Bryan Singer’s fourth (and perhaps his final) addition to the X-Men series; X-Men: Apocalypse presents a colourful pallet for a rich and complex landscape painting that perhaps only features just that; grand colours, a familiar landscape and sadly nothing else.
This is the ninth Marvel licensed X-Men film within the Fox Studios franchise, following: X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), X-Men: First Class (2011), The Wolverine (2013), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and Deadpool (2016) to a limited extent (some big metallic guy and a teen).
X-Men: Apocalypse opening scene takes us back to 3600 B.C; ancient Egypt.
It is here we learn why the pyramids were built in the first place; not as tombs for the pharaohs, but as a soul-transferring rechargeable solar battery pack for the world’s first mutant; an omnipotent ruler known as En Sabah Nur (a.k.a. “Apocalypse” played by Oscar Isaac). Here he ritualistically transfers his consciousness and soul from a dying old body to a healthy young one with the help from four assistants. During the upgrade, a few rebels managed to interrupt the ritual and destroy the pyramid mere seconds after the transfer was complete. However doing so buried En Sabah Nur for thousands of years. The rebel’s reasons or identities are not revealed at any stage. This is frustrating, and is an example of the lack of depth this film sadly has. It’s bloody frustrating really.
Queue the intro credits, with rolling text moving down some cheap CGI pipes and the viewer follows them. Here we are shown some rather unexplained imagery of symbols historically recognised, ranging from the Nazi swastika to the Russian flag to name a few; all coming up through the pipes to symbolise the passing of time with historic events that relate to the X-Men mutant characters.
The movie is predominantly set in 1983; ten years after the previous X-Men film instalment storyline (Days of Future Past’s 1973 setting). Here we are shown a reformed Magneto (played by Michael Fassbender); of whom now lives in hiding, deep within rural Germany with his loving new wife and child; he now works in a steel factory earning an honest living whilst still being bitterly disheartened with society. But then, as it does to us all, his past unexpectedly catches up with him. It seems he can run, but he can’t hide from it; no matter what he does. This infuriates him. Metal moves.
Meanwhile we cut to a young teenage Scott Summers we recognise as “Cyclops” (played by Tye Sheridan).
Scott is in high school and starts to have an uncontrollable explosive laser beam emanating from his eyes whenever open – and has no idea how to keep his “curse” under control. Huh. And I thought I had problems at university. He visits Professor Xavier’s school for the gifted at the behest of his brother “Havok” aka, Alex Summers (played by Lucas Till), where we see prof. Xavier (played once again by James McAvoy) happily teaching his students everything from history to compassion for others.
Everything is going well for Xavier and his school. His assistant Hank McCoy (also known as “Beast” from previous instalments played once again by the delightfully talented Nicholas Hoult) helps Scott by developing special goggles to inhibit his powerful blasts and keep them under control; provided he never removes his lenses. Ever. Not even when he sleeps. But, to Hank’s credit, their much nicer than in the comic books. Is that an Oakley sponsorship I see there?
We also catch up on other characters seen in previous films; learn of their movements, and developments in life with using their abilities and coping with them within a supposed “prejudiced society” we don’t see much of in this instalment.
Oddly enough, one of the favoured characters from the last film; Quicksilver (played by Evan Peters of whom reprises his fan favourite role again) still lives with his mother 10 years later, looks and dresses absolutely no differently to the previous film. More goggles/glasses, more of the skiing variety this time though.
X-Men: Apocalypse’s plot thickens (a little) as En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse) is awakened in his collapsed tomb within a destroyed pyramid in 1983 by pure accident by none other than Moira Mactaggert; a character seen in previous instalments; whose memory of knowing the X-Men has been wiped (Aussie Rose Byrne reprises her role), and where most movie goers would point-out might be a tad “too coincidental”. For a character with no memory of who or what mutants are, although being in a previous film to then stumble across the first ever mutant that ever lived is a bit of a stretch, but I’ll honestly let this slide as comics themselves feature coincidences such as these in almost every issue.
Once Apocalypse has been awakened in the story’s contemporary timeline of 1983, he begins amassing help from four new recruits of whom we now learn are his regular group of helpers (or his ‘posse’), and are what is known as “the four horsemen” of the Apocalypse. Ah, perfect, didn’t see that one coming! Good work Bryan.
Apocalypse then continues to recruit other new mutants in 1983 such as a young Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy) and finally Magneto himself to complete his unclear but predictable goal of world domination, thus challenging the X-Men team of mutants themselves.
The film itself has fantastic intentions and aspirations; Bryan Singer clearly treats his subject matter with plenty of research, and his X-Men superhero films with the utmost professionalism.
The X-Men Apocalypse downfall however lies within reasons and resolutions (or lack thereof) for anything seen throughout the film.
At no point are the villain’s (Apocalypse) reasons for world domination very clear. He is powerful enough to dominate everything (with the help of four friends that is), but WHY? What is his reason for eliminating all human and other mutant life? Would he rather live in a world with only a select few inhabitants? What a loner!
Having so few inhabitants kind of contradicts his own position as pharaoh of thousands of slaves in ancient Egypt. Ending all human life also contradicts his need to transfer his ageing body to the next body. Apocalypse’s own upbringing and history is never explored either. It would have been fascinating to learn where he originally came from, and any background would have helped viewers understand his gifts and fear his omnipotence.
The other mutants (good and bad) are also frequently seen resenting their abilities.
But why? I’m so bored of this theme. Didn’t we go past that in X2? Do they not see their abilities as gifts? They’ve had decades to grow accustomed to them! They complain how much their “gift” is really a “curse” for them almost as much as Jennifer Lawrence complains about how difficult it is wearing body paint and how hard it makes her life which looks pretty good to me.
I can understand Cyclops being upset though – eyes are the windows to the soul and to have lasers must make that first date a little tough. Quicksilver on the other hand doesn’t resent his abilities, but instead enjoys being lightning fast; and has loads of fun playing with it whilst saving people, which makes a lot more sense right? If I had superpowers that didn’t make me look like a toad I would be the happiest guy around.
The cinematography in X-Men Apocalypse was well executed during some scenes and standard during others.
The action scenes were fantastic, but some of the dialogue scenes were flat. Use of colour was ideal and props to the costume designs, they stood out fantastically and were faithful to the comic sources!
Overall an entertaining (albeit unfinished) superhero action movie; but quality and story-wise falls far short; especially when compared alongside some of the other hero team-up films released recently; such as Captain America 3: Civil War, or the first Avengers movie for that matter. A little more work on the overall vision of the story would have been appreciated. The below picture kinda sums up the mood when the credits roll, but be sure to stick around for the surprise at the end.
X-Men: Apocalypse – 2.5 / 5 stars