CONTINUING the trend of the X-Men prequels, X-Men: Apocalypse may improve gradually as it progresses but ultimately ends up as the weakest of the X-Men ensemble films.
When Egyptian god and the first ever mutant Apocalypse (a CGI-laden Oscar Isaac) wakes up in 1983 after thousands of years, he teams himself with several corrupted mutants to take on the current crop of X-Men.
One of those he targets is Magneto (Michael Fassbender), forced to return to his lifestyle following a tragic set of events in the new life he aimed to seek in East Germany.
Using his powers, Apocalypse sets out to bring total devastation to the world by emptying it of its entire nuclear deterrent, using the lack of defence to wipe out mass areas of the world, including in one scene, the Sydney Opera House.
With Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and the human alter-ego of Beast (Nicholas Hoult) reuniting with previous colleagues Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), they lead a team of past X-Men, currently training the next generation to prevent Apocalypse’s plans. Joining them too in their quest are Jean Grey (Sophia Turner), an uncontrollable Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and the newly-arrived Quicksilver (Evan Peters).
While bringing in the younger versions of the characters that we first saw in the welcoming X-Men: First Class is relatively appealing, the problem with this film is that the entertainment factor is not consistent, a fatal flaw.
Pacing is a key issue when examining the first half which suggests this is looking to be a big disappointment, something not really seen in the ensemble X-Men films beforehand. A pre-credits sequence set in ancient Egypt where we learn of how Apocalypse ended up entombed and unable to awaken for millenniums feels unsubstantiated and with a bland energy not often seen in this franchise.
Furthermore, the characters that we warmed to when we first saw them are placed in situations that struggle to engage, one aspect being Raven saving the abducted Nightcrawler from a fight club in Germany.
The segments that depict Xavier and Magneto’s relationship does in a way feel predictable and looking at the different paths that each have taken suggests that they are on a collision course, yet that is something we already know. What we later suspect to be happened does indeed happen so there is never an element of surprise if the aim is to form a twisty approach with them, even in spite of both McAvoy and Fassbender settling into their parts with ease.
The detail of character is to blame for the film feeling overlong and its overt usage of shows that it would have been better if such a method had been shortened regarding each.
The storyline involving Magneto carving out a life under a new identity having been on the run since the events of Days of Future Past does play though as an example of superhero films featuring respectable acting. In this Fassbender crafts an emotionally charged performance in a key sequence following his cover blown after being reported due to his saving of a worker through his unusual powers. Whilst allowing himself to be arrested, a series of events result in the accidental deaths of his wife and daughter. Regarding performances, Fassbender and Isaac often carry the film solely at times when the film struggles to engage the way this series is accustomed to.
When Xavier and his team are confronted at their facility by Apocalypse and his corrupted team, he is abducted before an explosion by Cyclops’ brother to prevent it threatens to destroy the heavily-populated building. At the same time, Quicksilver suddenly (and conveniently) appears, being able to evacuate the mutants and students in time, but done so to the tune of the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams. Feeling more like a music video it is an unwelcome feature, yet it is from here that the action element starts to help the film.
The action element is what the film is trying to deliver and though on the whole, the film fails to succeed as a whole, the tad overlong climactic act does entertain to the point that one sees a complete difference in the second half to what took place in the first. It’s watching the likes of Mystique, Quicksilver, Beast and Xavier combining together that shows if the X-Men films are losing their grip on character study, the action though seems to come unscathed. In fact, the action element works to such an extent and the demand to see our villains succeed in the face of such adversity saves the film from falling into a deeper hole than initially feared.
Maybe this is a one-off but despite a clearly improved second half, X-Men: Apocalypse represents a disappointment in the rebooted franchise, which leaves questions as to how future instalments will go from this.