Monday, 23 May 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

Mystique’s Roadshow

X-Men: Apocalypse
2016 USA Directed by Bryan Singer
UK cinema release print.

Partial Warning: The only spoilers in here
are already revealed in the trailers for the film.

I was fulling expecting to have to title this review Apocalypse, No! and to really give this movie some stick. Well, as it turns out, X-Men Apocalypse, the 12th X-Men movie in the series, is actually one of the more entertaining, technically competent and dramatic of the movies in the franchise. What a shame, then, that the writers still find themselves unable to correct the glaring continuity errors thrown up by the movies following the third film in the series, X-Men - Last Stand... something which everyone was pretty much hoping they would have been able to finally put to rest with the ‘time fixing’ previous, mostly awful installment in the franchise, X-Men - Days Of Future Past (reviewed by me here).

The way I see it we’ve got two main problems in the cinematic narrative that really aren’t taken care of. One is the previous movie starting out from a point where the original timeline version of Professor X, played by Patrick Stewart, is alive and well and somehow still inhabiting a body with the same physical appearance and vocal chords, even though he was killed before Jean Grey died, which Wolverine from that timeline clearly remembers happening. So they shot themselves in the foot straight away as far as I can tell.

Next we have them journeying back to a time after the Cerebro machine was already built in the X-Men First Class timeline, therefore not correcting the fact that Professor X and Magneto were supposed to have built it together.

Thirdly, we have the X-Men Origins - Wolverine movie (reviewed by me here) fairly compromised in various ways and... I’m not even going to attempt to go there and unravel the fallout on that.

Most of the other ‘seeming’ continuity errors are, for the most part, explainable but it’s really a shame that the same writers who have given us a script as interesting and entertaining as this one can’t be bothered to solve these issues properly. This is what happens when you don’t properly follow the franchise bible folks... this is pretty much the ‘George Lucas’ way of ‘ignoring stuff writing’ that’s going on here... and it’s only twelve films in!

Alas, not only does it not correct these errors... it seems to compound them further in some sequences. Also... what gives with the actors in this trilogy (this film and the previous two X-Men badged movies) being set in three different decades of the timeline? The 1960s (X-Men - First Class... reviewed by me here), the 1970s (X-Men - Days Of Future Past) and the 1980s (X-Men - Apocalypse) are all covered by the same actors playing mutants and humans alike who... somehow... don’t seem to age at all in the movies between decades. Okay, so in the case of Wolverine and Mystique you can kinda understand it but everyone else? This is not good time-lining, people? I guess that’s why Magneto’s son is revealed as Quicksilver perhaps (no spoilers here folks... it’s in the trailer) but a certain other mother/son relationship is kept under wraps still (as it was in X-Men 2). Michael Fassbender still looks a little too young but can maybe get away with it. The other two... people might not find it all that credible, methinks.

Also... it’s interesting that we have Quicksilver’s sister absent here but, she’s all over the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ Avengers franchise... with her origins somewhat different to the comic and with Quicksilver already killed off in that franchise. I’m wondering why more casual viewers to these films aren’t questioning this, to be honest. Or maybe people just don’t care?

Anyway, I suppose I’d better mention some of the good stuff about this movie now, right? Since I liked it so much.

Apocalypse is played absolutely brilliantly by Oscar Isaac, who manages to play a pretty shallowly written character with the amount of conviction necessary to make these cardboard bad guys stand out and seem way more interesting and vital than they perhaps usually are. You believe in him and his power to galvanise his ‘four horsemen’ and I really appreciated the Egyptian tint to the proceedings in the earlier part of the film. A very strong opening set in ancient Egypt satisfied my own penchant for the iconography of the time and place and, amazingly, the rest of the film lives up to the amazing opening sequence... not just in spectacle but in the way the characters interact. And that includes a lovely opening title design which matches the style of a lot of the previous films but with a load of entertaining ‘historical colour’ thrown in for good measure.

Michael Fassbender,  James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence all do a bang up job and they are ably supported by new and old cast members alike. The continuing drama of Magneto’s back story is extremely moving and takes us right back to reminders of the opening sequences of both X-Men and X-Men - First Class, building on the inherent, rich material of the character’s troubled legacy and adding to the psychological motivation of the character, explaining why he is who he is, still, and why he does what he does. It doesn’t quite explain the way in which the character veers towards the end of the movie, I think, but the choice he makes doesn’t break the boundaries of credibility too far and I think they just about get away with it without compromising Magneto too much, to be fair.

Evan Peters’ Quicksilver is great again in this one. He’s written well and his big set piece, which took some months to shoot and which involved him being on the set longer than any of the other cast members, by all accounts, is another triumphant one... with the quirky humour of the character coming out in a high pressure situation. Singer catches a repeat trick stylistically too, with composer John Ottman’s magnificent score stopping dead as the character is backed up again with a famous pop song for the entire sequence. Which is something which I suspect audiences will subconsciously get a lot of enjoyment out of... even if the sequence isn’t quite up to the calibre of the previous movie (which was one of the few good things about X-Men - Days Of Future Past).

And that’s about it for this one. If you like X-Men movies then this is certainly a good one... I’d say it’s my seventh favourite in the series so far. So don’t miss out on this one unless, like me, the screaming continuity problems of these films drives you absolutely mad. Then you might have a problem.

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