X-Men Apocalypse is the third film in the rebooted X-Men franchise, the fourth directed by veteran mutant sympathiser Bryan Singer, and the sixth overall (not counting spinoffs, of course). As such, it comes with a legacy, a legacy which it has the unenviable task to be held against and compared. There’s great films in the franchise (like X2: X-Men United), and also pretty bad ones (X-Men: The Last Stand). This one? This one sits tight, right in the middle.
A decade has passed since Wolverine was sent back in time to save the world one more time, and with them the events that erased the sour taste of how the last X-Men trilogy ended. It’s the 80’s now, and our fellow mutants are scattered around the world, unbeknownst to them that their biggest challenge yet is literally about to awaken. Oscar Issac plays Apocalypse, the “oldest mutant in existence”, and the most powerful one. Thousands of years after his reign, he’s back, and he wants to rule the world as an all powerful god. Our trusted band of heroes, led once more by Charles Xavier (James Mcavoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), must wage war against this threat, who has enlisted his own team of super mutants, including Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Comic book movies keep getting bigger, and this is no exception. There’s an array of characters worthy of three films put together, from newcomers like Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), fan favourite Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, as always) and even forgotten ones like Rose Byrne’s CIA agent Moira MacTaggert get to play an important role. And it’s the interaction, humour and sheer emotion that these actors put into their characters that makes for the soul of the film. The most resonant of all relationships is still the one between Charles and Erik, and it’s as powerful and heartbreaking as it has always been. The X-Men universe has always been at its best when the bad guys have good reasons to be, well, bad. And this film offers them clear reasons to be choosing their respective paths.
Unfortunately, when the inevitable “apocalypse” begins, the film veers into what many of these blockbusters have in the past few years: unnecessary destruction. With way too many visual effects, an overabundance of CGI, and yet more shots of world landmarks being destroyed, the film just turns silly in it’s final act, and losing much of the steam and goodwill it gained getting there, and making us forget the motivations they had to get to this point. Many of our heroes seem wasted in such an epic war, and the previous films smaller scale fights were a better fit for this universe.
There’s a line in the film where a character says, alluding to film trilogies no less, that “At least we can agree, the third one’s always the worst”. In this case, that rings true, as this one is undoubtedly inferior than X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as those are truly fantastic films. This is great entertainment, and it leaves the audience wanting to see even more of these great mutants. It’s Just a disappointing one in comparison.
X-Men: Apocalypse is released in the UK cinemas nationwide on May 18th.