A movie with limited magnetic attraction.
On the day that Britain voted to leave the European Union it feels fairly appropriate to review a film with “Apocalypse” in the title. I appreciate I’m late to the game with this review, but for me the X-Men films have always been in the ‘see if I have the time’ category: mildly diverting but largely forgettable. And X-Man: Apocalypse, the third in the “prequel” series, has a forgettability half-life significantly shorter.
Starting in Mummy-esque fashion in ancient Egypt, the evil super-mutant En Sabah Nur (an almost unrecognizable Oscar Isaac) arranges for his soul to go hopping around from old mutant body to new mutant body to gather a smorgasbord of powers. In mid-hop he is brought down to earth (literally) and buried alive for several thousand years before being awoken. This happens in 1983 when CIA agent Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) – thrillingly for me channelling an Indiana Jones vibe so long missing from our screens – leaves a rug-covered hole uncovered (no, seriously, I’m not making this up) and unleashes the beast. With a need to gather around him his ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ En Sabah Nur chooses the four most talented mutants (ed: read, the first four he comes across!), one of which is Eric Lehnsherr (aka Magneto, Michael Fassbender) who’s in the midst of having his own ‘mare of a day. Literally everyone on the planet gets progressively involved until the story builds to a huge showdown in modern day Cairo.
Let’s start with the positives. It’s watchable and has a few high-points worthy of note. In particular, the scene where Quicksilver (Evan Peters) saves Xavier’s students (plus dog and fish) from an ongoing massive blast is just hugely entertaining. And most of the acting (as you might expect from the calibre of the cast) is excellent: Michael Fassbinder; James McAvoy; Nicholas Hoult; Jennifer Lawrence and Rose Byrne all carry their parts extremely well. (I’m sure Oscar Isaac is his normal superb acting self under all of that latex, but it is almost impossible to tell). Also of note is young English Saoirse Ronan lookalike Sophie Turner (replacing Famke Janssen in playing Jean Gray).
Where the film irritates though is in some lazy plotting and tangential and unnecessary diversions in Simon Kinberg’s screenplay, adding to an already overlong running time. As a specific point, and while not as snort-worthyly derisive as the ‘Martha-gate’ scene from Batman vs Superman, there are at least a couple of allegiance switcheroos in this film that are just thoroughly unconvincing. More fundamentally, if you were pushed to say in 10 words or less what this film was about you would struggle to come up more that “Bad guy rises and needs defeating”. None of the underlying social and racial tensions of the human/mutant struggle that made the previous films more sociologically interesting, are really of any relevance within this story.
Also of enormous irritation to me is the blatant science abuse going on. Without giving too much of the plot away, there is massive magnetic disturbance to the earth that has highly selective effects: an office building is ripped apart (presumably that’s the effect of tens of thousands of staples and paper clips fighting to get out?) and yet the metal bridge next to it just suffers some minor damage; a shipwreck rises from the sea bed into the sky, and yet this is all observed from an unaffected ship on the surface; and the X-Men fly into the very heart of the disturbance in a plane – – presumably one made of Tupperware or similar? Come on scriptwriters of the world – employ some decent science advisors! (It’s not as if science geeks go to watch these sorts of films or anything!)
As a final concern, the film depicts the casual total destruction – note: NOT the mild glazing damage meted out to Metropolis of Gotham… TOTAL destruction – of Cairo and presumably the majority of its 7.7 million residents, all without pause for a flicker of concern or grief from any of the characters. Would this be acceptable if this was London, Chicago or LA? Or is it OK in the current climate because 90% of Egyptians are Moslem? I would seriously like to think not, but for me this left a bad taste in the mouth.
The director is series director Bryan Singer. My message to him is that if this is the best you can do, it’s time to send this pony to the retirement farm.
On leaving a showing of “The Return of the Jedi”, Jean Grey comments to her colleagues “At Least we can all agree the third (film) is always the worst”: never a truer word spoken in jest.
Fad Rating: FFf.
That’s what I thought. If you saw the film, what was your view? Please comment below.