X-Men: Apocalypse tells the story of the world’s first mutant, the titular villain also known as En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), and his attempt to — yawn — take over the world. Along the way, he recruits Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy), a young Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and our old friend Magneto (Michael Fassbender) as his four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and his motley crew of mutants are the only things standing in En Sabah Nur’s way.
So after all the doom and gloom of the early reviews, is X-Men: Apocalypse really that bad?
The short answer: No. It’s not bad, but it’s not mindblowingly good either. It’s a solid addition to the X-Men movie canon, but there are plenty of missteps here and there that in a less-established franchise could be forgiven.
However, since this is the sixth X-Men movie (I’m not counting any of the Wolverine spin-offs or Deadpool), and the fourth one with director Bryan Singer at the helm, I expected much more from it. And the truth is that it didn’t really live up to my expectations. It also doesn’t help that XMA comes hot on the heels of Captain America: Civil War, which in showed us what audiences really deserve from a comic book movie in terms of plot and characterisation.
Singer is a fanboy and knows his X-Men mythology inside out. But sometimes, he takes artistic liberties with plot and character that make absolutely no sense to me. The climactic battle was messy, some characters that had been hyped during the promo had only a few seconds of screen time, and everything just felt a bit off.
One of the highlights is the inevitable Quicksilver scene, where Evan Peters once again steals the scene and saves the day in a hilarious sequence that people will be talking about long after the credits roll. It did feel a little long to me, but Singer set the sequence to one of my favourite 80’s songs, so I can’t really complain!
Tonally, the movie borrows a lot from the so-cheesy-it’s-so-good 1990s X-Men cartoons many of us grew up with. It also looks like Singer drew inspiration from the X-Men: Evolution cartoon, especially in the scenes with the younger cast. Unfortunately, this cheesiness was sometimes jarring and misplaced, and those little touches of whimsy fell flat in the face of impending doom.
I was sceptical of the young actors joining the cast as they had big shoes to fill, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well they fit in. Sophie Turner is decidedly less annoying here than she is as Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, which is good because XMA planted the seeds for a future Jean Grey plotline (no prizes for guessing what it entails).
Kodi Smit-McPhee as young Nightcrawler and Alexandra Shipp as young Storm were actually really good, but the surprise was Tye Sheridan as the young Cyclops, who did a great job even though we couldn’t see his eyes. I wish I had more to say about Lana Condor as young Jubilee, but she had barely enough screen time to make an impression.
As for Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, I do think the costume was more of a hindrance than a help. It was probably meant to give the relatively slight Isaac more height and bulk, and to his credit he did do a good job, considering how heavy it must’ve weighed. But it was all very meh and one-note. I can only wish the role had more space for the Golden Globe-winning actor to flex his acting chops.
I honestly could’ve done with a lot less Mystique in the story. Jennifer Lawrence is AMAZING and I love her to bits, but the last thing we needed was for her to suddenly become Mockingjay 2.0 in this franchise. Sadly, the fault is not hers, because the movie paints Mystique as a freedom fighter that young mutants looked up to in the aftermath of Days of Future Past.
The MVPs of the X-Men are still Fassbender and McAvoy. Without the two of them anchoring this franchise, everything else would just fall apart. And for those concerned about our favourite mutant bromance, don’t worry. It’s still going strong! In fact, the best scenes in this movie came when McFassy were in the same frame together.
Magneto is still the most tragic and complex character in this franchise, thanks to Ian McKellen laying down the groundwork for a role that Fassbender has truly made his own. Fassbender is great at playing strong characters that are trying desperately not to fall apart from the weight of their emotions, and he does the same here, turning in a heartbreaking performance early on in the plot.
James McAvoy finally goes bald in this movie, but he’s brought a sensitivity and debonair air to Xavier that sit well with the character. Both McAvoy and Fassbender tried to bridge their performances to those of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen respectively in DOFP, and McAvoy builds on that even more here. At several points, I was getting serious déjà vu from some of his facial expressions before I realised that he was mirroring what Stewart had done in the original trilogy.
But as much as I liked the performances from the actors, it felt a bit bittersweet. So much more could have been done with these beloved characters, and unlike Civil War, this felt bloated and overlong to me. In fact, I felt that XMA had many of the same problems that Avengers: Age of Ultron has. Bryan Singer has bitten off more than he can chew here, and as a result the movie never quite rises to the level of its lofty ambitions.
X-Men: Apocalypse is out now. Tell us what you think of the movie!