The X-Men: First Class trilogy comes to a fizzling conclusion as Bryan Singer’s fourth X-Men film to date doubles down on the mutants but also on the lulls, mediocrity and tropes.
When the very first mutant, En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), awakens in modern day Egypt, Mystique must rally the X-Men to stop Apocalypse and his four Horseman from ending life on Earth as we know it.
Direction – D+
With ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, a boring film that people wrongly called the best instalment of the franchise, it was strikingly clear that Bryan Singer had nothing new to offer the X-Men franchise, aside from a delicious Quicksilver sequence.
X-Men: Apocalypse asserts that Singer should have stopped with X-Men 2 because what he delivers is a by the book superhero film that doesn’t please the eyes or even attempt to with intriguing cinematography other than to go big and then even bigger.
In X-Men: Apocalypse Singer employs a bigger and a richer frame 100% of the time. It’s like every storyboard panel came with the caption ‘Go Big or Go Home’ and did away with the personal angle the X-Men films need. It’s the reason First Class worked so well; it focused on the small character moments, which then made the spectacle all that greater when it did finally come. Apocalypse is big every single scene and after a while that gets tiring, boring and wholly uninteresting. And when you are constantly being fed prime rib every meal, after a while it might as well be regular old ribs.
The only sequences that stand out from the rest of the film are that of Quicksilver (Even Peters). Do you know why? Because they provide something that we don’t often see on the big screen. Unfortunately, one cannot recommend a mediocre hotel teeming with bland attire just because it’s fluffy pillows invite sweet dreams.
Story – D+
Whilst its 20th Century Fox stablemate Deadpool tried to subvert the tropes and clichés of the superhero genre – in actuality it fulfilled many of them – Apocalypse does no such thing. Its’ villain is this ominous and seemingly unbeatable force who wants to destroy the world as we know it. We start with characters that are down on their luck and in need of redemption, growth and catharsis and they get just that. Everything is pretty much by the book and if you’ve already read better books that challenge you’re expectations, why are you going to read the same old paperback again?
And whilst X-Men: Apocalypse is far better than the ‘where’s-my-bed’ boring Days of Future Past, it is ironic and hilarious that our new young heroes are actually prompted into a Meta debate. I thought that was Deadpool’s territory? After exiting a screening of Return of the Jedi, Cyclops and Jean Grey are debating how the first one is always the best and the third one is always the worst. I don’t know if the people behind Apocalypse know that they gave us the gun for their own demise but that was the biggest laugh the film provided. However, it has to be said, Apocalypse does have a few good chuckles, mostly from the always amazing Even Peters as Quicksilver. Nevertheless, First Class was certainly the zenith of X-Men, Apocalypse is entirely closer to the nadir.
If you’re going in to watch something new from Apocalypse, leave that thinking at the door. There’s nothing new or magnetic here and in a genre that is happily innovating, Apocalypse is all sponge with no icing or cherry.
Acting – C
The saving grace of X-Men: Apocalypse is the performances. Matthew Vaughn revitalised the X-Men franchise by knocking it out of the park with his First Class casting. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence are right on the money in Apocalypse. Even Lawrence, who has visibly phoned it in as Raven/Mystique in previous instalments, surprises with a subtle take here. Thankfully, Singer redeems characters like Jean Grey and Cyclops by casting Tye Sheridan and Sophie Turner who look and feel at home in this blockbuster franchise. Even Oscar Isaac who plays the ludicrously designed Apocalypse, who looks as bad as everyone thinks by the way, does some fun little things as the otherwise forgettable villain.
Some moments that would have otherwise fallen to the floor like a misplaced kernel of popcorn are elevated by performers McAvoy and Fassbender. The upcoming Assassin’s Creed star (Fassbender) once again steals the show with the meatiest of emotional subplots.
X-Men: Apocalypse is a boring and clichéd superhero film with achingly short moments of innovation and refreshment that are oh so rare. It certifies that Singer has run out of ideas when it comes to the superhero ensemble piece and never lives up to X-Men: First Class, which is infuriating as Apocalypse continuously flashes back to the events of Vaughn’s reboot/sequel. Oh how I would have rather watched that film for the umpteenth time again.
Score – D+