X-Men: Apocalypse – Film Review

X-Men Apocalypse 1

If you read the title of this latest X-Men film out loud, punctuation and all, it gets the unfortunate subtitle of “colon apocalypse” which makes me wish the film were slightly worse so I could use that as a clever “the title reviews itself!!!” remark. Alas X-Men: Apocalypse is not terrible enough to be worth of a weak diarrhea joke despite trying incredibly hard to be.

Set ten years after some of the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the mutants we know and love are looking very young for their age and are scattered about the globe. Professor X (James McAvoy) is preening over his academy, Raven/Mystique/Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is roaming the world being heroic, and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has hung up his bad guy helmet to grow a beard and do manual labour like he’s in the series finale of Dexter. When an ancient mutant with the ominous nickname Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is awoken by four chanting men the end of mankind becomes a possibility and the heroes must reunite, grab some newbies, and save the world. Apart from Magneto of course who can’t resist scratching that homicidal itch and joins the baddies for a bit instead.

What follows is a bit of a mess: Beloved characters return but are sidelined by a boring bad guy, humorous interludes are laugh out loud funny but are inserted into scenes of real drama in a way that really jars, endless barrels of CGI are unloaded in a manner that becomes almost incoherent, and the 3D does little more than make the subtitles pop. There are many reasons to dislike the film; it is confusing, occasionally boring, and uses Auschwitz in a questionable way, but I still had a good time.

X-Men Apocalypse 2

X-Men: Apocalypse relies heavily on the audience’s love for its cast and its characters. It even sticks in a Wolverine cameo and poaches Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones to get the fanboys onside. Director Bryan Singer does this because he thinks he can get away with it and to a large extent he can. The young cast of this more recent X-Men trilogy are all perfectly lovable and it is their presence that took me through the film. I was five films deep, ignoring Wolverine films and Deadpool for the sake of sanity, at the start of the film so genuinely care what happens to the regulars involved. It is a real shame that there wasn’t more of Fassbender, Lawrence, and McAvoy as too much time was spent with Apocalypse and his penchant for Batman & Robin style superhero costumes and not enough with the faces I had come to see.

Apocalypse wasn’t a villain with a relatable backstory or understandable plan; he was just an egotistical maniac who felt that the way to save mankind was to kill it indiscriminately. It’s a plot I struggled to get behind and it was never really explained why Magneto got so swept up in it. The film uses cheap tricks to give Magneto some motivation but considering the character’s moral yo-yoing you’d have expected him to pause before manipulating the whole earth’s magnetic fields. A good baddie needs conflict and charisma; something Magneto provides in spades but Apocalypse severely lacks.

As mentioned before the film’s tone is all over the place. I was pleased to see the return of Evan Peters’ Quicksilver but his comedic time to shine is tarnished when you pause from laughing and realise the horrific reality of what has been going on while he was running around being the very definition of a superhero. The tonal rollercoaster makes it hard to take the serious bits seriously and tricky to fully enjoy the fun bits. X-Men is a fun franchise and is at its worst when being too straight faced.

X-Men: Apocalypse makes no real sense in the context of the original trilogy of X-Men films and includes at least one character who shouldn’t be around for another decade or three. That said comics make good use of alternate realities and thanks to the last instalment’s time travel joy all manner of plot holes are fair game now.

X-Men: Apocalypse may be messy but I am grading on a curve and Batman v Superman is still a painfully recent memory. This is the weaker episode of your favourite TV show; forgivable but forgettable. Despite all the grumbling above there is an enjoyable film in a strong franchise if you look hard enough and try really hard not to think of The Mummy.

X-Men: Apocalypse is out in the UK today.

Out Now – 24th May 2014

X-Men Days of Future Pat

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Following on from events in X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class, and The Wolverine this is one film with a lot of loose ends to tie up and from the sounds of things the result is a little messy. As superhero franchises go though the X-Men are given a lot of slack and despite three disastrous films out of the six released so far anticipation for this ultimate mutant mash-up remains incredibly high.

Not sure I follow this but “after a bad blind date, a man and woman find themselves stuck together at a resort for families”. Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler team up for their third romantic comedy together. My only real experience with them as a duo was while watching 50 First Dates on a plane with no sound and that’s as far as I am willing to go.

Postman Pat: The Movie
“A veteran postman finds his beliefs challenged after he enters a TV talent show competition.” That’s right, Pat abandons his post (PUN INTENDED) to enter an X-Factor-style singing competition while robots take over his old job. In order to keep my childhood memories untarnished I will be steering clear.

Fading Gigolo
John Turturro writes and directs a sex comedy within which he has given himself the starring role of a man who late in life finds employment as a gigolo with Woody Allen as his pimp. With clients including Sharon Stone this may well just be a window into Turturro’s wildest fantasies.

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
One horrible looking computer animated instalment in the long and meandering Oz franchise. If I were you I would stay well away and just watch Return to Oz instead.

Run & Jump
The extraordinary Maxine Peake stars alongside SNL-alum Will Forte in a drama about a woman who is forced to take charge of her family after her husband suffers a stroke and a personality change. Forte in the American doctor who comes to investigate the unusual case. Forte as a comedic actor can be a little trying but Nebraska showed us that he is much more sympathetic when he turns his sights to drama.

The Punk Singer
“A look at the life of activist, musician, and cultural icon Kathleen Hanna, who formed the punk band Bikini Kill and pioneered the “riot grrrl” movement of the 1990s.”

Mexican drama in which “Heli, a factory worker in rural Mexico must try to protect his young family when his 12-year-old sister inadvertently involves them in the brutal drug world when she agrees to look after some cocaine found by her older boyfriend. When the drug cartel want their drugs back they go after the boyfriend and Heli’s young family.” Kermode loved it but described this as difficult to watch. Judging by the BBFC report sex, rape, genital mutilation and sadistic violence are all on the cards.

Beyond the Edge
It has been 60 years since Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary climbed Everest, this film dramatises that feat. So there.

Top Dog
Martin Kemp (yes, that one) has directed a British crime drama. Apparently he directed a horror film four years ago. Who knew? Suffice it to say that he is making films that no one is talking about.

“A saga of revenge undertaken by a son for his father’s name and his kingdom.”