Thursday, 19 May 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

Let's be honest: X-Men: Apocalypse is not a film without its problems. I would struggle to discuss it in any great detail without reeling off a catalogue of poor directorial choices, script nonsenses or examples of bad acting. It is certainly the least good of Bryan Singer's four X-Men films to date, and I actually spent some time deciding whether or not it was better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which - as we all know - is not nearly as terrible as you all say it is. What Apocalypse is, though, is knowingly camp, occasionally bold and - at the very least - well-intentioned, even if its intentions are frequently crushed to smithereens under the weight of its own hubris. And if you ask me, which I'm afraid you already have by virtue of reading this far, it's still better than First Class.

After a satisfyingly exhausting unpicking and rethreading of the X-Men universe's chronology in Days Of Future Past, Singer and writer Simon Kinberg have opted for the easy way here: big bad guy threatens human extinction, recruits bad mutants to his cause, good mutants fight back. It's not big and it's not clever, but it is a lot of fun: the pre-title scene alone features some spectacular Cairo-based carnage which sets the tone for the FX-heavy two and a bit hours that follow, and while some of it is kind of baffling, none of it is boring - and certainly not the opening titles, which play out like the complete history of mankind as recalled by a hyperactive child who was once shown a picture of the Mona Lisa.
Oscar Isaac is thanklessly tasked with the role of Mr Apocalypse (first name not given; possibly Alan), buried under enough blue prosthetics and daft armour to question the wisdom of hiring an actor this good to play what is essentially an angry smurf. Rudely awoken from a millennia-long snooze in 1983, Alan Apocalypse does what we'd all like to do when yanked out of a nice dream and sets off to enslave mankind, recruiting the three most useless mutants he can find along the way and giving them terrible haircuts for reasons best known to himself. Meanwhile, Erik Magneto (Michael Fassbender, still undecided on which accent to plump for) is living happily in Poland until shit goes down that tests his patience to the ruddy limit, rendering him an ideal candidate for the currently vacant position of Fourth Horseman Of Alan.

Meanwhile meanwhile, dozens of other mutants are doing stuff and saying things and noticeably failing to look twenty years older than they did five years ago when they were in the 1962-set First Class. At some point they all get together and have a superpower-off, and that's basically it. I can't defend Apocalypse on the grounds of intelligent, soul-searching, groundbreaking storytelling, but I can defend it on the grounds that a) it doesn't really claim to be any of those things - unlike, say, Batman v Superman - and b) it gleefully rewrites both the history we know (leaving us in a world with no nukes and no Auschwitz) and the series' own internal history, and expects you to keep up with it. It doesn't really take the time to ponder what any of that means, but never mind because OOH LOOK THERE'S WOLVERINE!
The social commentary that marked out Singer's previous X-films is a little thin on the ground here and struggles to make itself heard over all the explosions, but it is there, and even if it amounts to little more than "with great power comes great responsibility", that still seems more admirable to me than pitting heroes against each other for the sake of a lacklustre extended fight sequence. Also to its credit, Apocalypse is at least very funny; I mean sure, the climax is overlong, hideously misjudged in its bloodless slaying of innocents (the removal of a couple of shots of landmark-destruction could have helped) and ill-advisedly quotes Return Of The Jedi (for the second time in the film, in fact), but come on, Nightcrawler wears Michael Jackson's Thriller jacket! What's not to like? Apart from all the things I just said were bad.

Ultimately, whether or not you'll go for X-Men: Apocalypse can probably be ascertained by your reaction to two specific sequences within the film: the first shamelessly rehashes the best scene of Days Of Future Past; the second is a lengthy plot diversion which exists solely to insert an inevitable cameo. Both scenes betray a disappointing lack of originality, but they're also undeniably entertaining, delivering the kind of magic only the X-Men can provide. There are better and worse films, there are better and worse superhero films, there are better and worse X-Men films. In fact there are better and worse films in this current trilogy of X-Men films. But in a series sixteen years and eight movies old (nine if you must insist on including Deadpool), it seems to me you could do a lot worse than produce a new entry that slots somewhere in the middle.


  1. It was surprisingly good (surprising due to the negative reviews going about like Empires). Had some truly great scenes (Cardio opening sequence). Overall obviously wasn't as good as the awesome DOFP but probably on a par with First Class and like a better version of Last Stand. the Star Wars comparison is quite apt in terms of quality, if XM:FC = NewHope, XM:DOFP = Empire, then XM:A is on a par with Jedi (the same applies to the original X trilogy). Am baffled by Empires ** negative review which had me thinking Singer had somehow spectacularly fucked up. If DOFP was **** (probably should've been *****) then this should've been a solid ***. Maybe Empires obsession with the MCU (and coming so soon after the vastly overrated CA:CW) tainted their view on any non MCU superhero movie? (including BvS :)

  2. Having read the reviews, I went in dreading another disaster like Last Stand and spent the first two thirds honestly scratching my head and wondering what on earth everyone was complaining about. It was all quite gripping and Fassbender's scenes in particular were fantastic. It all goes to pot in the final reel - terrible CGI, expository dialogue, overpowered villain who can only be defeated with overpowered hero via lots of frowning - but up until that point it was loads of fun. Last Stands position as the worst of the franchise remains secure.

  3. sorry 'Cario' not 'Cardio'

    Btw id put it about half way in best to worst X films:
    DOFP, X2, X1, (XM:A), FC, TW, X3, XO:W (not that Origins is that bad)

  4. was looking for the Deadpool review on TIS and found this

    man whod have thought DP would not only get made but be the highest grossing XMen, highest grossing R movie etc

  5. Haha, had totally forgotten about that. I was an opinionated berk back then wasn't I? Anyway sorry, didn't review Deadpool. Didn't much care for it.

  6. finally saw it last night (got it cheapish off ebay). was as expected it to be - very fanboyish/crude etc. could imagine the deafening howls of lols in cinemas from comic book nerds at every little joke/reference/R rated deaths (that would've been painful to witness). cant believe it made so much to the point its the highest grossing XMen movie. Reynolds must feel like biggest dog around all the XMen actors now.

  7. no Trek review?

  8. Haven't seen it. Taking the summer off new films to catch up on old ones.