“At least we can agree the third one is always the worst” barks a young Jean Grey in X-Men: Apocalypse. And whilst the film stays well away from the poor efforts of Spider-Man 3 and The Last Stand, there’s more truth to that statement here than director Bryan Singer would want you to believe.
X-Men: Apocalypse picks up after the events of its brilliant predecessor, Days of Future Past, as mutants and humans continue to live alongside each other, not necessarily in peace – but not in war either.
The film begins with an introduction to our titular villain, played by Oscar Issac, in Cairo as he aims to recruit four followers – the four horsemen of the apocalypse if you will. Soon after, the audience is whisked away to a more familiar sight, Charles Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters.
After the awakening of Oscar Issac’s villain, and his recruitment of Storm, Magneto, Angel and Psylocke, the X-Men must unite to save humans and mutants alike from being destroyed.
The majority of the ‘younger’ cast return in this instalment with some exciting, and some not so exciting additions. Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner joins the series as Jean Grey, channelling Famke Janssen reasonably well. Kodi Smit-McPhee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) is fantastic as Nightcrawler and Tye Sheridan finally does away with James Marsden’s whiney Cyclops.
Apocalypse belongs to Evan Peters and Quicksilver. As with Days of Future Past, he brings the screen to life and as with its predecessor, stars in the film’s standout sequence. However, in an effort to improve on what came before it, the writers have tried too hard to make it bigger and better – the finished product lacks finesse with some poorly finished CGI detracting from the overall effect.
Elsewhere, Michael Fassbender is the perfect man to play Magneto but James McAvoy remains miscast as Charles Xavier. It’s only once he loses his hair that we start to see the character he should’ve been right from the beginning. Jennifer Lawrence finally gets into her groove as Mystique after failing to make an impact in First Class and Days of Future Past.
The story is a little underdeveloped, especially after the great writing brought to life in Captain America: Civil War. Despite constantly being told about the stakes never being higher, it doesn’t really feel like anything awful is going to happen. This is, in part, not helped by Apocalypse being a little bit of a wet lettuce when it comes to superhero villains.
Unfortunately, the abundance of CGI only hampers the film further. There is far too much green screen and certain scenes feel unbelievable as a result. The finale in particular is incredibly underwhelming and becomes an ugly mix of special effects.
There’s a problem with the pacing too. After spending nearly an hour introducing the audience to the new mutants; Apocalypse takes a scalpel to the ending with, well the results you’d expect. It’s choppily edited and hastily stitched back together.
Nevertheless, this is not a bad film. For the most part, it’s exciting, well-acted, nicely choreographed and beautifully shot with exotic locations brilliantly juxtaposed with the lush landscape of Xavier’s school.
Overall, X-Men: Apocalypse falls some way short of the standard set by its predecessor. In yet another case of threequel-itis, the film is hampered by an underdeveloped story, poor pacing and a ridiculous amount of CGI. Bigger isn’t always better, and unfortunately, this is the case here.