When I first saw X-Men Apocalypse, it was a couple of weeks after Captain America: Civil War had blown me away and I felt a touch let down by Bryan Singer’s much anticipated third entry in the rebooted X-Men franchise.
Now that it’s been received a home release, it’s time to take another look, especially since I had gone in with high hopes the first time. Let’s manage those expectations and see what it’s like.
Bryan Singer’s pedigree with the X-Men has given Fox a franchise of which to be proud – X-Men 1 and 2 are superb films, introducing and expanding the world, whilst Days of Future Past did something exceptional by uniting the Singer era with Vaughn’s reboot. X-Men Apocalypse is the third film in the reboot and, led by Singer, is a bit of a retro-romp.
Set in the 1980s (83, to be precise), it’s been ten years since the events of DoFP and the world has come to terms with mutants until a new threat arrives to ruin everything and ascend mutants to the superior bit of homo-superior.
Led by Apocalypse, a melancholy Magneto, a strong-minded Storm, a poorly purposed Psylocke and an angry Angel take on Charles Xavier’s X-Men in a battle to save the world.
It’s at this point that the film really falls down – the whole world-ending catastrophe feels like it has no weight, despite the destruction, whilst the focus of the Four Horsemen is just on Storm and Magneto, despite the potential of Psylocke and Angel (marking the second time in a franchise that Angel has been misused).
It’s not a bad film by any means, though it feels like old fashioned – not just in its look, but in its storytelling. It’s as if the franchise is trying to recapture its own past.
“Mutants: born with extraordinary abilities, and yet still, they are children stumbling in the dark, searching for guidance.”
The young X-Men – Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops, Sophia Turner’s Jean Grey and Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler are well realised. Much was made of Turner’s dull turn as Jean Grey, but that’s how I remember the character when she wasn’t being Phoenix – she wasn’t always a kick ass character, she didn’t always come out confident and controlling. This is a character that isn’t yet the woman that Famke Janssen would become. The returning Nicholas Hoult is comfortable as Hank McCoy and is truly charming, as is James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. The odd one in this mix is a spirited Jennifer Lawrence – as great as she is as Mystique, she’s pretty much been relegated to the major role of the X-Men’s version of Katniss Everdeen. Quicksilver has a visual effects heavy part to play, but gets much more to do outside of this, with Evan Peters managing to give his flimsily written character depth.
The film is a joy to watch – it’s visually impressive and the location work makes is beautiful. CGI, naturally, plays a huge part in this, especially for Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse and the destruction he unleashes. Cyclops’ eye blasts have always been a highlight for me, Angel has never looked more impressive, whilst Jean gets the moment that will please X-Men fans.
“Everything they’ve built will fall! And from the ashes of their world, we’ll build a better one!”
Whilst it’s an entertaining film, it doesn’t feel like it means anything. DoFP managed to build an emotional story that developed the characters and their relationships. There’s definitely character building in this, but it feels like an old school teen drama – again, old school and retro playing a part.
In the grand X-Men scheme of things – it’s nowhere near as poor of X-Men 3, but fails to reach the heady heights of X-Men 2 and Days of Future Past. Let’s hope that the inevitable sequel will give us something more.