Sunday, June 12, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse - belly-flop

movie review

X-Men: Apocalypse

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, and Lucas Till
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Tagline: Only the strong will survive.

While Marvel may have the X-Men to thank for helping start the recent comic book adaptation boom, the subsequent expansion of their cinematic universe has seen The Avengers emerge as their most successful franchise. The mutants, meanwhile, have been unable to keep up with their more popular cinema-conquering superhero cohorts, and their latest adventure, X-Men: Apocalypse, pretty much explains why their return to the big screen just doesn’t generate as much excitement.

The third instalment in the First Class trilogy, Apocalypse continues the current trend of pitting superheroes against each other. The film takes us back to the 1980s as the X-Men face a powerful foe hell-bent on causing massive destruction and taking over the world.

It’s 1983, and Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is busy running his School for Gifted Youngsters, helping untrained mutants learn how to harness their powers. One of his newest students is Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) – the young brother of energy absorbing Alex Summers (Lucas Till) – who is unable to control the powerful beams he fires from his eyes. Telepathic student Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), too, is struggling with her powers. Also developing his skills is Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a teleporter who is rescued from an underground mutant cage fight by shapeshifter Raven Darkhölme (Jennifer Lawrence) and then brought with her to Xavier’s institute where she is reunited with leonine Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult).

Meanwhile, the ancient En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), the world’s first and most powerful mutant, has reawakened. Disappointed with how humanity has waged wars and stockpiled weapons in his absence, he decides to wipe the world clean and lead those that survive into a better one. For his quest, he recruits four “horsemen” – the weather wielding Ororo Munroe (Alexandra Shipp), telepathic Elizabeth Braddock (Olivia Munn), winged Warren Worthington III (Ben Hardy), and the magnetic field controlling Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), who is driven by loss and anger to join the apocalyptic mission. It is then up to Xavier and his team to stop the supervillain and his aides from destroying the world.

The movie’s first problem (of many) is that there are so many characters that the film can’t do justice to any of their stories. Moira MacTaggert’s (Rose Byrne) presence seems redundant to the adventure. Jubilee (Lana Condor) doesn’t do anything memorable in the film. The horsemen get minimal development; Olivia Munn’s Psylocke just feels like an exercise in fan service. An appearance by an uncredited player seems superfluous (although it is still more exciting than the parts played by most of the credited X-Men). The villain is underwritten, and Oscar Isaac is wasted in the role, his face hidden under a mask of makeup and prosthetics.

Most elements of the storyline seem overly familiar, and Simon Kinberg’s screenplay lacks the wit and smarts to make the proceedings interesting. The movie’s most memorable sequence is given to Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, and it reinforces the fact that a little more humour could have made the proceedings a lot more entertaining.

On the whole, a talented cast and some impressive action sequences can’t hide the deficiencies of the X-Men’s latest escapade. Director Bryan Singer has created an overlong, underdeveloped adventure, employing more characters than necessary, then relegating most of them to the background, while rehashing old themes. And it is never a good thing when an instalment leaves you with the impression that the franchise has nothing new left to offer.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Hi Five, The Express Tribune - 12th June, 2016

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