Writer: Simon Kinberg
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Oscar Isaac, Evan Peters, Olivia Munn, Ben Hardy, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Rose Byrne
Running time: 144mins
What’s the story: In 1983, Apocalypse, the first mutant, is reborn into the world and is intent on destroying it. Mutants under Charles Xavier’s tutelage must band together to defeat the genocidal villain.
What’s the verdict: While DC movies flounder and the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues its juggernaut-like trajectory toward world domination, it is easy to forget the X-Men franchise.
Despite the series delivering only one true dud (2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and actually having a five star movie under its belt with First Class. Plus, it was Bryan Singer’s first two X movies delivered back in the ancient history of 2000 and 2003 that proved there might be longevity to this big screen superhero thing.
So, while X-Men: Apocalypse is closer to the sporadically enjoyable but muddled The Last Stand than the smarts of First Class or Days of Future Past, it is not the write-off negative reviews would suggest.
Ten years after the events of Days of Future Past, Fassbender’s Erich Lehnsherr has ditched the Magneto alter-ego and found a modicum of peace in Poland under a false identity and with a loving family. McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is head of the School for Gifted Children, while Lawrence’s Mystique searches the world for victimised mutants, including Nightcrawler.
Meanwhile in Cairo, an ancient tomb encasing original mutant Apocalypse (Isaac) is uncovered, unleashing the fundamentalist meta-human who recruits Angel (EastEnders alumnus Hardy), the young Storm (Shipp), fan service villain Psylocke (Munn) and targets the troubled Magneto.
Singer knows well the potential of these characters by now, so there is fun to be had watching him let loose young Nightcrawler (Smit-McPhee) in a cage fight against Angel, Cyclops (Sheridan) discovering his acute conjunctivitis, or a tremulous Jean Grey (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner) discovering inner bad-assdom.
X-Men: Apocalypse is best in these early scenes or when the young X-folk help each other escape various obstacles hurled their way.
Erich’s life in Poland carries a similar intrigue to his Nazi hunting in First Class, and a breakout of a government facility is well-orchestrated superhero mayhem, boasting a cameo spoilt in the trailer and a new high in 12-certificate onscreen bloodletting.
Like X-Men: Last Stand however there is empty sound and fury to be had. A 3,500 BC prologue is more Stargate SG-1 than First Class (complete with shonky FX work), the climactic battle against Apocalypse echoes the 2005 Fantastic Four movie, and the big bad himself joins the pantheon of underwhelming Marvel supervillains, as powerful or vulnerable as the plot demands, despite a seductively sneering turn from Isaac.
And the X-franchise has to decide to which pole Magneto is most attracted, good or evil. This makes it third time on the trot he has flipped sides, caused presumably (hundreds of?) thousands of deaths but never quite committed to villainy. Remember when he was just a good baddy?
The biggest misstep is saved for an ill-advised trip to Auschwitz, where Magneto’s pain and power was born. The original X-Men and First Class trod lightly here, but a scene in which the supervillains, including bright blue Apocalypse and dominatrix -suited Psylocke, wander the guard barracks of the death camp is a tin-eared, dumb mistake.
Quicksilver (Peters) seemingly hasn’t aged a day in a decade, and once again gets the best moment in a sequence lacking Days of Future Past’s surprise but one-ups the scale.
X doesn’t hit the spot this time around, but it’s solid entertainment, and with the timeline kind of wiped clean by Days of Future Past there may be still be fun to be had seeing where the team goes next.