X-men Apocalypse, the eighth film in Fox’s long running franchise has had a very mixed reception. Fox obviously thought they had a sure fire blockbuster on their hands and let critics see the film well in advance of its release. This however turned out to be a bad decision as it’s been almost unanimously panned by professional critics. However, since the release of X-men Apocalypse reaction from fans has been pretty positive, getting up to a 7.9 on IMDB. But I am here to tell you that this movie isn’t all bad, in fact it’s probably the best X-men film since X-men 2 (if you discount Deadpool).
“So what’s this movie about” I hear you ask. Well here’s a brief overview of the plot for anybody who has somehow happened to miss the mass marketing campaign for this film. I mean seriously, there was a trailer for X-men Apocalypse while I was sat in the cinema waiting for X-men Apocalypse to start. No wait scratch that, there were two trailers if you’re including that weird Sky Broadband advert where there’s just a random British girl in the X mansion who clearly views Quicksilver as some kind of sex pest. I’ve already paid to see your damn movie Fox!
Anyway, I got off topic. So, the plot without any nasty spoilers. Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the first mutant and former ruler of Egypt is trapped underground and has been for several thousand years until the 1980’s when he is released by a small cult who still see him as a god. He then goes on to recruit his four followers known as the horsemen of the Apocalypse, selecting mutants who he imbues with extra power. Meanwhile a new batch of X-men are being taught at Xavier’s school, including Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) when Mystique and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) turn up to inform Professor X that Magneto has resurfaced after the events of Days of Future Past. Xavier then tries to reach out to Magneto using Cerebro, only to find out that he has joined Apocalypse’s cause hell bent on destroying most of mankind. So it is up to the X-men comprised of new and old faces to stop the world from being cleansed by Apocalypse.
What the movie does well
All of the new X-men cast are fantastic. Tye Sheridan does a great job of portraying what the franchise is supposed to be all about, coming to terms with the fact that they’re different. Sophie Turner plays a young Jean Grey who is avoided by her fellow students and fears the great power within herself. Turner is a much improved actor from her earlier appearances in Game of Thrones and this is surely her strongest performance yet. The fake American accent on the other hand really does let down what otherwise would be an accomplished performance. Kodi Smit-McPhee is a welcome addition to the franchise which has been without a Nightcrawler since 2003 and he gets across the main traits of the character well.
The scenes which play out with Michael Fassbender in Poland are all brilliantly written, acted and in all honestly a complete surprise considering I predicted every major event in this movie bar one. Without going into spoilers the relationships between Erik and every single character in these scenes are perfectly fleshed out and show real human emotion. I cannot emphasise enough how much I enjoyed this part of the film.
Finally we have a superhero movie which gives us a good balance in terms of violence and bloodshed, which these kinds of movies usually shy away from. You would have to assume that this has Deadpool to thank for the inclusion of a little gore, making a nice change from previous instalments where Wolverine cuts down six men and doesn’t have a drop of blood on his claws. This helps add to the feeling that people get hurt and actions have consequences.
The final good point to talk about would be the use of humour. Although the movie has a darker tone there are definitely a few winks to the camera when it comes to actors hardly aging in the twenty years between movies. There is also a good poke at the fact that third movies are never any good, with this of course being the third X-men movie with the new cast. Also James McAvoy and Kodi Smit-McPhee get to have a little fun with their characters awkward natures.
Where this movie falls down
Where the new characters were mostly good, some of the older characters were in pretty much the same places they were in First Class and have shown very little development through the years. Jennifer Lawrence has had some criticism for her less than enthusiastic performance and it’s not without some merit. The issue of her not wanting to spend hours in make-up to become a naked blue lady had an effect on the film, it was covered with a good explanation, but was still a distraction. There has obviously been a push from someone within the structure at Fox to essentially turn the villain of Mystique into a Katniss Everdeen type hero, a decision which has not gone over well with fans of the character.
Olivia Munn as Psylocke and Alexandra Shipp as Storm are both under used and under developed throughout the movie. On a slightly weird note, there are a baffling amount of shots where the only part of Olivia Munn that can be seen are her legs and crotch, a similar thing to Wonder Woman in ‘BVS’. I really hope that this is unintentional and not an attempt at over sexualising the character. The main problem I have with X-men Apocalypse is that one of the biggest emotional and shocking moments to the audience essentially becomes interrupted by an attempt at humour which really falls flat on its face, ruining what would have been a really compelling piece of storytelling.
Overall I’d say this is definitely worth a watch for any comic book fan or even anyone who just has a passing interest in these kinds of films. Don’t let the critics put you off. I feel that if this movie had come out before Civil War but after ‘BVS’ then it would have received a much more positive reception instead of trying to follow up from the best Marvel movie to date.
David Burd / @YourPalDavid