is Bryan singer’s block­buster an X-film too far?

SFX - - Contents - Dave Golder

Time and again dur­ing his commentary for Apoca­lypse, di­rec­tor Bryan Singer claims that this is Raven’s film, in the same way that First Class was Mag­neto’s film and Days Of Fu­ture Past was Charles’s film. And therein lies the prob­lem. It isn’t. It isn’t any char­ac­ter’s film. There are mo­ments when var­i­ous char­ac­ters get to shine, sure, but no one gets a meaty through-plot. There are bet­ter emo­tional jour­neys on The X Fac­tor.

Singer may think that the core of this lat­est X-Men film is Raven’s jour­ney from loner to team player, but ask 100 peo­ple who’ve seen the movie what they think it’s about and we’d be sur­prised if more than five men­tioned Raven. They’re more likely to say it’s a film about some an­cient blue su­pervil­lain with a god com­plex col­lect­ing mu­tants like they’re Poké­mon, while some new teen re­cruits at Xavier’s School have prob­lems con­trol­ling both their pow­ers and their ’80s hair­styles.

Apoca­lypse is a mess of plots and char­ac­ters fight­ing for at­ten­tion – be­cause you don’t em­ploy ac­tors like James McAvoy, Michael Fass­ben­der and Jen­nifer Lawrence with­out promis­ing them a cou­ple of good scenes each to chew on. But then Singer also has to give new­bies like his younger ver­sions of Cy­clops, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler some­thing to do. And the vil­lains some­thing to do. And Charles’s re­turn­ing old flame Moira MacTag­gert some­thing to do. And Beast some­thing to do…

In the past Singer’s shown deft bal­anc­ing skills, but here the spin­ning plates are crash­ing at his feet. There are many im­pres­sive in­di­vid­ual scenes – the shock­ing fate of Erik’s fam­ily, Apoca­lypse en­tic­ing Psy­locke to his side – and a spec­tac­u­lar cli­max, but there’s no flow, no mo­men­tum, no emo­tional en­gage­ment.

Os­car Isaac’s Apoca­lypse is a sorely dis­ap­point­ing vil­lain; we’re not given enough of his his­tory to un­der­stand his MO, and his in­ter­ac­tion with the 20th cen­tury is de­tached and ab­stract. He destroys fa­mous land­marks, sure, but the only re­ac­tion shots are of peo­ple look­ing awestruck, not scared. The spec­ta­cle is pretty rather than ter­ri­fy­ing. And while the ’60s and ’70s set­tings of the pre­vi­ous films were clev­erly worked into the story, here the ’80s feels like just an­other gim­mick.

Mean­while Team Teen-X strug­gles to make an im­pres­sion. So­phie Turner has to do a cover ver­sion of Famke Janssen in X2/3 (“Oooh headaches… bad dreams… oh hang on. I’m re­ally bloody pow­er­ful, let’s make like a bird”). Quick­sil­ver has to try to top his show­stop­ping scene in Days Of Fu­ture Past, and fails. Cy­clops is as whingey as ever. Nightcrawler’s tail has more char­ac­ter than the rest of them put to­gether. It’s all wor­ry­ingly fa­mil­iar in a fran­chise

A mess of plots and char­ac­ters fight­ing for at­ten­tion

that nor­mally knows how to push for­ward. And when it comes to Team Apoca­lypse, Psy­locke, An­gel and Storm are barely more than eye-candy.

The shame is that some­where un­der­neath all this ex­cess is a good story about Raven and dif­fer­ing ide­olo­gies of what the X-Men should stand for. It’s just well and truly lost in a kalei­do­scope of mis­judged fan-ser­vice. Watched in small doses there’s fun to be had here, but all in one go? It’s some­thing of a chore.

Ex­tras When you lis­ten to Bryan Singer’s amus­ing and trivia-packed commentary, you do warm to­wards X-Men: Apoca­lypse – a lit­tle. He’s just a nat­u­ral charmer. He’s part­nered on the commentary by pro­ducer/ co-writer Si­mon Kin­berg, who oc­ca­sion­ally chips in.

Then you get eight deleted scenes (28 min­utes in to­tal) – many of which are great, all of which have been dropped for run­ning time/pac­ing rea­sons. When scenes as en­ter­tain­ing as the mall mon­tage (Teen-X goes shop­ping, Nightcrawler looks long­ingly at sneak­ers) don’t make the fi­nal cut you sus­pect the film­mak­ers were never quite sure what the main thrust of their film was.

The gag reel (eight min­utes) is huge fun, and ex­cep­tion­ally well edited, es­pe­cially a mon­tage of dance moves. A wrap party video (five min­utes) fea­tures more be­hind-the-scenes footage and finds a place to con­tex­tu­alise that “Beast Mode” Dub­s­mash video that went vi­ral ear­lier in the year.

Fi­nally there’s the 64-minute Mak­ing Of, which is solid enough but not the most re­veal­ing movie doc­u­men­tary ever; there’s a lit­tle too much back-slap­ping. You do learn, how­ever, that Psy­locke’s cos­tume was made by an LA fetish shop...

“Good evening Cairo! Are you READY TO ROCK?”

“…so this is how we think the Wem­b­ley arch will look…”

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