After the stylish, swinging ’60s romp of First Class, and the time travelling, groovy ’70s/futuristic mix of the franchise reinventing Days of Future Past, the X-Men are off to the ’80s for Apocalypse….and they haven’t aged a day over three decades it seems.
But does that even really matter at this point? What was already a questionable continuity by the time we got to First Class was completely turned on its head in Days of Future Past (DoFP), and I count four different timelines currently. We’ve got the original timeline of X-Men through to DoFP, the First Class through to Apocalypse “prequel” timeline, Wolverine’s altered future from the end of DoFP, and then as his own standalone film timeline. Expect more of the same head scratching continuity alterations which will have you wishing for a bit more forward planning from the powers that be. As a standalone piece though, there’s plenty to enjoy, and it does an excellent job of building anticipation for the franchise’s future; that alone is crucial, as it’s one with ever-growing competition from the folks over at DC and Marvel.
The usual suspects are back. Professor X (James McAvoy) is teaching a younger generation of mutants at his school. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is living his life in Poland, complete with a new family, away from the world he’s grown to hate. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is busy saving endangered mutants…or something like that. And all the while a big, blue mutant with a god complex known as Apocalypse is conveniently being uncovered by Rose Byrne’s Moira. Apocalypse is one of the X-Men’s greatest and most famous villains, yet in truth he’s quite disappointingly bland. “He’s played by Poe Dameron himself, Oscar Isaac though!”, I hear you protest. Well yes, but you’re not likely to be able to actually tell that it’s him. Caked in makeup, voice altered, it honestly could have been anyone. He’s intimidating certainly, but his plan is not the smartest, nor the most clear, as he fails miserably to learn from the mistakes of his past.
Magneto’s walk along the fine line between light and darkness, and the effect that this has on his relationship with Xavier has been a consistent strong point for the series since its inception, whether it’s been McKellen and Stewart in the key roles, or Fassbender and McAvoy as we have this time around. Although it’s explored further here, their paths are predominantly kept separate, intertwining only for a smattering of moments, with those brief moments not capable of driving their relationship forward, or perhaps more appropriately, apart. The status quo remains, and the opportunity to push Magneto into darker territory comes and goes. Both Fassbender and McAvoy are particularly intense in their performances, and find themselves amongst the strongest of a strong group of actors, but if we’re going to really break new ground on Magneto and Xavier, the bromance is going to have to be put on hold so that we can see them truly butting heads.
Mystique is in a similar position as a character at this stage as well, spinning her wheels in comparison to her progression in previous films. On a more positive note, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver is a bundle of fun, and he even gets in a spectacular reprise of his movie-stealing scene from DoFP as the world slows to a stop as he blasts through it at high speed. There are also solid reintroductions for Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp) to the franchise, whilst Kodi Smit-McPhee is a revelation as Nightcrawler, sealing his position as the highlight of the film with some excellent action and dollops of well timed humour.
One or two nice surprises (assuming the final trailer hasn’t already spoilt them for you), along with plenty of decent individual moments (that admittedly don’t join together quite so neatly as we’ve seen from past X-Men efforts) help to prop the film up. It’s on the lower end of the scale when it comes to the Bryan Singer X-Men movies, but nonetheless he’s a safe pair of hands. We can all be thankful that his stewardship at least ensures that it’s a threequel far better that Brett Ratner’s X3.
Rating (out of 5):