X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Directed by Bryan Singer • Written by Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer, Dan Harris & Michael Dougherty
With Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters and Sophie Turner
After the time-hopping fun of X-Men: Days of Future Past, writer-director, Bryan Singer, returns to the series to serve up a comparatively underwhelming fourth helping of mutant fun. The thrust of the plot centres on a barely recognisable Oscar Isaac as En Sabah Nur , a demigod mutant awoken from an ancient sleep to bring terror to the modern world. On paper, it sounds quite exciting, and sometimes it is. Sometimes.
These multi-team-up comic book movies have become a tricky juggling act that even the best writers and directors can have difficulty keeping a grasp of. Joss Whedon toiled with Ultron, as did Zack Snyder and David Ayer with BvS and Suicide Squad respectively. Until now, Bryan Singer had proven himself one of the better overseers of this kind of fare, but he’s overburdened by characters and crisscrossing narratives to the point that his latest X offering begins to feel like an old, fatigued heavyweight boxer hanging on for the final few rounds. What is designed to feel like the end of the world, slowly feels like the beginning of the end of the series.
Jennifer Lawrence, so effective in previous X adventures, is semi-redundant as her plot imperative is veiled as important, yet her contribution to the drama is little more than token – a lot like Han Solo’s there-but-not-there turn in Return of the Jedi – ironically, a film that is invoked and dismissed for its inferiority to Empire. Moreover, Lawrence looks mostly disinterested. To a lesser extent, the same can be said of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, as the epic over-ambition of the structurally unsound narrative robs their characters of space to be suitably evolved.
A symptom of the overcrowded cast, is a nagging feeling of important things being skimmed over, as the screenplay is forced to spread itself too thinly in what should be weighty areas of drama. What results is a hollow epic that possesses all the dazzle and sparkle, but virtually no emotional resonance.
As Jean Grey, Sophie Turner carries Sansa Stark with a shallow performance that can’t hide a seemingly inherent level of petulance. Her American accent wobbles alongside her limitations as an actress, which appear ever more pronounced given her central importance to the plot. Turner can’t find that wry sex appeal, or concealed sense of burning danger brought so effectively by Famke Jansen.
It would, however, be remiss to pin the blame on Turner for the things askew with Apocalypse. With Singer at the helm, it’s surprising to find such a muddled film. Yes, there are plenty of spectacular moments to feast upon, but given the overall strength of the series (X-Men: The Last Stand notwithstanding) high hopes are largely dashed by a movie that plays out like an easily discarded comic book, begging to be taken seriously as a meaty graphic novel. 3/5
Such a shame that the awesomely overpowered spectacle (especially the mansion explosion scene) is more memorable than James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence here.
I’ve not seen this and I dunno if I’ll bother, to be honest. I mean, if it comes on TV I won’t avoid it, but I’m not gonna spend money on it. Nice review.
In terms of the stakes in these movies, they’re starting to become exercises in apathy. I know the Marvel films are going intergalactic with the Infinity Wars…which is the point you start to bump your head on the ceiling, in terms of the overall stakes. Once you start fighting gods, it’s hard to go back to rescuing cats from trees. Superhero saturation point is almost upon us.
Yeah, it’s been getting pretty stupid.
Some fair points Gareth, a wasn’t as underwhelmed by Apocalypse but in hindsight Days of Future Past is the superior film. I like Singer as a filmmaker but agree that it’s time for a fresh pair of hands to reinvigorate the franchise, much like we got with Matthew Vaughn on First Class.
As always, it’s great to hear from you Chris. You know what’s struck me over the last few weeks…I’ve seen Dr Strange, Suicide Squad and X-Men: Apocalypse. In each film, the heroes end up fighting some kind of God. My feelings are, the movies are beginning to bump their head on the ceiling, when it comes to the stakes. They can’t go back to saving the cat in the tree anymore, because they’re all fighting Gods. I think it’s either time to reign it all in and get the focus back on the individual characters, or as Meg Ryan famously said in one of the rudest interviews I’ve ever seen…”wrap it up”.
Totally right mate, as big a comic book nerd as I am and I’m loving seeing all these characters and worlds living and breathing on the screen it’s becoming hard not to be worn out by the endless spectacle of destruction and mayhem. After all that’s not the reason these characters are so beloved and enduring.
I’m with you Chris. I’m a fan too. And despite my misgivings, I’ll probably keep watching them like a sucker, as long as they keep churning them out. I love the idea of comic book films. One of my first cinematic loves is Richard Donner’s Superman, which I still consider the high watermark in terms of balancing tone. The point you make about destruction and mayhem rings true with me. I think these movies are putting themselves in an awkward corner, with this need to constantly escalate everything. That said, I do like to look of Logan. I’m hearing it’s a welcome gear shift.