There’s no getting around it, the latest X-Men film is a bit of a clunker. The effects look cheap, the performances aren’t great and the plot is riddled with holes.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were hoping for a return to the fun, zippy action that made the last two “rebooted” entries in the series so entertaining. The original film, released in 2000, was made on a small budget and at a time when superhero flicks were considered something of a risk.
The film was a hit, and so when X2 rolled around the whole thing felt bigger… much bigger. It was a hit and probably the best in the series to this date. Then Bryan Singer left to do an ill-fated Superman movie and Brett Ratner took over.
The following mess meant the series needed a reboot, and it got it in the form of X-Men: First Class, taking on a younger cast and showing us what happened to the characters in their formative years.
This worked and we got Days of Future Past, with Singer back at the helm. We were given a time travel story that linked everything up but also left us with a blank canvas to paint (by numbers as it turns out) a new story.
So here we are at X-Men: Apocalypse, the sixth X-Men film. We won’t include the Wolverine films: they’ve not only been discounted by the time travel stories, they have also been destroyed by Deadpool in recent months.
Oscar Isaac plays the title role, a mutant who is intent on shaping the world in his own image. The god-complex idea is hammered home when an ancient ceremony is interrupted and Apocalypse is buried under a pyramid for centuries. He remains here until Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) accidentally uncovers his tomb and unleashes his wrath.
Over at the X-Men mansion, it’s the 1980’s and the kids are alright. Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is about to meet her destiny when Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) is enrolled to the school for gifted mutants. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) are teachers in residence, doing their best to guide the youngsters.
Elsewhere Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is now a celebrity in the mutant community and hailed as a hero. She rescues those in danger and finds herself looking after a vulnerable soul in Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a powerful mutant who can transport himself almost anywhere.
As Apocalypse travels the globe looking for Four Horsemen to join his mission, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has turned his back on violence and settled down to a quiet life with a wife and daughter in a rural part of Europe. When tragedy strikes, Magneto is back and is drawn to the dark side once more.
You can guess what happens next. Various mutants, some new like Storm and Angel, some old like Quicksilver and Havok, are thrown into the mix and forced to pick sides.
The plot is a mess. The characters seem to switch allegiances at the drop of a hat, and individual powers are so unbalanced that you really don’t need more that a handful of mutants to be involved. Magneto can destroy the planet by manipulating the metal in Earth’s core, so what use is a former EastEnders star with a set of tacky-looking angel wings?
Quicksilver can once again hurl himself into any situation and move so fast that he can stop things before they even happen.
There are no consequences to using these powers, and that’s where things really fall apart. It makes the evil genius of Apocalypse look foolish and the teachings of Professor X look idiotic.
We get a late introduction to Wolverine (again). This isn’t a spoiler as it is all over the trailers, but it’s a shame the producers didn’t hold anything back at all for the film’s release. Normally we tread carefully when reviewing this genre, tiptoeing around plot and character details for fear of giving away too much, but there is no need here. There isn’t a twist or reveal you can’t see in the plethora of pre-release publicity.
Tye Sheridan and Kodi Smit-McPhee are the best of the new bunch, and would be a welcome addition to future films. We know Oscar Isaac is a fine actor – and a fine looking actor – but he is constantly hampered by the awful make-up he is hidden under. Think Red Dwarf’s Kryten but purple and less convincing.
It’s only May and we’ve already had 3 better superhero films… and one of those was Batman v Superman!