Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, Rose Byrne, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn
Plot: An ancient mutant (Isaac), who believes himself a God, reanimates and assembles a team of super-mutants to reshape the world.
Apocalypse is the kind of villain that seems great on paper. In terms of bad guys the X-Men has to offer, Magneto has the personal angle, Stryker has the essence of cynical human behaviour, but it was always Apocalypse that pushed the X-Men to their limits. An unstoppable being with seemingly limitless power, he was a force to be reckoned with. However, outside of paper, he turns out to be a very tricky villain to get right. Bryan Singer’s X-Men series has always been about the character, the human angle that occasionally gets lost in the Marvel Studios pictures. While the Avengers films seem to make the most out of CGI blockbuster territory, Singer’s X-Men has been about more than that. Here, we see the addition of Apocalypse weighing all of that down. It almost feels like Singer is trying to beat Kevin Feige at his own game, but in turn, misses out on the essence that made the X-Men a breath of fresh air in the superhero movie world. We came for the anti-hero figure of Magneto, the reluctant hero of Mystique, the tortured soul of Wolverine… The only truly interesting thing about Apocalypse is the idea that, as the first mutant, he could have very well been a God (look out for an old episode of Star Trek on a character’s television set that brought up this same topic decades before), in his own eyes, but after that, he is simply a CGI mess of fantastical super-powers, mindless explosions and pantomime posturing.
It is a shame, because read between the lines and there is some good material trying to break out. A strong message that is severely over-looked (especially when it is ruined in the closing epilogue), is that Charles Xavier is not building an army of soldiers out of his mutants, but raising students. It is a touching note that Xavier, one of the smartest creations of Stan Lee, believes that the future of humanity will be saved by those studying, not men armed with weapons. At the same time, Xavier is ignoring the fact that while mutants are accepted, at least on the surface, in his state in America, all over the world, mutants are still subject to severe racism. Germany has a gladiator ring where prisoner mutants fight each other to the death. In Egypt, mutants still hide their powers for fear of being ostracised. It is one of the moments that Singer used to excel at (in X2, mutants were a microcosm for homosexuality), taking his superhero story and holding it up to real social issues in clever and eye-opening ways. Mutants in Singer’s movies are a metaphor for something happening right now. Other characters have reached places that should be being explored and dissected, rather than getting lost in the weighty apocalypse drama Singer creates. Mystique has become a figurehead for mutants trying to do good, although she is so wrapped up in running, she has no idea that she is an idol. Magneto is in hiding with a family. Xavier finds Moira again, the woman he loved but had to wipe her memories to protect himself. There is a lot of interesting things happening here, including the arrival of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler, as the next generation of X-Men. But there is no time to explore anything. Apocalypse is all about setting up the CGI finale, to the point where every beat of the story is little more than build-up. There is no mid-act set-piece, because we are still too busy reintroducing the vast array of characters. Mutants we have been looking forward to seeing for a long time (Angel, Storm, one of my personal favourites, Psylocke), are rushed and one-dimensional. Everything is a bloated mess of drama.
There are small moments of mercy. In between the messy action blockbuster moments, are quieter displays of action that are more fitting with the personal touch that Singer used to put before the explosions. Magneto takes his wraith out on a squad of Polish soldiers in a chilling, gory way. A surprise cameo tears a bloody path through a hallway of enemies. And best of all, Quicksilver returns in a scene, which, let’s be honest, basically copies and pastes his entrance in Days of Future Past, but ups the ante slightly. Maybe in a movie that is trying to be new and exciting, but missing the mark disastrously, a bit of unoriginal yet solid fun is just what we needed.
Final Verdict: Singer seems to forget what made his X-Men films so enjoyable, hiding the good moments among a mess of CGI explosions and effects. Poor.