X-Men: Apocalypse

***1/2

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

X-Men: Apocalypse
"Without the all-star cast, it's easy to imagine X-Men: Apocalypse as a dismal failure, but the somewhat nonsensical script is rescued by the performances."

Let's get this out of the way: Apocalypse looks like Ivan Ooze from out of Power Rangers. There's no escaping it. If you were hoping the leaked photos were early test shots, or there'd be some CGI overlay that would make him not look like Ivan Ooze from out of Power Rangers, sorry to disappoint. It's a testament to the acting chops of Oscar Isaac that you can take Apocalypse at all seriously as a villain instead of spending the entire film thinking about how much he looks like Ivan Ooze from out of Power Rangers.

You will spend 30% of the film pondering this at most.

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We start out with some exposition in Ancient Egypt, showing how an ancient mutant by the name of Apocalypse comes to end up buried under several tons of rock for a few thousand years. There is no explanation as to his close resemblance to Ivan Ooze from out of Power Rangers, but this probably isn't important to the plot.

There follows a brief credits sequence in which a swastika explodes for no reason, a deft piece of cinematic shorthand for "we are now in 1983 instead of 3600 B.C." Younger versions of Cyclops and Jean Grey are introduced, and the Eighties setting is a great excuse to include Jubilee and have her looking like Jubilee.

Meanwhile, elsewhere (there's a lot of meanwhile elsewhere) Mystique is busy rescuing a young and amazing Nightcrawler from East Berlin's underground mutant thunderdome arena. We're left in no doubt as to who the biggest BAMF in the room is.

Meanwhile, elsewhere (see?) fugitive Magneto discovers that he can't have nice things, such as any motivation that isn't connected to a throwaway female character dying. Driven into a frenzy by the use of such a redundant trope in an ostensibly forward-thinking franchise, he goes on a bit of a rampage.

At the same time, but in a different location, Apocalypse has awoken. Perhaps infuriated by his startling physical similarity to an evil wizard from a mid-Nineties children's action adventure, he sets out to collect some pet mutants and destroy the world. Magneto teams up with the baddies, Mystique teams up with the goodies, and the stage is set for a conflict. Perhaps some of the good guys will be bad, and vice-versa! It's all terribly morally ambiguous.

X Men: Apocalypse isn't a dreadful film, but it suffers from being less impressive than First Class and Days Of Future Past while trying to do a lot of the same things. Quicksilver gets another set-piece where he moves really quickly and plays with physics while everything slows down. Someone we think isn't Mystique turns out to be Mystique at a crucial moment. Xavier and Magneto debate the finer points of "maybe we should kill all humans" versus "perhaps let's not kill all humans". It's perfectly enjoyable but largely predictable. The other major problem is with tone, which is all over the place. We spend a lot of time in the Avengers zone of "ensemble action comedy", which somewhat undercuts a few "serious emotional character interplay with heavy moral overtones" scenes later on. There's also a bit where they blow up Auschwitz for a lark. Seriously. Your actual Auschwitz.

Without the all-star cast, it's easy to imagine X-Men: Apocalypse as a dismal failure, but the somewhat nonsensical script is rescued by the performances. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender could easily carry the film on their own, but everyone involved brings their A-game. Kodi Smit-McPhee is especially charming as a young Kurt Wagner, and Jennifer Lawrence continues to be one of the greatest things about the franchise. If there's a weak link anywhere it's Sophie Turner as a Jean Grey that looks about as much like Sansa Stark as Apocalypse looks like Ivan Ooze from out of Power Rangers, but it's more that she's outshone by the stars around her than actively terrible or anything. She's like one of the bits of Orion's sword, or his big toe: she makes a solid contribution to the whole while not making enough of an impression to ever be the answer in a pub quiz.

The bottom line is that if you want to see X-Men: Apocalypse then you're going to enjoy it. You might be slightly disappointed, but not enough to deter you from going to see the next one. Oh, and make sure to wait after the credits for the sinister final sequence.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2016
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X-Men: Apocalypse packshot
An ancient, super-powerful mutant arises, planning to kill all humans and with a nasty fate in mind for Charles.
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Director: Bryan Singer

Writer: Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, , Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Alexandra Shipp, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Tilt, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Year: 2016

Runtime: 144 minutes

Country: US

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