The final X-Men movie prior to Logan is Apocalypse, once again directed by Bryan Singer, who was in charge of the first two films and came back for the previous flick, the terrific Days of Future Past. Those who read this blog regularly know that I really liked the way he handled those entries in the X-Men franchise, so having him back for the 2016 summer blockbuster was great. However, Apocalypse did get mixed reviews when it came out… Was it a misstep in Singer’s filmography? Let’s find out!
When the world’s first and probably most powerful mutant ever re-emerges from the depths of Egypt, the X-Men must unite to avoid his extinction plan. For those following the series, you’re probably wondering where in the timeline these events are located… Well, Apocalypse’s comeback happens in the 80’s, in the new timeline created in Days of Future Past when Wolverine is sent back in time. This means that this film only follows the events from that one, as well as those from First Class. Does it make any sense?
Okay, look. We’re going to go through the performances of the actors pretty quickly. Simply put, they are as amazing as always. James McAvoy’s Professor X, Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique… They all are perfect in their roles, as already stated in previous reviews. Let’s just take a moment to talk about Michael Fassbender, though. He has the most powerful scene he’s ever had as Magneto during the first act of the movie, and he shines like never before as the metal-controlling mutant. It’s a very intense moment emotionally (can’t tell much more without spoiling anything) and his acting is spot on. The casting of Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse was quite weird, to be honest. He is a great actor as he’s proven over and over again, with amusing roles in Inside Llewyn Davis and Drive, for example. But when they revealed he had been cast as the film’s villain… I was, at the very least, dubious. Nevertheless, I was more than happy with the final result. This is not the actor’s best role, but his performance is very correct, as he is a believable character, and manages to be a compelling and scary villain.
Singer once again proves he knows how to create a rich and compelling universe, packed with stories that are interesting and characters that we want to know more and more about. Following what he did in the previous mutant flick, Apocalypse looks and feels as a new movie, without compromising its setting: despite the modern film-making, it is packed with nods to the 80’s, from TV shows shown on old screens in the background, to conversations about how Return of the Jedi is the worst Star Wars movie (poor guys, not knowing what the prequels would bring). Despite its over-the-top superhero stuff, the world that we are shown seems to be a fair representation of the actual 1980’s, which is quite a feat.
It was a nice surprise to have other mutants be more important to the story, too. Of course the main plot points revolve around the protagonists, from Xavier to Mystique and Magneto, but other characters such as Nightcrawler, Cyclops and Jean Grey get their dose of action too, playing a more prominent role in the story-line. Quicksilver, who I loved in the previous entry to the X-Men franchise, is back, and while it wasn’t a big surprise due to his (quite forced) introduction a couple of scenes before his stellar appearance, the slow-motion sequence he stars is thrilling. Hugh Jackman has his own moment of greatness too, in an incredibly delightful cameo that answers many questions that Days of Future Past raised.
Unfortunately, the reliance on CGI to create visual effects is way too big. It is understandable that you need some computer generated imagery to convey the world is coming to an end, but there are many moments in which a more practical approach would have helped this movie greatly. With that said, I must add that the looks of the film are superb. The action scenes are especially good, with nice choreography and a visually intense look. More than once have I thought “is this really PG-13?”. It’s not gory, but hell, commercial superhero movies rarely look this harsh.
Once again I won’t be able to get into much detail in order to avoid spoilers, but I’d like to highlight the final battle. The epic ending escapes conventions and instead of offering a purely physical battle between our characters, it takes a more metaphorical route. The battle becomes an intellectual one, and what we see on screen is a depiction of what happens in their brains. It’s a bold move. They manage to make it unbelievably compelling, too, as surreal imagery can be used in this non-physical world. I really loved this sequence when I first watched it at the cinema, and now that I’ve revisited the movie to write this review, it is as great as I remembered.
Overall the editing work is quite solid, and the few problems that can be encountered are limited to some rough cuts inside scenes. The coherence of the film is not compromised and the coherence is carefully kept intact at all times. The music in Apocalypse doesn’t shine at all, either. I’m not sure if it’s an editing issue or if the score just wasn’t as good as that of previous movies, but the result is quite weak.
All in all, this is a great follow-up movie to the franchise, which is packed with great subtleties that the most avid fans of the mutants will enjoy. Due to the action-heavy approach, those looking just for some entertainment are in for a ride too, but luckily, the film has enough depth to be compelling for those looking for more. The critics hated it, and I can understand why: the pacing in the beginning seems to lag too much, and those who aren’t all that invested in these characters will probably find it dull. If that’s your case, though… all I can tell you is to be patient, because as soon as the stakes get high, it turns into a riveting experience. 8/10