Directed by Bryan Singer Starring James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac and Nicholas Hoult Film Review by Chris Olson One giant leap for Mutant-kind...backwards. If you can remember the two films preceding this latest addition to the X-Men franchise (First Class and Days of Future Past), and we wouldn't blame if you didn't - there have been a lot of superhero films along the way - then you may have some fond memories of some brilliant sequences which restored your faith in these characters, and made you excited about more mutant movies. True to its name, X-Men: Apocalypse is completely destructive chaos and manages to tear everything down which came before, whilst blasting the viewer in the face with a familiar smorgasbord of super powers and action thrills.
Set ten years after Magneto (Michael Fassbender) picked up the football stadium and nearly killed the president, X-Men: Apocalypse sees in a new decade (the 80's) where most of the characters are dispersed across the planet attempting to carve a new life for themselves. Erik aka Magneto, is living a quiet life in a Polish village with his wife and daughter. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is a rogue force attempting to prevent anti-mutant violence and avoiding her new-found status of hero after saving the world at the end of DOFP. Professor X (James McAvoy) is at his school for the gifted, shaping the lives and abilities of the newest mutant recruits, including the visually dangerous Scott (Tye Sheridan) and the mysteriously troubled Jean (Sophie Turner). When a mutant of centuries past (Oscar Isaac) is awoken by a group of adoring groupies, the end times are nigh as he has a rather terrifying ability - he can absorb the powers of other mutants and enhance them; which is the superhero equivalent of having a wish and wishing for more wishes. To further the drama, Erik's cover is blown after a factory accident leads to a terrible tragedy, setting him on a course for some heavy metal antics against humans. As far as set-ups go, for a superhero film it's not too awful. Aside from the all-consuming baddie, there was a lot to work with here and much of the groundwork had been placed in previous films. Regrettably, X-Men: Apocalypse fails to bring its own meat to the table, and instead pilfers from other movies whilst delivering the bare minimum. There are some great visual sequences and a few of the newer characters are at least compelling, but overall there is no depth, no smart filmmaking, and dialogue that sounds like it was lifted from an actual comic book. Simple one-liners and massive exposition litter the movie and treat the audience like it's 1999.
Kudos to some of the newcomers, especially Turner, who gives the most grounded performance of the cast, and Sheridan is a delight to watch. The top billing members, however, look as bemused as the audience, unaware of why the franchise has taken a turn for the cheesier, and scraping through each scene with the ridiculous dialogue whilst planning their exit strategy. The obvious element which is missing is emotional depth. Whereas the previous films really grappled with the tumultuous backgrounds to these characters, and anchored their respective stories to them with gripping scenes of pathos (such as Erik's time in Auschwitz or Xavier's crippling wound), this story takes passing glances at those elements and then quickly continues with the bludgeoning visuals. Rarely are we left to contemplate the drama on screen, which makes the action sequences far less visceral when they come. Everything feels superficial and tepid, like drinking lukewarm water through a bright pink curly straw, fun to look at for a few seconds but does nothing to improve the taste. The highlights were the newer raw talent and, to some extent, the visual spectacle. The downsides were a completely lazy dialogue, lack of depth, and a shameful waste of past achievements and stellar cast. There is a post-credit teaser for more to come, but the makers will be, much like in the film, needing to do a lot of rebuilding.
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