UK Release Date: 18th May 2016
Runtime: 144 minutes
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn, Ben Hardy
Synopsis: A mutant who has laid dormant for thousands of years returns, with destruction in mind.
The X-Men cinematic franchise was once the big juggernaut of the superhero movie world. It was subsequently replaced by first the Spider-Man movies, and then the genuinely unstoppable Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has ambled on since then, getting a new lease of life when returning director Bryan Singer shook up the franchise continuity with the incredibly ambitious Days of Future Past. Forced to follow such an impressive achievement, Singer has opted for good, old-fashioned spectacle with sixth movie X-Men: Apocalypse, which has very little going for it beyond its glossy visuals.
Dormant mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is reawakened and vows to shape the world for himself with the help of followers Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is trying to nurture the youngsters at his school for gifted youngsters, including Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), but Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) thinks that the mutants should be prepared to face off threats to the planet. When Apocalypse makes his presence felt, the futures of both mutants and humans hang in the balance as the all-powerful mutant threatens to tear Earth apart.
In the year in which Batman v Superman was vomited into multiplexes, X-Men: Apocalypse was never going to be the worst superhero movie of the year. However, Bryan Singer’s latest foray into the world of mutants is certainly one of 2016’s more bloated and disappointing blockbuster efforts. In attempting to cram a roster of new characters into an already exhaustive cast of A-listers, Singer has put together something unwieldy and often boring that is never able to give the audience a compelling reason to care about anything it has to offer.
Apocalypse is most shocking in how comprehensively it fails its new characters. Singer seems convinced that audiences don’t need introducing to them, seemingly forgetting that the last time we saw many of them was well over a decade ago. Sophie Turner gets nothing more to do than look sullen as Jean Grey, which means that her enormous final act moment is entirely unearned. The only bright spot is Kodi Smit-McPhee, who delivers a fine comedic performance as Nightcrawler, which couldn’t be more different to his subtle work in Slow West. Most unforgivable is the portrayal of the villains. Oscar Isaac, buried under crap prosthetics, just shouts for two hours and Angel, Psylocke and Storm are all relegated to easy cannon fodder for the heroes. Only Michael Fassbender, perhaps the best he has ever been as Magneto, is given real character depth.
All of the performers involved in X-Men: Apocalypse are forced to grapple with a genuinely awful script. Every line of dialogue takes the form of pretension wrapped up in platitude, without even a glimmer of substance. Characters’ feelings and motivations play second fiddle to the need to cram every scene with exposition. Given the quite incredible work screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely did with a comparably enormous cast list in Captain America: Civil War, it’s incredibly disappointing that Simon Kinberg does such a pitiful job with Apocalypse.
Most disappointing of all is the hopelessly generic finale, which feels incredibly outdated in its boundless planetary destruction. Such a denouement might have worked five years ago, but since the backlash to Man of Steel, superhero movies have been forced to be rather more creative in their final acts. In the shape of such an interesting shift in the genre, the closing moments of X-Men: Apocalypse feel like a throwback to an era where wanton destruction was king. Hollywood has changed, but it seems to have left the X-Men behind.
Pop or Poop?
Given the relatively steady quality of the X-Men franchise, it’s almost impressive that Apocalypse marks such a stark dip in quality. It’s an overlong plod of a film, populated by characters without a shred of depth, who limp towards a finale that uses CGI rubble and dust to paper over the very real cracks in its desperately unoriginal storytelling. All involved are both capable of and deserving of a lot more than this.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.