Film Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (M 15+) (USA, 2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse delivers the super fights, the superhero costumes, the supervillain and the super team. But was this latest X-Men film so special that, if it was a person, it would be enrolled at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters? Yes and no.

Mild spoilers ahead.

Set in 1983, 10 years after the previous Days of Future Past, Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) continues to run his school for mutants and reserves a special care for a young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). Meanwhile Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) lives in hiding and Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is on a mission to find and rescue lost and unfortunate mutants. Their lives change when an all-powerful mutant known as Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) rises from a long, deep sleep and decides to cleanse the world of humans. He recruits mutants including Magneto and a young Storm (Alexandra Shipp) to help him.

The film has a comic book feel but still manages to be realistic, even more so than the previous films. Of all the movies in the franchise, it feels closest to the vibe of the original X-Men .

Despite some praiseworthy scenes and the incredible acting and visual effects, the film is far from perfect. The pacing was mostly smooth but dropped off in the last third of the film. Part of the fault here lies with Apocalypse, who doesn’t come off as that great a threat. Sure, he radiates fear in the beginning but by the halfway. point it’s clear he’s just another powerful mutant who needs to be stopped.

With Professor X and Jean Grey being as powerful as they are too, the stakes didn’t feel as high as I expected they would be. In fact, Jean’s struggle to control her powers often leaves you more afraid of her than Apocalypse. The film’s manifestation of her alter ego “Phoenix” is a treat for fans disappointed by the character’s treatment in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Apocalypse also sees a much-wiser Professor X and a much-softer Magneto, who is given another chance at redemption. We see a more human side of him, which was a surprise. On the other side of things, Mystique was quite forgettable despite both her major role and being played by Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence’s performance felt constantly overshadowed by the new characters Jean, Storm, Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who all made a more memorable impact on the film.

However, the film did feel a little overcrowded. Most of the new characters were given too little background detail. Some were intriguing enough to catch your attention, but never enough to hold it. Let’s just say that if you thought Jubilee (Lana Candor)’s role would be equal on the same level as that of Jean and Cyclops, you’ll be a little disappointed.

Only a handful of the characters introduced are given the chance to become heroes while the others are left behind. If Apocalypse was as all-powerful and unstoppable as he seemed, wouldn’t you want more than seven people taking him on? Again, it undercut the stakes of the film and made the climax slightly anticlimatic. However, the post-credit scene does a good job of making you curious about what’s next for these characters.

In the meantime: X-Men: Apocalypse is good but not great as expected.

Rating: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

X-Men: Apocalypse is out in cinemas on the 19th of May.