The X-Men series has always thrived for its themes and concepts – specifically, its position on equality and diversity that no doubt strikes a chord with so much of today’s politics. But X-Men: Apocalypse fails miserably in its execution.
There are a couple of cool moments. As with Days of Future Past, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver steals the film in a single scene: as Professor X’s school explodes in slow motion, the processed beats of the Eurythmics kicks in and he swaggers in to save the day with typical cockiness (shout out to pizza dog). And the film does eventually reach a suitable climax: Professor X (James McAvoy) trapped in a literal battle of minds with Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac, not that you’d recognise him with that blue butt-chin), until Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) steps in and finally unleashes her full potential in a kickass display (let’s just ignore her “American” accent shall we?). Director Bryan Singer does know how to deliver a decent action sequence with plenty of nods to the comics and previous storylines that fans will lap up.
The rest of the film? It’s about 5% close-up shots of people gasping as they wake up from deep sleeps, 10% excruciating one-liners that overstate the obvious and will have you guffawing in your seat, and 85% posing – LOOK AT ME I’M A SASSY SUPER HERO IN A RUBBER SUIT AND A CAPE, WATCH ME POUT MOODILY IN SLOW MOTION.
Most of the film revolves around Apocalypse – a mutant revived from Egyptian times – assigning his “four horseman” sidekicks by, essentially, giving them a makeover complete with revealing costumes, awkward haircuts and a lot of coloured contact lenses. The remainder of the mutants are moody teenagers struggling to come to terms with their powers, but with so many of them there’s little room for character development, each of them defined by their powers alone (or the typical representation of the character – Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), for instance, is as whiny as ever).
The film’s budget seems to have been primarily spent on CGI and costumes. There are plenty of exploding buildings and crumbling cities, but crucially very little of the mutants in action. Admittedly the climax does a good job of visualising telepathic powers, but it’s not until this point that any of them really get to unleash anything exciting or of worth. Alexandra Shipp’s Storm is criminally underused and Lana Condor’s cameo as Jubilee disappointingly involves no fireworks whatsoever.
Instead we get lazy performances from some great actors (I’m looking at you Fassbender, Lawrence and McAvoy), a boringly simple plot, and some ridiculous anachronisms. Another strength of the series – especially this reboot – is its real world setting that grounds the action in a plausible reality. And whilst Apocalypse does a good job recreating the 80s, the clashes of comic book fantasy and history are hilariously awful. This is a film in which Olivia Munn’s Psylocke arrives in a ruined Auschwitz dressed in a booby rubber swimsuit. It is simply ludicrous.
That, though, is what makes the film strangely enjoyable. This is one of those summer blockbusters that’s so bad you can’t help but laugh. Perhaps the filmmakers know this, suggesting it really shouldn’t be taken seriously. At one point Jean Grey even comments that the third film in any trilogy is always the worst. As cringe-worthy as that line is, she’s not wrong.