films in favour of over-egging the pudding.
Curiously, the best moments of Apocalypse involve Fassbender's sense of tragedy as Erik is forced to abandon his living under cover and working in a steel-works - but even this emotional resonance is ultimately undercut by the ongoing tedium of the ideological battle between Xavier and Erik over their philosophical outlook on life. It's a thread that's repeatedly been explored before and one which finds nothing new added this time around.
Of the younger generation, Evan Peters once again excels as Quicksilver, with his central action piece of rescuing everyone from an exploding building being a visual highlight (even if it is a riff on his previous cinematic appearance) and Game of Thrones' Sophie Turner presents an intriguingly subdued take on Jean Grey, with more pent-up yet somehow repressed psychological damage being the order of the day.
Unfortunately though, with the over-stuffing of the cast, the film's younger generation don't exactly excel - despite all their efforts (Kodi Smit-McPhee's Nightcrawler is a nice take on the Alan Cummings' much loved mutant) the script confines them to the sidelines or to a pointless excursion to Stryker's hideout and Weapon X, purely for fan service.
Equally, the Apocalypse group (who look like a bad 80s rock band) fall away in the wash. The Newsroom's Olivia Munn makes an initial impression as Psylocke before narratively she is eclipsed.
It's symptomatic of the wider issues of X-Men Apocalypse, a film which is more concerned with rote CGI destruction (which is visually impressive to start off with, before repeatedly used) than character. If this series needs anything urgently with a 90s set outing planned, it's an injection of heart, soul and humanity, rather than a reliance on FX.
If it doesn't go back to basics, concentrates on the core elements of the series and delivers a genuinely threatening villain or situation that doesn't feel contrived very soon, the X-Men franchise runs a risk of becoming cinematically and thematically alienated.