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X-Men: Apocalypse

2016-05-20 07:49
 

What it's about:

A decade after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, our favourite mutants once again find themselves standing between humanity and a potentially world-destroying threat: this time in the form of Apocalypse, the god-like first mutant who decides to “cleanse” and remake in his image the world he awakes to after thousands of years entombed in an Egyptian crypt. 

What we thought:

Between Deadpool and the previous two X-Men movies, Days of Future Past and First Class, it looked for all the world like Fox studios had finally gotten a firm handle on their Marvel Mutant-verse properties after seriously dropping the ball with the likes of X-Men: OriginsWolverine and X-Men 3. Sadly, though no one in their right mind would dare suggest that X-Men: Apocalypse is anywhere near as bad as the worst X-Men movies, let alone Fox's manhandling of the Fantastic Four, it is a step down from their most recent offerings.

The biggest problem with Apocalypse, when you get right down to it, is its title character. Not only do they waste the always brilliant Oscar Isaac on a character sorely lacking any discernible personality, but the character's motivations never make much sense and, for all his powers, he always seems less like the film's Big Bad than a plot device that gets in the way of the potentially interesting stuff happening with the mutants with whom we've become familiar over, at the very least, the past two films. And, yeah, sorry but there's no getting past it: he just looks lame here. I'm not actually super familiar with the character from the comics (though I do have vague recollections of him from the cartoon) but presumably the comic book version works a hell of a lot better than the Apocalypse we get here, as he has been a perennial fan-favourite since his creation in the mid 1980s. 

The other big failing with the film is that it lacks a central hook on which to hang the numerous plot-strands and characters. While First Class brilliantly used the Cold War to reintroduce the young X-Men and Days of Future Past was an impressively tightly controlled time-travel story, Apocalypse simply doesn't have anything like that kind of anchoring element to stop it from spinning out of control – especially when you consider the lameness of its villain. I don't think X-Men: Apocalypse has many more characters than Captain America: Civil War but it handles its huge cast significantly less well (Olivia Munn, in particular, just looks incredible as Psylocke but she barely says a word in the entire film) and its extravagant length is far more noticeable because of this. 

For all of its failing, though, X-Men: Apocalypse is not the disaster that some of the reviews have suggested. It falls safely behind both Deadpool and Civil War in this year's superhero movie stakes but it's still much better than Batman V Superman because, for all that it gets wrong, it does at least still understand why the X-Men comics were such a hit in the first (well, technically, second) place. Indeed, while First Class, Days of Future Past and X-Men 2 felt like particularly good X-Men comics, Apocalypse feels like just another random issue of the X-Men. And this is nowhere like the slam you might think it is: fans have been turning up for and largely enjoying those random issues of the X-Men for decades now.

The reason why X-Men: Apocalypse is still actually a pretty easy recommendation for fans and a rather more cautious recommendation for everyone else is because, for all that the times it misses, it still keeps the relationships at the heart of these films (and these comics) front and centre. As I say, some of the side characters are woefully underwritten but the central trio of Xavier, Magneto and Mystique remains both compelling and beautifully played and new additions like Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, Cyclops and a much expanded role for Quicksilver (again a standout but this time more for his pathos and his humour than his admittedly somewhat less effective superhero antics this time around – the defiance of physics is just a bit too much here, even by superhero standards) flesh out the main cast nicely. I do wish they gave Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique a bit more of a sense of humour, to be fair, as Lawrence is way too funny not to throw some jokes, or at least spunkiness, her way but most of the stuff with the central cast is as fun and as satisfying as ever.    
      
The best thing I could say about X-Men: Apocolypse might sound like a backhanded compliment but it really isn't. Unlike abject failures like Josh Trank's Fantastic Four or Zack Snyder's Superman abominations, despite some disappointment with the film, I don't want them to change the cast, the crew, the writers or the director who have been handling the X-men since First Class. Sure this was a less than great experience in and of itself but I still can't wait for the next issue – er, I mean, movie. And if that doesn't make the current X-Men movies true to their comics counterparts, I don't know what does.

Bring on - if the rumours are to be believed - X-Men in motherluvin' space! 

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention...

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