Already this year, we've seen Batman, Superman, Deadpool and The Avengers up on the big-screen and we're not even half-way through 2016 yet. Next in line for their shot are the beloved X-Men, taking on their biggest foe yet in Bryan Singer's X-Men: Apocalypse and here's my review.

It's no secret that I'm a huge comic-book movie fan. The Dark Knight Trilogy is one of my all-time favourite movie trilogies; Captain America: Civil War is one of my all-time favourite MCU pictures; I adored this year's Deadpool and, whilst I'm not too huge on Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, I certainly didn't mind them as much as most people (I actually quite liked the former). However, one of my favourite cinematic franchises is the X-Men franchise; it's one of the most reliable superhero franchises out there (6 out of 8 movies - including Deadpool and The Wolverine films - have been great); Days of Future Past is one of my all-time favourite superhero movies and I love what Bryan Singer has done with these films so I was very excited about Apocalypse - set to round off the prequel trilogy of First Class and DOFP. Now, whilst there is a lot of criticism being hurled towards it, and whilst it may not as good as some of the other films wielding the X-Men name, Apocalypse is an enjoyable film nonetheless and a great way to round off the trilogy.

In a brilliantly fun and visually gorgeous opening sequence set in Cairo in 3600 BC, we're introduced to the film's eponymous antagonist Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) who transfers his aging self into a younger body before the pyramid which he had built collapses and buries him beneath it. Skip forward to the 1980's, around a decade after Days of Future Past, in the new timeline we saw come to fruition in that film, the film brings back First Class and DOFP veterans and fan-favourites Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) - now running his school for Gifted Youngsters - and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) - seen as a hero in these parts, off helping other mutants whenever possible - whilst introducing (or re-introducing) characters like Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) into the mix. When Moira MacTaggart (the retruning Rose Byrne) accidentally resurrects Apocalypse in the 20th Century, he goes about recruiting Four Horsemen -  the younger iterations of Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp) join with a very broken and torn Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who we find at his lowest yet, to make this team - the X-Men (new and old) must come together to prevent Apocalypse from bringing about global extinction.

For the most part, aside from The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine (yikes!), the X-Men franchise has been pretty great. The first film, back in 2000, reinvigorated the genre and officially kicked off the over-abundance of superhero films that we have today - in an industry now so crowded with comic-book adaptations, releasing every other month. The words "superhero fatigue" have been tossed around a lot recently (we've already had 3 major superhero releases and we're not even halfway through 2016) but if there's a franchise that we can rely on for always delivering the goods, it's X-Men; complete with atypical, engaging narratives and characters and a great handle, knowledge and respect for the source material. Apocalypse is no exception - albeit if opting for the tried-and-tested approach to its premise, taking a more formulaic approach than prior instalments -  and shows just why this franchise is one of the more reliable, trustworthy go-to cinematic franchises out there for an enjoyable and satisfying comic-book endeavour. The script is a hefty juggling act, having to balance so many characters and arcs and little subplots all with the main premise, taking into account the new timeline and other X-Men films, whilst respecting the source material and providing fan-service, all whilst keeping things cohesive, coherent and palatable for audience members - both fans of the comics and average movie-goers alike.
The screenplay, from franchise-alum Simon Kinberg, does a good job with this. The script carves out satisfying arcs for all of the returning characters - the likes of Xavier, Mystique, Beast etc. - but it also does a good job of introducing (or, in some cases, reintroducing) the new characters, like the younger versions of fan-favourites Storm, Cyclops and Jean Grey. The performances are all great too. Again, James McAvoy is great as Charles Xavier - continuing to evolve towards the iconic Professor X we knew from the original trilogy, played by Sir Patrick Stewart (even going to the extent of sporting the bald head this time around). Michael Fassbender gives another great turn as Magneto, his character's story is perhaps the most hard-hitting and gives the film a lot of its emotional and dramatic weight, because of where his story is when we first meet him in Apocalypse. As always, his chemistry with McAvoy is exceptional and the back and forth between the pair is tons of fun to watch unfold. Jennifer Lawrence is also fine and, despite the backlash against her lack of blue, the reasoning behind it is fairly well-explained in the film - although, it does seem like she is phoning it in, in a couple of scenes, with a lack of interest in her work or the film. Evan Peters also returns as Days of Future Past-standout Quicksilver and his extensive screentime this time around is very welcomed, bringing plenty of quirk and wit and levity. He also has one of the best scenes in the film yet again, perhaps even surpassing his brilliant DOFP Pentagon scene.

As far as the newcomers to the franchise, everyone is great too and match the prequel-trilogy veterans blow for blow. Tye Sheridan is the standout as Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops. We empathise and root for him right from his introduction and the Mud actor embodies the personality and nature of the character so well. Sophie Turner is also delightful to watch as a young Jean Grey, taking on from Famke Janssen's great turn in the original trilogy very well. Nightcrawler also makes his return to the X-franchise and Kodi Smit-McPhee brings the same heart and charm to the role as Alan Cumming did in X-2. All the actors are great in their roles. Oscar Isaac makes an imposing antagonist too whose presence is intimidating but, considering how talented an actor he is, it's just a shame to see that he is so lauded down with makeup and a filtered voice - almost as if any actor could have played the role. It's also a shame that the story didn't do as much with his character as they could have; the X-Men films usually manage to give more depth to their villains, driven for revenge or personal conflicts but here, the film falls into the clich├ęd superhero villain trope where Apocalypse wants to destroy the world for the sake of it, because he has the power to do so. Also, aside from Magneto, his Four Horsemen seemed a little redundant and underused - they had very little to do and say that actually contributed to Apocalypse's plan and the narrative as a whole, frankly - the performances from Munn, Shipp and Hardy were still very solid nonetheless, however.

The action sequences were exhilarating to watch too and Singer, who has now helmed 4 of the main 6 X-Men films, understands this world and these characters and his direction as a whole was great. He managed to juggle so much here and still deliver a very solid, very focused film. With a runtime of 144 minutes, it clocks in as the longest film in the franchise and it could have easily been shaved down a fair bit to make a shorter, tighter film but it's still entertaining regardless and the film never really gets boring or dull. Of course, with an iconic X-Men foe such as Apocalypse, and a film following up the stellar Days of Future Past, Singer had to deliver in scale and Apocalypse is huge and ambitious and epic in every sense of the word. The finale is grandiose and epic and tons of fun to watch. It's very SFX and CG-driven but the visuals are gorgeous and the film looks wonderful. There's plenty to love here - avoiding spoilers, there's a certain scene (which was ruined in the second trailer) featuring a certain character that is great fan-service and just so exciting and fun to see in its entirety.

In the end, X-Men: Apocalypse is certainly not as good as Days of Future Past or even First Class but it's by no means a bad film or as poor as the critical reviews are claiming it to be. For everything being juggled here, for what this film was supposed to be, it delivers. Apocalypse brings a satisfying conclusion to the prequel trilogy that Matthew Vaughn started in 2011. This is an epic, action-packed, fun visual spectacle that is well-directed, well-acted, entertaining to watch and everything you'd expect from an X-Men film - sure, they have their similarities but each one brings enough to the table to make it standout from the rest for its own merits. Michael Fassbender brings the tear-jerking emotion; Oscar Isaac brings the menace; Evan Peters brings the humour and the BADASS Quicksilver scene; Simon Kinberg brings all the story elements to create a wholly satisfying and compelling narrative and Bryan Singer, as the X-Men alum he is, ties it all up and brings it together in what is a very solid, enjoyable - albeit if flawed - film.

VERDICT:
Epic in scale and ambition, X-Men: Apocalypse is a huge, fun popcorn flick. Not as good as its predecessor but strong for its own merits, this is a solid and entertaining - if sometimes confused and messy - entry into one of cinema's most reliable comic-book franchises.




About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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