X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

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Bryan Singer directs James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender in this Eighties good mutants versus ancient evil mutant epic.

X-Men is nobody’s favourite comic book franchise but it often is one of the most pleasurable and satisfying in its adherence to good old fashioned Spielbergian and Cameronesque big screen movie craft. Coming off the series best Days of Future Past and game changing Deadpool, Apocalypse is not the strongest entry (a bit like the same damp praise I gave Spectre of being a mid tier Bond – it went through the beats but they are beats I love). Apocalypse suffers deeply from an air that the at-the-end-of-their-deals Fassbender and Lawrence don’t really want to be here anymore and therefore their key lead characters seem diluted rather than evolved. Kinky Mystique’s rebooting as dour Raven has defanged the troublemaker of purpose, she’s here now to make speeches, look glum and only turn blue if she really, really, really contractually has to. And being the box office powerhouse and undeniable acting talent J-Law is, she gets it her way and not the way a fan of this series needs her mutant to be. Fassbender gets a nice “Oh the humanity” acting scene in a forest before switching to clock watching autopilot for the next two hours. Much has been made of it. I actually thought the preceding scene where Magneto uses his powers to instinctually save a human, then can’t trust those around him not to betray his mutanty -ness a little more interesting. That was almost a tipping point where Magneto was beginning to value “normal” life and trust them not to turn. Unthinkable in previous instalments that he might value and trust “us”. And then proven right in the scene that is getting all the attention. The universe can move on without them especially if a still game McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and especially Evan Peters stick about. Ensemble issue aside the stakes do not seem as involving as DoFP and therefore the action often perfunctory. The series standard excellent world building, Singer’s strong blockbuster storytelling skills (the pyramid self destruct at the start is thrillingly inventive) and the long won affection I have for this franchise over 16 years of some amazing peaks, occasional troughs means I’m OK with an OK one. Marvel for all their successes haven’t earned that from me (yet). I doubt I’ll ever watch the second Iron Man or second Thor again. Whereas I’d relish a full X-Men marathon even with Origins stumbling about at the midway point, blocking the runners. The weakest so far of this year’s mega cast superhero rumbles but one that at the very least has at long last an R-rated Wolverine break out of nowhere for a whoppingly bloody set piece and scuttle off to his Old Man Logan solo pic, claws dripping tantalising  in (assumed) gore. Now you want to buy a ticket, don’t you?

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