I wouldn’t say that X-Men: Apocalypse puts you to sleep – unless you’re that one guy at the very start who’s touched by the charms of the Sandman. But who can blame him? This god among mortals walked straight out of the tomb and quick-sank into our hearts. Once a castoff model from a dejected Fashion Week collection, this Blue Man Group understudy loves teleportation, team huddles, and long walks past the dusty corpses of his nonbelievers. He’s a real catch for that lucky guy or gal who’s a proud introvert, has a nonchalant attitude towards mind control, and who is rather blasé about the deaths of millions. He’s got swollen hands, ice-blue lips, and more pointless wires sprouting out of his head than the back of your TV. He is our leader, our overlord, our detail-oriented cosplayer, our Apocalypse.
While many things were born during the flashy 1970s, it turns out mutants weren’t one of them. They were here long before the boom box and the bell-bottom. In ancient times, the legendary Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) used his almighty powers of… Sand-bending? Soaking up the sun? Sneezing his consciousness into another? Whatever his special talent is, Apocalypse used it to spread fear and create followers among the Egyptians. Until those Egyptians betrayed him and buried him ‘alive’. Several millennia later, a gang of fanatics without day jobs uncover his body and raise him from the depths. More of a morning person than I will ever be, Apocalypse wastes no time proclaiming death to all weaklings, choosing four powerful mutants to be his horseless horsemen, and swearing to eliminate every ounce of technology built after 3500 B.C… Meanwhile in Poland, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), has a family, while meanwhile in New York, Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), has a school, and meanwhile everywhere else, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), is determined to die alone. It will take this resurrected blue villain from Guardians of the Galaxy to bring them all together and save planet earth from implosion.
Thanks to Days of Future Past, the X-Men timeline is starting fresh. Just about anyone can die and we’d never see it coming. In honour of this uneasy uncertainty, X-Men: Apocalypse introduces a slew of new characters for you to get skeptically acquainted with. Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) is that almost-cool teen whose goal in life is to flirt with every girl in his direct line of sight (a goal momentarily stalled after he eyes become deadly laser beams). Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), meanwhile, is the pleasantly likeable outsider everyone avoids because they’re a bunch of Judgy Judy’s. Together with a few old faces (and a random Nightcrawler for convenience) they wind up where they shouldn’t be and save the day completely by accident.
It’s always great to see new mutants figuring out their powers – but what would you rather watch? Quicksilver (Evan Peters) beat the snot out of an immortal god or Jean Grey squint from a distance like an otter in a shark cage? There was a lot of potential to use Jean and her telekinetic inexperience to the story’s advantage, but instead she’s planted in a corner and attacked by close-ups. You hang in there, Jean. You’re doing great.
Although there are a lot of good names lining X-Men: Apocalypse’s credits, the talent doesn’t really come through in the script. “Were you scared?” “No.” Pause for effect. What fills in the gaps is more CGI than a Ubisoft game. In all honesty, the CGI is pretty polished. X-Men: Apocalypse is saved by iridescent domes of magnetic force and Michael Fassbender tearing his heart out within them.
Otherwise we are left with a blue mutant (because it’s one colour fits all), his stiff prosthetics, and proclamations of dictatorship and doom in Lady Galadriel’s possession-voice. Dear Apocalypse; doth father know you weareth his tool box? Why he couldn’t be the yellow-skinned, gun-wielding half-robot from 1993 we will never know. And why his 1993 epic, all-inclusive powers (including transformer-skin, power beams, and malleable size) were reduced to dust devils, costume-making, and architecture is another unsolved mystery.
I’m a little baffled. Days of Future Past was the time-altering apology we waited eight patient years for. X-Men: Apocalypse, however, is the movie we felt needed to happen but the studio lost the will to polish off. It’s flashy, but easily forgotten. Aside from Fassbender, McAvoy, and a few meaningful Oscar Isaac moments from behind the voice box, this movie feels like a 5.5/10 safe zone.