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