Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film, back in 2000, was among the first big blockbusters adapted from comic material. The film is semi-responsible for the onslaught of superhero films, television shows and games we see today – which is a shame because this latest offering, again directed by Singer, feels like the kind of thing that will eradicate the genre.
Much like Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman, the plot here is terribly messy and the characters are not given the justice they deserve. It feels like Singer and his writers had a list of scenes and Easter Eggs they wanted to include, merely piecing them together instead of making sure they work within the over-arching narrative.
LA Times’ Marc Baenardin summed it up perfectly on the Fatman on Batman podcast, describing it as “A really, really, really well done boring thing”. Singer is so swept up with trying to orchestrate these visually-stunning acts (similar to the Quicksilver scene from Days of Future Past) that he distracted himself from everything else.
X-Men: Apocalypse picks up where Days of Future Past left us, back in ancient Egypt, with Sabah Nur (Apocalypse) now aged and in the process of making himself immortal. Shit goes awry and Apocalypse is buried alive, only to awake in the 1980s to create new danger for our beloved X-Men.
Whether old or new, almost every character here gets their own introduction, and the problem is that they’re either really obvious or completely unnecessary. Some pay homage to the comics or the earlier X-Men films, while others just seem to re-hash origins we’ve seen before.
Evan Peters’ Quicksilver is once again the best thing about this film. His interpretation of the character is unique and most of all, genuinely funny. He gets a chance to do some emotional stuff too, portraying a kid just trying to connect with his father.
Speaking of fathers, unfortunately Michael Fassbender’s Magneto is robbed of everything that made him complex in the earlier films. The sub-plot with his new life in Poland isn’t emotional or unexpected, giving no credit to the audiences’ intelligence or source knowledge. Furthermore, it feels like he was pushed to the side to give more screen time to Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique.
Don’t get me wrong, Lawrence was one of the best things about First Class and Days of Future Past, but mainly because she worked within the ensemble. Here, it’s like the studio has realised what she was capable of in the Hunger Games series, and forced her character to become the main protagonist – including long speeches designed to be powerful pep-talks but come across forced and uninspired.
Of the new faces, Alexandra Shipp’s Storm and Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler are the only standouts. Their characters are given an original twist that we haven’t seen before, and the execution gives them even more depth.
On the other hand, Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey and Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops are disappointing. The characters aren’t too dissimilar from the original film portrayals, which is unfortunate because they weren’t very exciting the first time around.
The worst of the new additions are definitely Ben Hardy’s Angel, who really didn’t get an origin or arc, and Olivia Munn’s Psylocke. Unlike Elodie Yung’s portrayal of Elektra on season 2 of Daredevil, Munn doesn’t have that flare of mystery or danger. The only thing edgy about her is the skimpy costume, which actually distracts the viewer more than anything. She was a bad choice for the role, just as most of us expected.
What most of us didn’t expect however was how little Oscar Isaac brought to the role of the titular villain. It’s hardly his fault, as he was unrecognisable behind so much makeup and vocal effects; it really could have been anyone playing the role.
As a character too, Apocalypse himself is really confused as well. It just doesn’t make sense for a guy who can literally disintegrate people with his mind, as to why it’s taking him so long to destroy man-kind. (On a side note, just what was the purpose of James McAvoy’s Professor X starting a fist fight in his own mind?)
Ultimately, the main issue here is a lack of coherence. There are too many characters that sit within very different themes. Seriously, what is this film about? Is it destiny, acceptance, family, love, loss, power… religion? They should have just stuck to one or two core themes and re-iterated it with each sub-plot.
The funny thing is that in the middle of the film, a few of the students from the school run away to see a movie: Return of the Jedi. Afterwards they make a joke about which film in the Star Wars franchise was best and one of them states something like, “We can all agree the third one is always the worst”. While it’s obviously a poke Brett Ratner’s The Last Stand, the fact that this is the third film of the new “First Class” generation films is a little ironic. It’s just as bad.
It’s sad to say but hopefully this is the end of Singer’s X-Men franchise once and for all. The fact they’re just recycling old characters without reimagining them is disappointing, especially when this universe has so much more to offer. Fox need to focus their attention on completely new material, such as Deadpool, and let this one rest (at least for a few years).