Director – Bryan Singer
Writer – Simon Kinberg
Starring – James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac
It’s important to remember, in this new era of superhero franchises dominating the cinematic landscape, the franchise that seemingly started the new resurgence. Whilst we had Batman and Superman movies before, the X-Men franchise, alongside Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy, can be credited as the films marked the beginning of the ‘Superhero Era’. After The Last Stand failed miserably both commercially and critically, it seemed like the franchise had run out of steam, ergo it was to most people’s surprise when Singer returned to form with X-Men:First Class, and followed it up with the equally successful Days of Future Past. It was stated that Apocalypse would be the culmination of this interesting renaissance. Unfortunately, this feels more like The Last Stand Take Two, and is a horrific misfire.
En Sabah Nuh, a powerful mutant believed to be the first of his kind, rules ancient Egypt until he is betrayed by his worshippers, who entomb him alive. Awakening in 1983, after accidental interference from a CGI agent, he believes humanity has lost its way without his presence. Aiming to destroy the world and remake it, he recruits a Cairo pickpocket , who can control weather, and enhances her power. Eventually, he also picks up a Magneto who just lost his family, as well as two other mutants, before embarking on his attempt to reshape the planet. Of course, as per usual, it’s up to Xavier’s band of merry mutants to shut him down.
Apocalypse should have been, considering the quality of the two predecessors, a good movie. It should have followed the trend of quality, creating an upwards curve. Sadly, it absolutely nosedives said curve, and is, for a lack of a better term, extraordinarily silly, even by superhero standards.
This begins with a very rushed screenplay that absolutely tears through exposition in a desperate attempt to bring the audience up to speed with a film that, despite being two films in the making, had absolutely no build up, other than a post-credits sequence in Days Of Future Past, which hurriedly introduced the character of Apocalypse, and expected us to buy him as the ultimate threat, despite having seen him previously for approximately five seconds. When you label a character by name ‘Apocalypse’, he better be a terrifying force of nature. What we get is Oscar Isaac in terrible pantomime make-up, somehow looking worse than Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of Mr.Freeze in the terrible Batman and Robin.
He looks less like said force of nature, and more like a gimp, starring in an Egyptian based porno knockoff. In fact, you could make a solid argument that he resembles what you imagine Apocalypse would look like in an X-Men porno parody. It doesn’t help matters that his ‘birth’ that opens the movie looks like it was ripped out of an 80’s Z-Movie. Z-Movie, for those unfamiliar with the term, are films so God-awful they don’t even qualify for the term B-movie, which really, as a reference point, should tell you everything you need to know.
The problem is that, even with the awful dialogue and cheap, cheesy effects, Singer doesn’t play up to this. Rather than roll with it, and give us a self-aware movie, Singer insists on playing it straight, which sadly sets the tone for the rest of the film’s shenanigan.
That’s how the rest of the film goes. Silliness passed off as serious situations with serious stakes, even though the audience stop caring long before. It’s mundane, monotonous, by-the-numbers and redundant, which is a huge shame considering just how good Days of Future Past was. It’s like Singer was building the whole franchise just to hit this point, and then monumentally fucked it.
This isn’t helped by some unarguably awful CGI. I’ve said it before, a hundred times, and I’ll say it again: Any film with a budget over $100 million needs to nail the effects. With that much money, there is absolutely no excuse for atrocious visuals as it drags the viewer from the movie, and makes it impossible to care about. The Hobbit Trilogy suffered heavily from this issue, and, considering the over-saturation of computer generated effects in today’s cinema, it’s a problem that will linger for some time yet. Thankfully, most high-budget productions at least attempt to seamlessly blend the effects. Apocalypse doesn’t, not in the slightest.
It doesn’t help that the narrative itself is threadbare, and the stakes are artificially raised in an attempt to heighten drama, but in reality, the rushed nature of events means that this film exists within a drama vacuum. You just sort of passively observe effects without ever really giving a shit. I call it ‘The Transformers effect’, for reasons that should really be blindingly obvious. In a nutshell, Apocalypse wants mutant domination, and to destroy man’s world. The X-Men aren’t on board with this, and Magneto remains somewhere lost in the middle. It’s stuff we’ve all seen before with different villains.
That’s the major issue, I think. In the comic book universe, Apocalypse was, apart from perhaps Galactus, THE definitive X-Men villain. The one they genuinely feared. Here, he’s relegated to the role of ‘villain of the week’, and is – SPOILER ALERT – conclusively dealt with by the time the credits role. Apocalypse? More like a shitty day. Hell, his plan doesn’t even make sense, really, when you think about it. You’re never entirely sure what he’s trying to do, as if Singer/Kinberg themselves weren’t sure.
There are also some straight up stupid moments; a good example being that Magneto’s entire motivation for joining Apocalypse is that the only family he ever had were brutally murdered by men, causing him to hate them once more. Understandable. Now, Quicksilver, who plays a pivotal part in events, is Magneto’s son. He has the opportunity to tell him, which I imagine would stop him in his tracks, considering it’s a loss of family that sent him down this particular path of vengeance. Instead, for reasons known only to him, he decides not to. It makes, quite literally, zero sense. Even more so when Magneto changes sides anyhow with nothing more than a few words from Mystique, when the ‘I’m your son’ plot thread would have achieved the same outcome, but not hurt one’s brain quite as much.
The saddest fact is that a lot of the acting performances are solid, if unspectacular, and it really is a shame to see so much talent wasted. Now, I firmly believe Jennifer Lawrence to be over-rated, and here she highlights this by half-assing the entire thing. But, Jen-Law aside, everybody else tries against hope to get something good out of this material, which is arguably more tragic than them not bothering at all. Isaac, in his urge to save his role, ends up hamming things up to incredible levels of scenery-chewing, but it’s not enough to breath life into a dead script.
McAvoy and Fassbender do however give good accounts for themselves, primarily because the two actors are so talented it would be hard for them not to. Fassbender in particular manages to turn chicken shit into chicken salad, and puts in the best performance he can with what he has to work with. He is, truly, a mercurial talent, deserved of all the praise he gets.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Wolverine cameo is the most obvious fan-bait you’ll ever see in a film, as the entire segment is completely pointless. Removed, it wouldn’t affect the film in the slightest. It is the most obviously cynical use of the gratuitous cameo I’ve ever seen in my life. It actually disgusted me, as it took us away from the film just as it finally became interesting, and then when we return to action, we’re firmly back to not giving a fuck.
Now, the film isn’t a complete trainwreck, and there are some good points. As alluded to, Fassbender is great. His Magneto is, by far, the most complete and complex character in the franchise. The Quicksilver sequence, while less impressive than Days of Future Past, is still very good, but perhaps could have done with less horrible CGI. I did like the fact he couldn’t save Havok though, as it finally presents at least some minor weakness in his character. He’s super fast, but sometimes, not quite fast enough, an interesting caveat about his character that makes him significantly more relatable. Also, young Jean and young Cyclops aren’t terrible, and watching them develop would be interesting if we ever get a sequel, which in all honesty, should be up in the air right now.
In a nuthshell, a terrifically flat ending to a franchise that just seemed to finally be finding it’s feet again. It derails the good work done in the two predecessors, and sets the franchise back to where it was around 2003. The CGI is atrocious, the narrative is nonsense, and the whole thing stinks of a missed opportunity. Ironically, it seems Apocalypse will achieve his plan of ending the world…..it just might be that the world he ended was the franchise in which he existed.
Final Rating – 2.9/5
Joshua A. Moulinie