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Review – X-Men: Apocalypse

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xmen apocalypse

Apocalypse is the 8th X-Men movie, and the 4th directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects). The film sees the return of the “new” stars/mutants from both First Class and Days of Future Past – so no Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellen. James McAvoy is Professor X, Michael Fassbender is Magneto, and they are joined by Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, Nicholas Hoult’s Beast, and a bevy of new students who grow up to be Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee).

Our heroes face the threat of an ancient Egyptian mutant named “Apocalypse”, played by Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Apocalypse has the power to reincarnate himself into a new body. This means that, as well as living forever, he can amass multiple powers from his various mutant hosts. Incredibly powerful, Apocalypse awakens in the 80s disgusted with what the world has become. Determined to wipe the slate clean and start again he puts together a team of “four horsemen” to destroy our world: Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy), and even Magneto.

CIA Agent Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) is on hand to witness Apocalypse’s resurrection, and hooks back up with the X-Men – who set out to stop the end of the world, with the aid of Mystique – who is now a cult hero and freedom fighter.

Keeping Jennifer Lawrence around is important to the franchise, and X-Men: Apocalypse nearly folds itself in half to keep her/Mystique interested, involved and important. A Berlin club scene is a early highlight for her, while the rest of the time she channels The Hunger Games’s Katniss Everdeen: giving motivational speeches, and dodging her blue make-up for all but two scenes.

Fassbender is also essential, and he is given plenty of delicious drama, conflict and pain to convey and sink his teeth into. For the final third though he seems to do little but float about, before repeating scenes we have already seen in both timeliness between himself and Professor X.

This is a problem throughout, with much screen time given to mutants, their origins, and their personal dramas, that we have now seen multiple times. The inevitable reliance on including a certain irrepressible X-Men stalwart is annoying too. Their scene is framed as fan service, but the fans are probably the audience most deserving of a break from seeing him, and the franchise really needs to nut up and realise the series does not have to revolve around this character, and that people will not shy away if they are not present. I’m talking about Wolverine.

Evan Peters’s Quicksilver is a welcome return though, who keeps the film in the black. His slo-mo scene in Days of Future Past was the high point of that film and here he does similar. Longer. Twice. Strangely though he is denied a dramatic moment with Magneto that has now needlessly been teased out for two films.

The newbs are good too. Sophie Turner and Smit-McPhee particularly stand out as Jean Grey and Nightcrawler, and the origins of an Aladdin-esque market thief Storm and an awesome headbanging heavy metal Angel are great and satisfying fun.

With the advent and ascendance of Marvel Studios though we are grading on a curve, and especially following the fantastic Captain America: Civil War, Apocalypse doesn’t quite cut it.

Singer cannot juggle his heroes to Whedon’s/the Russo’s/Marvel’s standard: leaving great mutants literally standing around with nothing to do – like Psylocke who spends the majority of the film standing on a rock with a hand on her hip – or introducing characters like Jubilee who just vanish from the film entirely.

And as impressive as the CGI landmarks destruction is, it is nothing you haven’t seen before, plus the fights are very short and dull – lacking any verve or excitement, and feeling like something Singer is not interested in. Yet X-Men: Apocalypse powers through, charged by the charm and quality of its stars, boosted by some wonderful origin scenes, and with a final new team that promise greatness.

3-out-of-5

X-Men: Apocalypse is now on general release in the UK.

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