A disappointingly predictable outing for our heroes
There’s a bitter irony in including a jibe about the third film in a trilogy usually being the worst in X-Men: Apocalypse… While fans know it’s mocking the infamous X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Bryan Singer’s latest instalment in the superhero franchise is far from perfect. In fact, there’s something missing from X-Men: Apocalypse that leaves a stale sense of disappointment long after the credits roll, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot right with it. For starters, the casting is pretty much spot on. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender reprise their roles as Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, maintaining their status as a loveable duo, even with little screen time together. The ever-popular Jennifer Lawrence is also back as Mystique, thankfully taking more of a backseat than her prominence in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). On the contrary, Evan Peters is given his rightful chance to shine again as Quicksilver, even gaining another scene-stealing moment.
But, it’s the newcomers who are given the spotlight in X-Men: Apocalypse, none more so than young Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner. Better known as Sansa Stark, Turner had some work to do to leave her Game of Thrones persona behind. But, one faux American accent later and she manages to shake the chains, embodying a likeable Phoenix just discovering the true extent of her abilities. We also meet a young Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), who must learn to harness his destructive powers in between falling for Jean, as well as a youthful Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), providing the odd bit of comic relief.
Our new villain is portrayed by Oscar Isaac, fresh off his newfound Star Wars fame. Apocalypse is hailed as the world’s first and most powerful mutant, constantly regenerating and absorbing the powers of the bodies he possesses. The premise is menacing, but there’s something about Apocalypse that falls short of intimidating. Whether it be his size, contrived voice or botched make-up, he fails to strike any form of terror in your heart. Perhaps it’s also because the movie’s entire storyline is based off his notion to destroy the world purely because he can.
The major issue with X-Men: Apocalypse is just that – it lacks a story to tell. Beyond repetitive lines about false Gods, Apocalypse really has no other motivation to annihilate humanity. His recruitment of the ‘Four Horsemen’ is also arbitrary, leading to one of the least threatening gangs ever seen in the saga. Sure, Olivia Munn does a great job of playing Psylocke, as does Alexandra Shipp at embodying a young Storm. It’s also nice to see Angel (Ben Hardy) back in the fold, but there’s little to no character development given to any of them. Even when we’re supposed to care for Erik’s new family and the incident that sends him back down the path of destruction, it’s hard to feel anything beyond cheated out of a backstory.
If there’s one thing that X-Men: Apocalypse improves upon, however, it’s action. For a franchise with its roots firmly planted in the family-friendly field, this movie doesn’t hold back on violence. From the offset, there’s bodies being crushed and obliterated in a much more graphic way than previously seen in Singer’s films. We go on to see everything from throats being slit to bones breaking to skin being slashed, mostly thanks to Hugh Jackman’s least surprising cameo of all time as a raging Wolverine in Weapon X form.
That being said, the climactic battle between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys is predictable and borderline cheesy, with plenty of slow-motion, explosions and lines about family. In fact, if there’s one word that could be used to describe X-Men: Apocalypse, it’s predictable. With a weak storyline at its core, thinly developed characters, underutilised actors and far too many random hops around the globe to be justified in one movie, Singer’s latest movie is a forgettable slog.