Sunday, 22 May 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

 X-Men: Apocalypse is a fun, action-packed super-hero film and I'm not sure why all the reviews have been so sniffy. No, it's not perfect! It's not as good as X-Men, X-Men 2, First Class or Days of Future Past, which are all very good super hero movies. That said, it's better than X-Men 3 (granted, that's not too difficult) and, in my opinion, both the Wolverine films.

Apocalypse is set in the 80s and follows the younger versions of the X-Men after the events of Days of Future Past.  Charles Xavier's (James McAvoy) School for Gifted Youngsters has been growing and has a number of new (but not unknown) additions, including Jean Gray (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers aka Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). And of course there are the old familiar faces, Professor X, Hank McCoy aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Raven aka Mystique (the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence), bringing together the next generation of mutants.

The new threat to Xavier's team of X-Men comes from Oscar Isaac's Apocalypse. An ancient mutant deity who has been resting in a tomb in Egypt for a couple of thousand years and who has now been awoken to take his place as the ruler of a new and better world. Apocalypse (as his name suggests) is always accompanied by four loyal horsemen and this time around that includes including Ororo Munroe aka Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and a recently bereaved Eric Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender).  The new generation of X-Men must work together to defeat Apocalypse  and stop him from destroying the world as we know it to "build a better one".

X-Men: Apocalypse definitely isn't without its flaws.  After all the time travel and re-writing of the X-Men story-line in Days of Future Past, it is inherently a bit confusing. Considering that First Class (the first outing for McAvoy and Fassbender's X-Men) was set during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, some of our heroes have aged incredibly and unrealistically well (except Mystique of course, whose powers mean she ages very slowly).  I will also concede that the script can be very corny at times, but then, this is a super hero movie. It's about selfless individuals battling evil and risking their lives. When aren't these films a little bit corny? Don't we all remember Gary Oldman's final speech in The Dark Knight?

I do believe that the positives in this film sharply outweigh the negatives. To start with, what a cast! Finding actors who could hold a candle to Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Rebecca Romijn and Halle Berry is no small feat. McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence are on form as always, although I do feel that there could have been more blue Mystique and more of her kicking ass with her awesome gymnastic skills. There is more of the amazing Evan Peters' Quicksilver in this film, who felt so under-used in Days of Future Past. Sophie Turner does a good job as the new Jean Grey and I look forward to seeing a bit more of the new Storm and Cyclops. As for Apocalypse… OK, I love Oscar Isaac, but perhaps he wasn't the most exciting villain. Isaac does a good job of being creepy and evil, but at the end of the day, Apocalypse doesn't really do much in this film.

There are some very cool effects and fight scenes in this film. As in Days of Future Past, one of the most visually impressive moments in the film is the scene in which Quicksilver gets to show off his speedy skills when saving the students of Xavier's academy from an explosion. Not quite as captivating as the scene in the Pentagon's kitchen in Days of Future Past but still pretty amazing. The final battle between Apocalypse and his horsemen and the X-Men provides a good display of all the cool powers at play, with Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops, Storm, Quicksilver, Jean Grey, Angel, Nightcrawler and of course, Apocalypse, battling it out for the fate of the world. That said and as above, I was a bit disappointed by the fact that Mystique, clearly one of if not the most competent fighter, did very little in the final battle.

This year's main superhero movies all seem to be receiving the same criticism: too much plot and too many characters. While I find this to be a totally justified critique of Batman v Superman, I did not agree that this applied to Captain America: Civil War, nor do I find it to be a very fair assessment of X-Men. There is a lot going on in Apocalypse but it is not that hard to follow. New characters are introduced in a way that supports the current story and the film moved at a quick pace, with no scenes that felt gratuitous. So all in all, X-Men: Apocalypse was an enjoyable super hero movie and after all, isn't that the point? To have some fun and see some cool effects.