THE RETRO X-Men are back and pushed to their limits as they face down a demi-God in the big purple form of proto super mutant Apocalypse who desires nothing more than to build “a better world” where only the strongest (i.e. mutants) survive. He has the power to alter matter and teleport wherever he wants, so world destruction is well within his skill set.
The sheer scale of this latest look at Marvel’s second favourite big-screen superhero squad (after The Avengers of course) does not disappoint. An ensemble cast of some of Hollywood’s finest actors (Lawrence, McAvoy, Fassbender, need I go on) are playing some of the greatest comic book, nay, some of the greatest characters ever created (even though a lot of them are one shade of blue or another).
I keep pointing this out in my Marvel reviews, but that’s because they’re drawing in talent now like never before. I mean, Osacar Isaac is in this one for crying out loud! We’re really being spoiled. I still remember when Marvel movies meant Matt Salinger throwing a frisbee around.
Bryan Singer is back as director for his fourth X-Men movie in the top chair and his fifth in a producing role. With X-Men Apocalypse and its predecessors, Singer has finally redeemed himself, at least in my eyes, as the man who utterly fluffed Superman Returns and made fans wait even longer for a decent modern-day movie outing for the Man of Steel. But it’s hard to forgive entirely.
For X-Men: Apocalypse we find ourselves in the 1980s, several years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past when Magneto (Michael Fassbender) went on a rampage outside the White House before he was stopped by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) as her natural blue self, with the whole thing caught on the world’s cameras.
Magneto’s one-man army routine brought mutants to the attention of the general public for the first time and for all the wrong reasons. Things have settled down a bit, at least in the good ol’ US of A, but tensions are still bubbling under the surface between the muggles and the mutants while elsewhere life is a real struggle for those with abilities they can’t hide.
When Apocalypse is awoken by intrepid CIA agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne) after thousands of years entombed under a pyramid, he immediately gets to work recruiting his four “horsemen” helpers and before long is tangling with the X-Men, the only ones standing between him and his sole aim of global destruction.
At Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters this time are some very familiar names: Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, (Tye Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, Games of Thrones’ own Sansa Stark). While out in the world, literally fighting for survival, we also find Angel (Eastender’s Ben Hardy), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit–McPhee, who worked with Fassbender in Slow West and was the kid in The Road), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and, making her movie debut, Pyslocke (Olivia Munn).
There’s even a brief turn for fan-favourite Jubilee (Lana Condor), and a sequence with a certain angry bub, but still no sign of Gambit (though apparently he’s getting a solo outing soon with Channing Tatum lined up for the role, make of that what you will).
Also returning in this X-Men is fastest-man alive, Quicksilver. But this is the Evan Peters version from the last X-Men outing, not the Aaron Taylor-Johnson version from Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s hard to explain this away; even though this is an earlier time line the fact is Ultron’s Quicksilver is called Pietro, is the brother of Scarlet Witch and comes from Sokovia, while the X-Men’s Quicksilver is called Peter, is born in the USA and claims to be the son of your favourite metal-bending super mutant. There’s a shaft of light shining through Marvel’s connected universe armour here and it suggests, among other things, that we won’t be seeing an X-Men/Avengers crossover in the foreseeable future (as amazing as that would be).
New to the campaign is Oscar Isaac, the villainous Apocalypse himself. He is absolutely incredible to watch and brings real gravitas to a role that could look absurd in the wrong hands. Ever since the film’s trailers I’ve been transfixed by his character’s deep voice and slow and purposeful speaking cadence, not to mention his massive purple make-up and outfit. Isaac has some of the best lines in the movie and delivers them with such aplomb that you’re utterly drawn in and can easily see how his character holds sway over others.
Other newcomer, Turner, is absolutely captivating as Jean Grey. She gets a moment of real bad assery which fans of GoT will be delighted to see.
Final word: Set on a phenomenal scale, X-Men: Apocalypse has fight scenes so colossal they’ll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. If this is to be the last of the retro revivals then they’ve gone out with a bang. Check it out for super-heroics and genuine emotional drama all in one. An absolute extravaganza of a film, this gives Civil War a run for its money.
If you liked X-Men: Apocalypse you should also watch:
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
- X-Men: First Class
- Avengers: Age of Ultron