Technically the 9th film in the series if you count the original Wolverine film, X-Men Apocalypse is a loud, impressive spectacle that ticks all the boxes in the superhero genre but never does anything of significance to make it stand out from the pack. The characters are good although Mystique’s dominance and Magneto’s incessant need to be shoehorned in the film are a little jarring. Coupled with a final climactic battle with the God-like Apocalypse that devolves into nothing more than a small sparring contest, the real draw here are the plethora of characters and watching them fight one another.
The story picks up in Cairo with the awakening of one of the oldest, and most powerful mutants in history, Apocalypse. Displeased with how he views the world, he recruits a new breed of “four horseman” to cleanse humanity and start a new world order with Apocalypse at its helm. Mystique (now defiantly choosing her human form Raven (Jennifer Lawrence)) teams up with Professor X (James McAvoy) as they train a new team of mutants to battle and stop Apocalypse from destroying the world. It’s a pretty standard set up and hits most of the usual beats you’d expect from this sort of film but as mentioned, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) does stand out and not for the right reasons. His inclusion, whilst understandable, never feels like a natural fit and Magneto’s inclusion here never feels like anything but including him “just because”.
The story of Apocalypse, well known among comic book and avid fans of X Men alike, is a war of epic proportions, known for its spectacle and in that respect, this film does do a good job of depicting some impressive action scenes. A visually impressive Quicksilver sequence playing with time is particularly memorable, as are some of the effects used to level Egypt toward the end of the film. Beyond this, the film never really feels like anything other than a superhero film playing it safe, ticking the boxes for what’s acceptable without really pushing the boat out. Yes we get a city turned into a wasteland, we get individual fights with mutants that battle it out at the end and we get the redemption hero angle but the main thing that should be a big deal is Apocalypse and quite frankly, he’s disappointing.
He spews monologues about how angry and unhappy he is with the world without really doing anything beyond recruiting the four horseman. There’s no epic twelve on one mutant fight, there’s no Apocalypse destroying mutants or causing a sense of urgency. He spends the majority of the film giving the four horseman some trendy new clothes and convincing Magneto to be one of his horseman. All this could have been forgiven with a good climax with this god-like mutant but sadly it dissolves into nothing more than a mental sparring contest with Professor X.
The characters are the main draw here though and most of the characters are well fleshed out. Quite why Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique gets so much screen-time is puzzling though and the amount of time out of her all-blue makeup seems in contrast to the character proud of her origins and loathing being part human. This, coupled with Magneto’s inclusion and Apocalypse not living up to his name, makes the film a conflicted, although enjoyable X-Men film.
It certainly isn’t as polished as other X-Men films but there are flickers of genius among an otherwise average superhero film. Its characters are good and visually the film is very impressive but beyond its flashy exterior and good characters, is a rather lacklustre plot. Its nowhere near as poor as Origins or X3 but Apocalypse confidently places itself in the middle of the X-Men ratings. Its neither a bad nor a particular great film but its inclusion feels passable rather than a memorable spectacle worthy of the Apocalypse story from the comics.