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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse.

If I hadn't already decided to do only five reviews last week, I would have had this go along with Civil War and Batman v Superman, as an interesting third option - it's another superhero film, after all, coming out in a similar timeframe, and it's sort of similar in that it involves usually heroic superheroes fighting each other (since Storm, Psylocke, and Angel are all usually good guys). The similarities aren't nearly so drastic as those between Civil War and BvS, but you could probably make a case for it being like them, if you really wanted to.

I'm - not especially inclined to do that, though.

X-Men: Apocalypse, the third in the prequel-y-reboot X-Men films (the film continuity is now as gnarled as comics continuity, and that is wonderful), sees an ancient mutant, En Sabah Nur - or Apocalypse - awakening from a long sleep. Equipped with a massive arsenal of mutant abilities, and a desire to remake the world in his image, Apocalypse gathers four other mutants to act as his horsemen, and kidnaps Charles, intending to transfer his essence into Charles' body and thus gain his telepathic powers. Under Mystique's leadership, a new team of X-Men, including Jean Grey, Cyclops, Beast, Nightcrawler, and Quicksilver, head out to rescue Charles and defeat Apocalypse.

This film's gotten mixed reviews from critics, but I actually really enjoyed it - in fact, I'd go so far as to say this is the X-Men film I've enjoyed most since X2, which remains the series' highest point. Part of that is because while in the previous prequel films, I've always been kind of waiting for the penny to drop and for them to go back to the original trilogy's cast (and doing so kind of felt like it would've been a bit of a disaster), this feels more like it's setting us up to continue with this group of younger characters.

Who are all pretty well cast, tbh.

A lot of that is because the film's now worked in the franchise's core characters, giving us young versions of Jean Grey, Storm, and Cyclops, along with a young Nightcrawler - which both definitively splits it off from the continuity of the first trilogy, and means we now have a team predominantly composed of fan favourites and important, recognisable faces, which really is a must have if they're going to continue with this timeline.

Technically, it's also pretty okay. I say 'pretty okay', because the quality of its technical aspects can vary quite dramatically: It has an okay soundtrack, good special effects, a very strong cast (including McAvoy reprising his role as Charles Xavier, and with the addition of Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, a terribly underused Alexandra Shipp as Storm, and Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse), but, also, some fairly so-so writing choices.

The plot's a pretty predictable one, to the point where audiences will always know exactly what's going to happen, because they've all seen this exact plot with basically an identical structure in about a dozen other action films. It's a pretty tried and true action film plot, the kind that crops up in superhero films - and hell, just X-Men films - a lot, and has more of a focus on spectacle and set pieces than actual story.

Despite being the same Angel from X-Men 3, this is also a completely different
Angel with a different backstory.

Which is fine, actually, and it sums up X-Men: Apocalypse perfectly: It is a very safe film, utilising a lot of very well-established structures and tropes. But then, I said the same thing about Civil War, and unlike Civil War, I actually enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse. The spectacle of it was fun, there were enough emotional moments to keep me satisfied, the humour was very often on-point. The film has some genuinely brilliant sequences (most of them courtesy of Quicksilver - fairly early in the film, we have a sequence where he speeds about rescuing people from an explosion, and it's great), and the all-round strong acting performances were pretty good for keeping my attention even during the slower parts.

One part that did make me roll my eyes was the Standard Wolverine Cameo, where Wolverine shows up for about two minutes, then leaves and is never mentioned again. Yes, we get it, we understand, you want to have Hugh Jackman in every film for - some reason, possibly it's in his contract, but good god, the constant random cameos basically throw me out of the film every single time. 

Quicksilver and Mystique.

So that's X-Men: Apocalypse, a film that sits somewhere between Civil War and Batman v Superman in how technically strong it is, but was definitely more enjoyable than either of them, as far as I was concerned. As for the future of the film series, we apparently have an Old Man Logan film coming up (which should be legitimately terrible), a New Mutants film looming (might be good), and - eventually - another X-Men film. Should be good. Well, hopefully, at least.

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