It has been sixteen years since the first X-Men film appeared in cinemas, and in that time the franchise has developed a healthy legion of fans, myself included. The latest chapter in the saga is unashamedly a film for that fanbase, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Apocalypse is set in the 1980s, with the story taking place exactly ten years after the events of Days of Future Past. Mutants – that is, humans who possess the mutation gene – are now largely welcome in society, thanks to the heroic efforts of shape-shifter Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). She now travels the world, locating and saving her fellow mutants who are in difficulty.
Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) has chosen a dramatically different path to Mystique. He has ceased going by the name Magneto and is living a relatively normal life as a steelworker in Poland. Meanwhile, his old friend Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has reopened the School for the Gifted in New York and continues to offer a safe haven for mutant-kind.
On the other side of the world, a new threat has emerged in the form of En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), the world’s oldest and most powerful mutant. He has awoken from his deep sleep and is seeking to rule the world, as he did centuries earlier. To do so, he plans to gather four apprentices with extraordinary powers, and Magneto is just the mutant he is looking for…
It’s safe to say that Apocalypse is the most ambitious film in the X-Men series. Among the HUGE cast are a number of characters returning from the previous films, including Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters) to name a few. Additionally, characters from the earlier films have been recast with younger actors: Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie “Sansa” Turner), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee).
And therein lies the film’s biggest problem: these names will mean nothing to those who aren’t already familiar with the X-Men series. In other words, you’re not going to find the movie enjoyable if you’re struggling to remember the name of every single mutant. In fact, there are so many mutants that it takes an entire hour – yes, I counted – to introduce and develop their characters.
But for those who can put up with the excess of characters – and the slow pacing, and the sadistic violence, and the so-so villain – a real treat awaits. Ever wanted to see everyone’s favourite mutant go savage in a military compound? Or Professor X engage in a literal battle of the minds? Or Quicksilver racing through an exploding mansion to the tune of the Eurythmics? Well, as luck would have it, this movie has all of the above.
X-Men: Apocalypse is to this reviewer what Batman v Superman is to everybody else: a fun, if flawed, superhero blockbuster. It has everything that fans have come to love about the franchise, with the showstoppers being enough to offset its imperfections.
This review was originally published by YO Bendigo on June 2nd, 2016.