So the sixth (or eight, or ninth, depending on how you count) X-men film comes around, and we all know how this goes, right? Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his gang of mutant superheroes the X-men have to fight some scheme to kill all mutants, mostly manifested in a physical confrontation against Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and his “Brotherhood” of bad guys. Somewhere in between Jennifer Lawrence‘s Mystique also pops up.
Except it looks like this time director Bryan Singer has something different in mind. I guess he watched some different movies in the interim, for inspiration. X-men: Apocalypse feels much more like a disaster movie – a Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich-style world-scale drama which kicks off in Ancient Egypt, introducing the first mutant – Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) discovers and inadvertently awakens the incredibly powerful mutant when, as an indirect result of the time-travel meddling in Days of Future Past, she investigates cults that believe in mutant gods.
Luckily, this X-men film has very few continuity inconsistencies. Most of them are easily explained by the alternate timeline caused by Wolverine’s time-travel adventure in the previous film, and the ones that don’t (eg. Angel being 20 years older than he should be), aren’t paid enough attention to worry anyone.
The plot is big and spectacular and although certain settings, scenes, and setpieces feel familiar, they’re original enough to keep things fun. Quicksilver’s moment of glory in this film, however, isn’t as spectacular as his much talked-about Pentagon speed run last time. Also, the film lacks surprises – it’s the kind of film where none of the primary characters really risk dying, and after six movies we know that. Despite the global scale of the antagonist’s threat, it never actually feels like characters are risking their lives. The one or two moments that could potentially have been pleasant surprises were given away in the movie’s trailers – one of many modern examples of movie marketing departments giving away too much in the marketing campaign.
At one point the characters also make a self-deprecating meta-joke about how the third movie in a series is never good. Which kind of makes you wonder whether they’re ‘subtly’ referring to X-men: The Last Stand or Apocalypse. This screwball move [You can’t call us out for making a bad movie if we already acknowledged that it’s bad, right?] is either an immature tactic or a silly jab at The Last Stand director Brett Ratner. The film also has some underdeveloped characters (Does Storm count, if we already know her Halle Berry-flavoured future version?), and too many flashbacks to First Class (a trilogy-completing callback technique the filmmakers borrowed from The Dark Knight Rises).
X-men: Apocalypse has its faults*, but it’s far from the worst movie in the franchise. Yet it still doesn’t beat X-men 2 and Days of Future Past. Everyone worked together nicely to provide a dramatic (but not too emotional), action-packed superhero spectacular that teases as many potential upcoming storylines as it neatly wraps up old ones. It’s an enjoyable time at the cinema, and unlike the franchise’s worst offerings (X-men Origins: Wolverine in my opinion, and X-men 3: The Last Stand in many others’), it’s big, amazing, and worth the ticket price.
*My biggest complaint about this movie is the moment where Magneto shows up dressed like Steve Jobs.