D: Bryan Singer. DP: Newton Thomas Sigel. W: Simon Kinberg. Starring: James McAvoy/Michael Fassbender/Jennifer Lawrence/Oscar Isaac/Nicholas Hoult/Evan Peters/Rose Byrne/Sophie Turner/Tye Sheridan/Kodi Smit-McPhee/Lucas Till/Olivia Munn/Ben Hardy/Alexandra Shipp/Josh Helman.
Where does one begin? X-Men: Apocalypse is the sixth installment in 20th Century Fox’s ownership of the Marvel comic book rights to the characters of X-Men. It is also the third film in the re-vamped group of films that follow the younger selves of characters like Professor Xavier and Magneto first played by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. This move back in time was further complicated with the previous film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, where younger and older selves meet. The timeline is difficult to follow at best now and even with Hugh Jackman’s ageless Logan/Wolverine popping up you will still be rubbing your head in confusion.
X-Men: Apocalypse enlists Bryan Singer again who directed X-Men (2000), X-Men 2 (2003), and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). Singer stepped away from the franchise to direct the abysmal Superman Returns (2006), but remained involved in the world. The first of this group, X-Men: First Class, was directed by Matthew Vaughn of Kick-Ass fame. Singer’s return in Days of Future Past was helped by a more direct objective within a timeline structure that allowed the older group to interact with their younger selves. Unfortunately, here in a more messy structured story the direction loses its way and cannot create any emotional resonance to compete with its suspense-less action.
The film explores the original mutant back in ancient Egypt who accumulated powers from other mutants over the years, transferring his consciousness and powers into new human bodies. This finally goes array and he is buried for thousands of years only to be awoken Indiana Jones style by radical followers witnessed by CIA Agent Mactaggert (Rose Byrne). Apocalypse / En Sabah Nur is played here by a heavily made up and blue Oscar Isaac. His first mutant begins to explore his new world and recruit four mutants as his disciples. His awakening earthquake causes Magento’s (Michael Fassbender) isolation to be disrupted. Magneto’s resurfacing brings the x-men back together.
Frustratingly, Isaac is lost within his costume and make-up. His magnetic face mostly looks like its melting under a blue shine and head coils that make him look more Predator-esq than anything. Fassbender must continue to deliver the plight of sad Magneto’s personal life which has been dredged up so much it feels like a melodramatic crutch for the film. Lawrence’s Mystique has far less to do here than in 70s set Days of Future Past and she clearly limited her time in her blue suit out of disdain for it. Time has supposed to have past, nearly a decade, but the film cannot pull it off. Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) is a good addition as a young Jean Grey, but she is just lost amid noise and destruction that lacks punch. Her kinship with James McAvoy’s Professor X is sweet and McAvoy remains the emotional center of the newer half of the franchise. The film is all seriousness which makes me crave Jackman’s Wolverine. Yet Evan Peters returns as Quicksilver and is given another slowed down sequence set to ‘Sweet Dreams’ by Eurythmics. This might be the only time I have enjoyed this tune.
Peters appearance as Quicksilver is complicated as the character Quicksilver also appears in the Avengers franchise. The rights to the character are thus owned by 20th Century Fox and Disney was only allowed to use Quicksilver in the second Avengers film if he was played by a different actor. So in fact Quicksilver’s fate has played out there, but he lives on here. Tricky stuff. Peters is the superior actor for the character, but his quirk also helps dissipate the drama of this film like he did in Days of Future Past. He gets a bit of help from Kodi Smitt-McPhee as a young Nightcrawler, sweetly played by Alan Cummings in the first group of films. Olivia Munn wasted her time on silly scantily clad Psylocke, but the ending of the film alludes to her potential importance. Scene stealer Tómas Lemarquis as underworlder Caliban was more memorable that her few lines.
X-Men: Apocalypse cannot bear the weight of its confusing timeline. The film wants to reunite the X-men originally created in First Class, but is not able to do so without literally burning down the school in the process. It looks and feels more comic-booky than its predecessors and I blame the boots Isaac is forced to wear. His ancient being moves less like a Jedi and more like a spray painted 1960s era astronaut. The fate of the X-men has yet to be announced and we shall see if its poor box office performance will deter its stars from signing on for more. The next Wolverine film is Jackman’s last so it might be time for a rest.