Review: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 16 May 2016

Review: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)

Review: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)
Although it's a step down from X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, this otherwise overstuffed third movie in the X-MEN: FIRST CLASS trilogy still packs a satisfying amount of popcorn-worthy thrills and mostly cohesive character-driven drama.

Looking back at the track record of the X-MEN original trilogy (2000-2006), the first two movies directed by Bryan Singer were critically and financially successful enough. But the same cannot be said with the third movie of Brett Ratner-directed X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. While the movie did manage to make a lot of money at the box office, it was largely considered as a creative failure that eventually killed the once-promising franchise. Flash forward to 2016, I was wondering whether X-MEN: APOCALYPSE -- the third movie of the prequel trilogy following the mixed but successful endeavours of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011) and X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) -- would suffer the same fate as the 2006's ill-fated version. The good news is, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is nowhere as bad as most early reviews published in the US. Except this time, it doesn't have the same storytelling verve and complexity shown two years prior in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST.


When ancient and powerful mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is awakened from his slumber in 1983 after several millennia, he discovers the world not what it used to be and plan to eliminate humankind. In order to stop Apocalypse and his team of mutants known as the Four Horsemen which include Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Professor X (James McAvoy) and Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) must lead a team of young X-Men and save the world from global annihilation.


X-MEN: APOCALYPSE begins promisingly with the epic grandeur of an elaborately-staged ancient Egyptian prologue. It was by far the most cinematic yet lavish opening scene ever seen in an X-MEN movie. As the movie jumps forward to the 1980s setting right after the prologue, it gets better with Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg mostly succeed on juggling multiple story arcs of both old and new characters. Whether it was a scene depicting Professor X teaching a new generation of young mutant students in his school or the introduction of young Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) discovering his superpower for the first time around, it was fascinating enough to see Singer manages to handle such a massive ensemble as economical as possible without succumbing into a heavy-handed manner.

Also early on in the movie, it is worth noting that Kinberg's screenplay contains a decent balance of well-timed humour (such as the meet-up scene involving Professor X and Rose Byrne's Moira MacTaggert, who last appeared in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) and strong emotional beats, particularly the one dealing with Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto's subsequent tragedy. As a matter of fact, the scene alone made good use of Michael Fassbender's remarking acting talent to the point you will feel his character's pain and rage for what he has to go through.

Apart from Fassbender, most of the ensemble here are given sufficient moments to shine. The old characters ranging from James McAvoy's Professor X to Jennifer Lawrence's Raven/Mystique and Nicholas Hoult's Hank McCoy/Beast deliver good performances all around. Not to mention some of the new characters including the younger versions of Tye Sheridan's Scott Summers/Cyclops and Sophie Turner's Jean Grey are both given successful re-introductions. Olivia Munn, in the meantime, is undoubtedly picture-perfect donning her most accurate comic-book costume as Psylocke while Kodi Smit-McPhee is spot-on playing the younger version of Nightcrawler.


For the second time in a row since X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, it was Evan Peters again who steals the show as Quicksilver. This time, Singer upped the ante by showcasing Quicksilver's speedy superpower in a spectacularly staged yet hilarious effect-laden sequence scored to Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams".


One of the major setbacks that prevent this movie from reaching the X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST level of greatness is the disappointingly shallow depiction of En Sabah Nur a.k.a. Apocalypse himself. As the world's first mutant who has such extraordinary power that made him seemingly unstoppable, Apocalypse doesn't come across as an intimidating or physically imposing figure. It doesn't help either that his motivation is as vague and simplistic as those you saw in the '80s and '90s type of over-the-top cartoony villain whose sole purpose is nothing more than destroying mankind and taking over the world. Not even the presence of usually charismatic Oscar Isaac who played the would-be pivotal supervillain role of Apocalypse can do much to make his otherwise paper-thin character at least worthwhile.

If that's not enough, the rest of the villains including Alexandra Shipp's Storm, Ben Hardy's Angel and Olivia Munn's Psylocke are also sadly neglected into underwritten roles. Another letdown is the CG-heavy finale where the X-Men finally encounters Apocalypse and the Four Horsemen. While the action does look epic on the big screen, it lacks the wow factor comparing with the last time around in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST where Magneto single-handedly lifted the entire stadium up into the sky using his superpower.


Although this final chapter of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS trilogy suffered a few shortcomings, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE remains adequate enough for a big-budget summer blockbuster. And best of all, it's a sigh of relief that the movie doesn't sink into a franchise-killing level of X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. Finally, remember not to leave the cinema once the end credits roll since there will be a post-credit teaser awaits you.

* This review is written courtesy from 20th Century Fox Malaysia press screening *

No comments: