I loved the X-Men cartoons when I was younger. I was delighted when I heard they were making a film version, and even though I was a little disappointed with the big screen release, they really captured the complex relationship between Professor X and Magneto with spine-tingling aplomb. Two friends who had a brotherly bond fighting for mutant rights but from very different ends of the superhero spectrum. Their teams would knock seven kinds of whatever out of each other and their friendship never wavered. Casting such Shakespearian heavyweights in Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen was a stroke of pure genius as these complex characters require nothing less to portray them sufficiently on screen.
Having said that, James McAvoy and FilmFluff favourite Michael Fassbender have done superbly as their younger counterparts and are part of the reason why the “reboots” have done so well. Whilst First Class and Days of Future Past haven’t hit the dizzy heights of X2, they are more than worthy entries to the X-Men feature film canon. Apocalypse, however, is so bad that it encourages you to revisit The Last Stand to reassess whether it has now been dethroned as the turkey of the franchise.
It tells the story of the world’s first and most powerful mutant, En Sabah Nur, aka Apocalypse (aka Oscar Isaac!) and after waking from a sleep of a thousand years he recruits four mutants as his horsemen to rid the world of the humans, one of which being Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) head the team of young X-Men to stop Apocalypse in his tracks.
This film is such a disappointment following the success of First Class and Days of Future Past. The story is a very basic one that is poorly executed as it loses focus and takes the audience all over the place with no logical explanation on how it went from point A to point J. It gets distracted very easily by a shiny object that is Wolverine’s claws and he is so shoe-horned into the plot it’s almost insulting to the audience’s intelligence. Doesn’t the studio realise that we can watch an X-Men film without Hugh Jackman? The story lacks a depth that was in every previous X-Men film too. You cared for the characters in the other entries but in Apocalypse I found that I couldn’t care less. It tries to pluck at your heart-strings in certain scenes but they are so clumsily written that the emotional punch they reach for fails to land. The script is shockingly clunky as the actors spout lines that wouldn’t look out of place in the Star Wars prequels! Has this really come from the genius mind that bought us the sublime The Usual Suspects? It’s not even laughable, just confusing as their characters wouldn’t say such bizarre things. They wrote a scene with Xavier fumbling his words like an awkward teenager when talking to Rose Byrne’s MacTaggart, which is immature for his younger self in 1960s First Class to say, never mind 1980s Apocalypse!
Which leads me neatly to Mr McAvoy. His acting is so wooden they could have saved money by dropping him from the cast and replacing him with a piece of MDF attached to a mullet! Is this really James McAvoy?! I mean, this guy is a great actor but his performance in this is very stiff. The ever-reliable Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and Oscar Issac put in admirably okay performances considering the guff they have to work with. After seeing the final cut of this film though I’m sure the regular members of the cast made a frantic call to their agents to check for any get-out clauses in their contracts. In a film of such Hollywood heavyweights I should not be highlighting Evan Peters’ performance as Quicksilver, who is by far and away the best part of this film, and even he doesn’t reach the same peak he hit in the previous film, with his obligatory funny-slo-mo scene going on for too long (ironically!) and not being as humorous as the writers think it is. This film also suffers dreadfully from a failure to introduce the new characters successfully. The new X-Men again do okay with what they have, which isn’t a lot, but the villains are atrociously lacklustre and give us no threat or danger. I’m not knowledgeable on comic book lore but I do know that Apocalypse is supposed to be one of the toughest and most fearsome villains in the X-Men universe and he does absolutely nothing to demonstrate this on screen. His four horseman are just as impotent.
On top of all this, the CGI in places looks very rubbery, with metal containers looking like they are made out of the same material as the actors’ CGI stand-ins! When you compare the quality of the visual effects with something like Return of the King, a film thirteen years its senior, it really is shameful.
What I found to be crass and in very poor taste was the really cheap dig at The Last Stand being the worst of the first three X-Men films. In a scene that had no bearing on the plot whatsoever, we have Jean Grey, Cyclops and Nightcrawler leaving a screening of Return of the Jedi having a conversation about how the third film of a trilogy is always the worst. People in glass houses, Mr Singer. I wonder if he now appreciates the irony of that scene following the dreadful reviews his latest has already received…
I’ve really slammed this film but Apocalypse doesn’t reach the same heights of awfulness as Spider-man 3 or Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. All the criticisms above make for a really dull and boring film that doesn’t stay long in the memory, and isn’t that the worst criticism of all?
…and what’s with the obligatory f-bomb-in-a-12A habit this series has developed?! There is little to no swearing in these reboots yet they insist on throwing it in!
Why oh why didn’t I just watch Captain America: Civil War again?!