X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).
Directed by Bryan Singer.
Starring James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Olivia Munn, Lana Condor and Evan Peters.
Apocalypse, the world’s first mutant, awakes from a centuries-long slumber. The X-Men must reunite to stop him from destroying the world.
X-Men: Apocalypse is a strangely metaphysical film. In the story, the titular villain wants to destroy the world so a better one can be rebuilt from its ashes (a thematic precursor to the eventual Dark Phoenix movie). In the real world, actors’ contracts are expiring and fresh meat must take their place.
Apocalypse marks the end of the First Class trilogy, with Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) passing the baton to new recruits Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp) – the original line-up from the first X-Men movie. It’s like director Bryan Singer used X-Men: Days of Future Past’s plot device to go back to the year 2000 and high-five himself.
Unfortunately, in having so many characters to follow, the film stalls in choice paralysis. Apocalypse doesn’t have a lead character, and the movie consequently struggles to balance its various sub-plots and stories.
Jean Grey, Cyclops and Nightcrawler discovering life at Xavier’s has to share the screen with Apocalypse gathering his disciples, Magneto’s new life, a very clunky romance between Charles and Moira Mactaggert, Quicksilver’s quest to reconnect with his father and Katniss Everdeen trying to bring down the Capitol.
Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven appears to have walked in off the set of Mockingjay.
As a result, Apocalypse’s character beats don’t land anywhere near the amount they should. The butter is spread to thin.
That said, it’s a credit to Bryan Singer they land as well as they do. He’s a solid hand, and several moments in the film are inspired (a mass weapons launch to Beethoven’s 7th is the movie’s best). But he’s been with this Universe for 16 years. Nobody wants another Last Stand, but now’s the time for the X-Men to get a new director.
The first X-Men movie way back in 2000 gave birth to superhero movies as we know them today. Its second instalment is amongst the best of the genre. But things have since mutated (pun intended). Deadpool brought Kick-Ass’ adult humour into the studio system. Captain America: Civil War is the culmination of a 13-film character arc. The events of Apocalypse feel average in comparison.
In the second paragraph of this review, I wrote how Apocalypse – much like Days of Future Past – speaks to Singer’s first movies. This strange, celluloid, X-verse ouroboros oscillates through the film. Wolverine suddenly emerges as though from a flashback scene in X2, Jean Grey and Cyclops flirt decades before they lead a school, characters like Nightcrawler and Angel are familiar yet different.
It’s the house for gifted youngsters that Singer built, its foundations giving the film an emotional weight beyond the sum of its parts.
The movie is not perfect. At times it feels dated. And being released in the same month as Captain America: Civil War will heavily damage how well people receive it. But somehow, in spite of its flaws and occasional emptiness, affection for the first two X-Men films coasts it through. Apocalypse probably only sits above X-Men: The Last Stand in the X-Verse’s main movies, but there’s still much to enjoy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★