Movie Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

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The world’s first mutant is awoken in the 80s and it is up to the scattered X-Men to stop him from destroying the world.

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Bryan Singer, 2016

In Ancient Egypt, an uprising of the people buries powerful mutant En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), cutting short his reign of terror. Thousands of years later, he is awoken, in part thanks to the accidental interference of CIA agent Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne). Since she thwarted the assassination of the president in the 70s, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) has been running from her reputation as a hero. Acceptance of mutants is a slow process, but Charles Xavier (James Mcavoy) with his School for Gifted Youngsters has attracted several young mutants, including the troubled and powerful Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). When En Sabah Nur, also known as Apocalypse, resurfaces, he recruits four followers, including the recently bereaved Magneto (Michael Fassbender). He also begins a new reign of terror in the quest for greater power. In order to defend a world that barely understands them, the mutants must team up to face Apocalypse and his minions.

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The recent run of X-Men films have been highly enjoyable. Though they may not be the most ambitious films, they fulfil their purpose nicely. They are bright, fun, well-acted stories that showcase the X-Men. We get some big fights, tests of friendship and family, and the complex relationship between mutants and non-mutants in the X-Men universe. We get big, visually pleasing set pieces – the opening sequence in Egypt is a show-stopper, and there’s another awesome Quicksilver scene – alongside intimate character moments (watching Charles reunite with Moira is a delight). It’s not a game-changing film, or one that pushes any boundaries. But if you want a superhero action movie that does what it says on the tin, Apocalypse is the movie to see. There are some tropes in here I’d be happy not to see again, and moments that are downright stupid, but the buoyancy of the movie carried me through. The score is working hard, and the movie gallops along without stopping for breath. That’s important when you have so many characters to balance, both new and returning.

The new cast are a mixed bag. Kodi Smit-McPhee is a highlight of the film as the adorable, complex Nightcrawler, and Lana Condor is sweet if underused as Jubilee. Despite make-up and costuming that makes it impossible for him to even turn his head, Oscar Isaac cuts an imposing figure as Apocalypse. He’s menacing and scary, just flamboyant enough to be memorable, just charming enough to convincingly convert his followers. He’s the dark mirror image of James McAvoy’s always-excellent Charles Xavier, who in this film really finds his feet as the teacher we all know and love. However, Sophie Turner is immature as Jean Grey, turning in a wet, inorganic performance that rarely comes alive. Tye Sheridan is also dull as Cyclops, who continues to be the worst. Luckily Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence are back to complete our terrific central trio, with Mystique’s journey in this film giving Lawrence some good work to do and a fridging giving Fassbender the opportunity to blow some shit up. Evan Peters is a highlight again as the superior Quicksilver. Importantly, the cast work well together, so that despite some characters being short-changed, you get the overall sense of teamwork and camaraderie that makes saving the world possible.

X-Men: Apocalypse on IMDb

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