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.

X-Men: First Class – Review

Set during The Cuban Missile crisis X-Men: First Class shows how the X-Men came to be, as Professor X sets up his academy and Magneto avenges his mother’s murder at the hands of Kevin Bacon’s energy absorbing Nazi.

All the promotional material, consisting mostly of poorly photo-shopped posters, had me setting my expectations at the floor and I’ve never been much of an X-Men fan anyway. Despite, or perhaps because of, all this X-Men: First Class is surprisingly good, not too many flashy set pieces but instead plenty of character, humour and brutality which comes together to make it the best X-film so far. And I’d say that even if the rest had been any good.

After a bleak opening, this entry into the franchise manages to be fun and tongue in cheek without ever losing its integrity. There are plenty of throwaway references to the earlier films but the real charm comes from the way the characters interact and a particularly slick split-screen montage in the middle of the film. Training mutants has never been so fun. I expect that a lot of the credit for the fun script should go to Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, they did Kick Ass after all, but without the young cast it might not have been pulled off.

The cast really are good… well the good guys, and I’m including Michael Fassbender’s Magneto in this, are very good. From James McAvoy’s charming Charles Xavier to Jennifer Lawrence’s sexy but vulnerable Mystique, this is a well cast bunch of thespians. Each seems to embody a role we already know without resorting to an imitation. Nicholas Hoult also deserves a shout out for being a brilliant Beast, and for having come so far since Skins. On the bad guys team Kevin Bacon is of course brilliant as Sebastian Shaw, for once a villain wants to blow up the earth and it almost makes sense. His sidekicks are another matter however.

There was a strong sense of a vintage Batman movie about Shaw’s henchmen. Just as comfortable fighting as they are standing in a submarine with headphones on, pretending they know how to operate it. It all felt a bit cartoonish over in Shaw’s submarine, making his group less threatening and more bemusing. January Jones is a stand-out weak link in the cast. Dressed up like a transvestite, she coldly delivers her lines and hopes you’ll be too distracted by her constant display of cleavage and thigh to notice the lack of acting going on. It’s a shame she tarnishes an otherwise fun film.

Consider this as a review from a non X-Men fan, maybe we’ll get one from a proper fan soon, but I still managed to enjoy myself. I have no idea how well this fits in with the “true” X-Men story but it is very entertaining, a bit sexy, and you almost don’t mind that January Jones is in it.

Poster Quote: Good

Out Now – 1st June 2011

It’s Blockbuster Wednesday! The day of the week when the really big film struts out.

X-Men: First Class
With a cast of sexy young people and the writers of Kick Ass on board, could this be a bold new start for the X-Men franchise? It certainly can’t be any worse than Wolverine. Highlights include Kevin Bacon and trying to guess who impregnated January Jones. If you’re not convinced yet have a peek at the trailer below, there are explosions, mutants and for some reason a strip club:

For better or worse I’ll be going tonight, expect a review tomorrow.