Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac
It’s pretty impossible to watch X-Men: Apocalypse without comparing it to the recent Captain America: Civil War. Both are the newest instalments in popular Marvel superhero franchises. Both feature hordes of superheroes (or mutants, this film calls them) battling against each other. And both seem like dramatic turning points in their respective series- although it’s likely neither will be.
Compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men films have always focused less on trailer-making actions scenes and more on themes and plot. This makes them a little more intelligent to watch and a little less interesting. This seems to be the style of recurring director Bryan Singer, who has directed many of the X-Men films, and it means that if Captain America was a little too mindless for you, there still may be a summer superhero blockbuster out there for you.
The plot follows the rebirth of Apocalypse (Isaac), the very first superhero/mutant, who recruits several evil sidekicks to take over the world whilst Professor Xavier (McAvoy), leader of the X- Men, must rally the good mutants to save the world. To read it, the plot seems pretty basic, but by filling these character slots with recurring characters from other films the dramatic conflict comes not from defeating Apocalypse but convincing his followers to abandon him, or good mutants to heed their calls to arms. The heroes must win not by beating up the baddies, but by understanding them and helping them. In this way, X-Men: Apocalypse is a great relief from the Avengers films.
As mentioned, the action in the film is scarce. There are a few fights throughout but only one pure action set piece at the end, and this keeps the dramatic tension building throughout the whole film. You know the characters can do more- they’re heroes, they need to- but the film shows them learning how to do this through the pacing. A slower pace is needed too- due to the sheer size of the cast, effort is needed to avoid the characters feeling rushed. This does unfortunately happen for Apocalypse’s sidekicks- two of them have only a few lines- but the heroes all feel fully realised.
The acting is pretty standard for a superhero film- no-one seems to stand out as particularly poor, however the range of emotions required is pretty minimal. One standout is Sophie Turner, who many will know as Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones. In the series her acting is pretty one-note, however in this film she gives a much better performance.
In the past X-Men films have had pretty mundane shooting in non-fight-scenes, however the cinematography is definitely an improvement in this film. Several scenes feature Apocalypse or Magneto (Fassbender) terraforming with their powers, and these are shot in impressive scale. However, commentary on the technical side of the film is limited- similar to most blockbuster action films, it’s mostly forgettable. The music, script, sound and fight-scene shooting are all as you’ve come to expect in a film like this- passable.
This is the film you should watch if Captain America: Civil War was too bombastic for you. It’s certainly more intelligent and spends little time showing people beating each other up. However, if the Avengers films do interest you then this will probably bore you- as it has done most of the critics. But at the end of the day it is a very similar film to Captain America- from the premise right down to the shooting and acting. If you’re looking for something to watch to lose a little time then you can’t go wrong with X-Men: Apocalypse, as it’s a good film. It’s just not a great film.
Review by Tom Bedford