There are too many superhero movies. Not necessarily because people are bored of them, that doesn’t seem to be the case and people will gladly watch as many as studios are willing to produce. The issue that a saturation in the superhero movie market has caused is that the movies need to be different and unique enough to stand-out and show savvy audience something they have never seen before.
That is the biggest hurdle for X-Men: Apocalypse to overcome and for the first two-thirds of the movie it struggles. The film is never boring and it offers a lot of exciting moments and cool set-pieces but nothing that hasn’t been done before, in some cases by the X-Men franchise themselves. This means that we get to watch Michael Fassbender’s Magneto turned against humanity again, Evan Peter’s Quicksilver uses his speed in a slow-motion sequence which builds upon but essentially repeats what we saw in Days of Future Past and a brooding Jennifer Lawrence struggles to fit-in with James McAvoy’s Professor X and his philosophy on how mutants and humans can co-exist.
The movie isn’t different enough to what the franchise has produced before or what other studios are offering in their superhero series. Marvel and DC have pit their heroes against each other (to differing success) while this feels like a generic, ordinary superhero movie. Good vs Evil, huge effects and eye-watering destruction. The issue is that it isn’t quite “wow” enough anymore.
Other studios have gotten around this problem by developing their characters instead and using the set-pieces as impressive markers rather than story-points. Apocalypse benefits from finally introducing recognisable X-Men and the characters people would associate with the series. The “original” X-Men make their debut, the characters people would recognise from the comics, original movies and animated series.
The problem Apocalypse faces here is developing these characters. Some of the characters get a decent run of screen time and bring their comic book counterpart to life well. Tye Sheridan is a successful Cyclops, while Kodi Smit-Mcphee wears the blue Nightcrawler make-up well, offering most of the humour. The newest member to get some real storyline and a decent performance is Game of Thrones alumni Sophie Turner as Jean Grey.
It is the performances that steal the movie and save it from dropping into mediocrity. Michael Fassbender has stolen the role of Magneto from Ian McKellen and is still the best character in the series, while Jennifer Lawrence has enough to do as Mystique to stop her fading into the background. Unfortunately that doesn’t quite apply to everyone else, including established characters like James McAvoy as Professor X or even Nicholas Hoult as Beast.
This applies to some of the new characters who many people would have been excited to see on-screen. Halle Berry brought Storm to life in the original series but here she feels nothing more than extended cameo. British actor Ben Hardy gets to literally stretch his wings as Angel but plays a muted henchmen rather than a developed character. It feels like too many new additions too soon and you have to wonder what scenes have been cut. It isn’t often said but this is a superhero movie that may have benefited from an extra half an hour.
Even the titular character, played by an always awesome Oscar Isaac, becomes nothing more than a one-dimensional villain. He doesn’t have any sort of real story other than wanting power and to destroy the world. The film shouldn’t be stolen by Fassbender’s Magneto as a villain but this happens again, for a third time.
Even the characters that feel short-changed get to demonstrate their talents, both in the movie and as actors, in the final third. The finale is an exciting, brilliant set-piece. It manages to include almost all of the established characters in a sensible, decent way and fills the screen with both spectacle and excitement. The battle between Professor X and Apocalypse is a notable success, while characters like Cyclops and Jean Grey get cool moments too.
This finale elevates the movie and leaves it on a high. It is never a poor movie. It is just above generic though. There are very cool set-pieces and some great character moments, including a certain Australian actor’s mandatory cameo, but you will struggle to find much you haven’t seen in the seemingly hundreds of other superhero movies that are released every year.
Overall, X-Men: Apocalypse is a good superhero movie but not one that hasn’t been seen many times before. The characters are good, the set-pieces impressive but the storyline is nothing more than good vs evil, with a one-dimensional villain. Luckily the finale is excellent and the performances just about stop this movie from falling into superhero obscurity.
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)