A major misstep in this super franchise.
X-Men Apocalypse is a movie made of many stories. The first of these stories focuses on the tragic, outcast lives of mutants, specifically the mutants who are dealing with fall out from previous films in the franchise. This story thread is an impressive one, it’s smart, nuanced and surprisingly tragic, It’s the most intimate thread of the movie in terms of its scale and it brings out some of the best of the performances. Especially Michael Fassbender, whose performance for the first half an hour of this movie is devastating.
The second story thread of this movie is of a new, young group of X-Men, banding together and giving each other a family in the face of both personal and global adversity. It’s a succinct approach to the traditional “origin story” and, despite the fact that we’ve seen it before, it still feels authentic for the most part. Tye Sheridan really stands out here as the new Scott Summers/Cyclops. His performance is great and very reminiscent of Cyclops from the 90s cartoon, which is definitely a good thing. Unfortunately it’s here that the setting is underused. The 80’s should have played a key part in the existence of these characters, instead it’s simply relegated to one use of music and a bunch of pop culture references. It’s a great shame considering how well Days Of Future Past nailed the 70’s as a setting.
The third story is where the movie gets its name, the story of Apocalypse: a mutant God created to cleanse and refresh the human race when he believes the world’s power has become corrupted. Oscar Isaac does a good job as the film’s main antagonist here, the scale of destruction is huge and much more brutal than previous films, but Apocalypse never feels as ominous and scary as is clearly intended. His story is the most over the top and action packed, but for all its spectacle and set pieces it’s hugely flawed.
The great problem is all of these stories exist and progress at the same time and as a result they get caught up and scrambled in to each other and the connective tissue in between is full of logic jumps, pacing issues and tonal missteps. This leads to very interesting, very promising ideas, none of which get to carve out a specific identity or really leave their mark on the movie. They all build towards their own end, but their messy crescendos just feel underwhelming and flat.
There are a huge amount of characters in Apocalypse and whilst some are a success others aren’t. Mystique feels like a more natural fit here and Jennifer Lawrence finally feels at home in an X-Men movie but she’s still being given too much shallow screen presence for the sake of star power. Nicholas Hoult has really relaxed into Beast and he now embodies the character very well. However Quicksilver is still the most enjoyable character in the movie, even though his slowed down scenes feeling underwhelming as they do little more than they did in Days Of future Past, but with none of the same surprise value.
The sound and visuals of the film are fine, there’s nothing particularly special or atrocious. The only scene that stands out is one of the many final fights. Its framing, both in terms of the story and its dream-like visuals is something we haven’t seen in a superhero movie up to now, but it isn’t given enough time to breathe or develop, so whilst its thrilling to watch, it becomes forgettable by the time the credits role.
Perhaps the biggest worry for the X-Men series is how disposable this entry is. It does some work by introducing some new characters and making minor additions to a few back stories. It causes damage and panic on a very large scale, but there’s nothing much to think back on by the end. You could clean the slate of this movie and it doesn’t seem like much would change. It’s hard to imagine Apocalypse being a focal point of the next movie, like Days Of Future Past is in this.
X-Men apocalypse is a major error in a franchise that was full to the brim with promise, it’s cluttered, bloated, dumb and inconsistent but there’s threads of brilliance here. it’s the failure to do these ideas justice that perhaps hurts the movie the most.
X-Men Apocalypse scored 4.7/10