By Adam Ray Palmer
The film I am reviewing today is the third picture from Marvel Studios that I have covered in 2016, well in fact, the last three months.
X-Men: Apocalypse rounds out the current trilogy of the new generation of X-Men mutants (I must state there has been no confirmation but it looks like it is their last).
Apocalypse is the eighth X-Men film since the series began back in 2000. All these movies have grossed over $3 billion at the box office, and after seeing Apocalypse, I am pretty sure this will add a fair few cents too…
All cast members return from the previous two films as X-Men: Apocalypse focuses on the first ever mutant that was born. The X-Men must unite to defeat this super-mutant as he wishes to turn the world upside down and start again.
The action begins in the Nile Valley in 3600BC, where mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is the ruler of his region until an untimely disaster leaves him stuck under a Grand Canyon amount of rocks. We flash-forward to 1983 and the narrative can officially begin. We are re-introduced to the original mutants with Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) looking for recruits, Xavier (James McAvoy) running his school and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) keeping his head down in Poland.
The fresh faces in the X-Men gang come in the form of Game Of Thrones’ Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), James Dean looking Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), long-tailed Avatar-type character Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Peter Beale as Angel (Ben Hardy). There is also a new Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and a stunningly beautiful new villain Psylocke (Olivia Munn).
I know what you’re thinking, all those characters are a lot to take in; and you’d be correct. There are a few niggles that let this film down at times and one of them is the ensemble cast. Apocalypse is like any other superhero film – the plot is every much character-driven. The old guard including Fassbender, Lawrence and McAvoy are yet again pulling the strings. They are phenomenal actors and improve any films they are cast in. I would go and see any movie that these three are in. Apocalypse is no different. Fassbender has the most difficult of jobs as he teeters on the edge of good and evil, but ultimately falls back into the dark-side due to a chilling and powerful sequence. The difference with these films is the calibre of acting, you don’t get masterful performances like this in Civil War.
So what do you do when a film is overcrowded? Make sure you fill it with talent, and that is exactly what Bryan Singer has done. I mentioned the newcomers earlier but I must comment on Sophie Turner and Evan Peters. Turner has a brilliant debut in this franchise and puts in a magnificent shift. She is certainly a highlight. The same can be said for Peters. He stole the show with his slow-motion scene for the second film running as Quicksilver. This time, he saves all the ‘gifted students’ at Xavier’s school in an effortless manner and charm. He reminds me of a young Johnny Depp. The newbies are that good that I could have watched more of them to be honest.
As I have stated, Apocalypse is quite clearly character-driven with the production being packed out with stars and having Oscar Isaac’s villain bubbling under the surface until the final act. As expected though, with so many talents in one film, members of the cast get left behind. Personally, I wanted to see more of Psylocke and Angel but we are only briefly introduced before meeting them again at the final showdown. We know very little about them; they are severely under-utilised. The same can be said for Jennifer Lawrence too. I can only assume that this picture clashed with some other engagements or Singer has used this film as a stepping stone for the new recruits – either way, Lawrence’s talent is wasted. When she is in a scene, she lights it up. It’s a little frustrating but at least the new mutants are a great back up.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film though, I was worried by some reviews as my expectations from the previous two had built to an enormous level – I shouldn’t have doubted Singer or Simon Kinberg (writers). The special effects are aesthetically pleasing too. I think they are the best yet, the opening sequence alone is spectacular on the big screen.
All the minor gripes I have before-mentioned could be put down to preferences, but there is one element that I am really frustrated by. It could have easily been a five-star film for me but I just cannot award it that because of the villain. Apocalypse is played by a more than adequate Oscar Isaac and he does a fine job, it’s just everything else about the character. The potential is there as antagonist but unfortunately, the film uses him as a catalyst for other events. We very rarely see him throughout until the climax so we don’t build a fearful connection with him, the character doesn’t have any depth. I think if we see him kill a few more people/mutants along the way, he may seem a bit more menacing. In the end, he’s a bit flat and fails miserably – but at least the film as a whole doesn’t.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
X-Men: Apocalypse is currently showing worldwide in selected cinemas – certificate 12A.