Having already witnessed a masterclass in how to do a Superhero movie properly (Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War) and also a lesson in how to waste lots of potential (Warner Bros’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), now it’s the turn of 20th Century Fox to amaze comic-book audiences. After big success earlier in the year with Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse debuted to some very lukewarm early reviews last week. Thankfully, they are all largely off the mark – X-Men: Apocalypse is a lot of fun and certainly delivers an exciting, engaging and very memorable action-adventure.
Apocalypse (Oscar Isacc), believed to be the first and most powerful mutant, has absorbed the combined powers of other mutants, making him immortal. After awakening after lying dormant for thousands of years, Apocalypse plans to destroy the world in order to rebuild it. To do this, he recruits a powerful team of mutants to act as his horsemen of the Apocalypse, including a disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to cleanse mankind and usher in a new world order. The only thing stopping him is Professor X (James McAvoy) and his team of X-Men.
The casting is spot on and it’s something I don’t believe this franchise gets enough recognition for. With nine movies (if you include Deadpool and the two Wolverine films) in the same universe, X-Men has constantly innovated and blended their cinematic canon. Using two distinctly different generations to form a coherent narrative, the Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen years sync-up well with the James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender films. Yes, there are characters, origins and storylines that have required a bit of tweaking over the sixteen odd years since X-Men first debuted in cinemas, but on the whole I think 20th Century Fox have done a remarkable job with the X universe.
The fact that X-Men: Apocalypse brings in a young set of actors to portray some very familiar characters could have really backfired, but thankfully it all works out well. Tye Sheridan is great as Scott Summers aka Cyclops and is finally given a decent role to play in the cinematic exploits of the X-Men. Similarly, Game of Thrones gem Sophie Turner does well as a young Jean Grey, with both of her and Sheridan forming a good central partnership. Kodi Smit-McPhee excites as Nightcrawler and Alexandra Shipp delivers a great Storm.
The regulars are all present and accounted for too with Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult and Lucas Till all delivering noteworthy performances. Oscar Isaac is entertaining as Apocalypse and Olivia Munn is stunning as Psylocke (I can’t wait to see more of her in future X-Men movies). Josh Helman pops up once again as Col. William Stryker and as he did in Days of Future Past, Evan Peters steals his scenes as Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver. Fans of the seminal 90s X-Men cartoon will be delighted to see Jubilee make a long-awaited proper appearance too (in the form of Lana Condor).
There are a few problems with the movie that need addressing. It’s very effects heavy – especially towards the end of the film, when it drags on with endless CGI. More character-driven, tactfully crafted scenes would have worked far more effectively (like in the finale of First Class). There are also a lot of characters in this film and time doesn’t allow them all to have long enough onscreen. Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto has a particularly engaging storyline at the start of the film that I would have liked to see more of. Apocalypse is meant to be all powerful but at times he just doesn’t appear very threatening either.
It has a few issues but it’s not nearly the mess that early reviews have suggested. Instead, X-Men: Apocalypse comes in as a really enjoyable summer blockbuster, with plenty of great action sequences, good characterisation and a solid story. The Weapon X action scene is a particular highlight as is the chemistry of the entire cast, who all work very hard to make this a fun experience. It’s not as good as First Class or Days of Future Past, but it certainly has a warranted place in X-Men cinematic lore, and is a film that peaks anticipation for the next instalment.
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Olivia Munn, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Josh Helman, Lana Condor, Hugh Jackman Director: Bryan Singer Writer: Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris Released By: 20th Century Fox Certificate: 12A Duration: 144 mins Release Date: 18th May 2016