As the X-Men franchises continues its journey through time, Bryan Singer is back to direct X-Men: Apocalypse with Oscar Isaac taking on the role of the iconic titular villain. Set in the 1980's, the film follows the timeline of the last two movies and throws in some nods to the original trilogy.
If there's one thing the pre-titles sequence promises it's a much bigger scale but also one of the most out-there X-Men movies to date. If you thought a time-travelling consciousness and big evolving robots were too much then wait till you get a load of this adventure which opens in Ancient Egypt and leads us to the world's near-destruction. With the exception of a cool poster (above), the marketing for this new X-flick was clumsy and, as a result, I had little hope it would be any good. The first pictures released of Apocalypse looked awful and the Internet soon compared him to Power Rangers villain Ivan Ooze, then the trailers made it seem like it was essentially The Jennifer Lawrence Show with tons of CGI thrown in.
Things did not look promising.
With X-Men Days Of Future Past, Singer not only fixed a lot of what the earlier films did wrong but he made X-Men First Class sort of make sense in that franchise as more than just an unnecessary reboot/prequel. X-Men Apocalypse tries not to concern itself too much with tying up loose ends, which makes for a less distracted film, but new, bigger plot-holes are built instead: is this new Angel the same Angel from X-Men The Last Stand? How does that work? Whatever happens to Storm's accent by the time she's Halle Berry? How did Xavier go bald in the timeline that didn't include Apocalypse? How did Wolverine get caught? Why is Jubilee even in this movie when she provides no purpose? And how is she the same age she was when she cameoed in the earlier movies? Will Magneto ever make up his mind about where he stands?!
It's also hard to deny that the look of Apocalypse could have been done much better: while no Ivan Ooze, he's certainly a long way off from how he is in the comics and the fact he's barely taller than a teenage Storm (Alexandra Shipp) doesn't make him physically imposing at all. That said, he's a valid threat in that his powers are essentially unlimited and he poses one heck of a challenge for the X-Men, that's for sure. Although we're never shown the full extent of the damage he causes, it's pretty clear that probably millions of lives were lost during this whole battle. Superman, eat your heart out! This is easily the biggest X-Men movie to date and rightly so but the focus remains on the characters, which is a wise move even if far too much time is spent recruiting mutants on both sides.
When the action kicks in, however, the film provides an exciting spectacle which even dwarfs Batman V Superman. A lot happens plot-wise as well: Magneto (Michael Fassbender) loses his family and turns evil again, Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) gets an origin story of sorts, Quicksilver (Evan Peters) saves Xavier's entire school in a new, really fun slow-mo sequence, some of the gang get captured by William Stryker (Josh Helman) as others try to rescue them and, of course, Apocalypse plans his world domination. It's busy but, even though some scenes could have easily been shortened making the film a less punishing running time, it works and you're never bored. The cast is mostly good, even if Beast (Nicholas Hoult) still looks like the blue version of Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf and Jennifer Lawrence is yet again as bland as a bag of salt.
New recruits young Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Angel/Archangel (Ben Hardy) and purple latex-wearing, laser sword-wielding Psylocke (Olivia Munn) all look fab while Jubilee (Lana Condor), who was used extensively to promote the film, doesn't even use her powers or take part in the big battle making her this sequel's biggest wasted opportunity. On the plus side, do look out for the best Wolverine scene in any of the movies: a real treat.
To cut a long review semi-short, X-Men: Apocalypse is certainly not the disaster I expected and it's, in fact, a very entertaining epic with a lot going for it. It stumbles at times and doesn't feel quite as well thought-out as its predecessor but what it lacks in brains it makes up for in mindless popcorn entertainment and, in the end, that makes for a fun night out at the movies and that's fine with me.
Bring on the neXt one.