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I have to confess something. I haven’t watched a superhero film since The Avengers.
In fact, aside from the fact that I barely watch movies at all, I’ve grown weary of superhero movies in general a long time ago.
So when I was asked to substitute for resident comic book lover Graham and watch X-Men Apocalypse my response was pretty much “eh, okay”.
Fortunately, the latest X-Men film made for an entertaining watch – at least if you went in with low expectations.
Watch it for the action?
As narrative goes, X-Men Apocalypse is pretty straightforward. It’s the X-Men (or what will be the X-Men). There’s an impending apocalypse to stop. That’s it.
Okay, okay, there’s a bit more to it than that. But that’s the gist of it.
Set during the waning years of the Cold War, the first mutant, dubbed Apocalypse, is awoken in Egypt after a millenia-long slumber. He immediately sets out to recruit more mutants, including some familiar faces along the way. It’s all part of his plot to effectively bring about the end of the world and start a new era for mutants. Of course, Professor Xavier and students won’t stand for this…
It all looks and sounds rather enticing to start off with, the ancient Egyptian intro being a feast for the eyes and setting the stage for Apocalypse to return. But aside from a great dive into Magneto’s life, the story never really serves up any major surprises. Sure, the mutants swap sides and it makes for an intriguing “oh, so they were good/bad at first!” take on things, but that’s about it.
The plot is clearly used as a crutch for some visually impressive action sequences and scenes of devastation. From familiar landmarks being torn asunder to those wonderful slow-motion bits with Quicksilver, it certainly makes for some lovely eye candy.
The 80s setting also feels like a crutch at times, being an excuse to surface younger versions of fan favourite mutants and sneak pop culture references in really.
Where does it go wrong?
It’s no cerebral plot then (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but there are a few moments when X-Men Apocalypse falls flat otherwise.
The “woe is me for I am a mutant” theme, for one, feels overplayed at this juncture. It’s understandable in the context of the time period and it’s a long-running theme with the franchise, but I couldn’t help but feel that they should either expand on it in a big way or leave it altogether.
Then there are a couple of weird moments. Someone learning to speak English by holding their hand on a TV set? Seriously. And an awkward line from Jennifer Lawrence that shouldn’t have made it out of the trailers.
Other than these “off” moments, everyone does a pretty good job in here, from James McAvoy as Professor X and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto to Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse and Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey.
Release date: 19 May 2016 (South Africa)
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Studio: Marvel Studios
Director: Bryan Singer
Age restriction: 13
Running time: 2 hours 24 minutes
Verdict: X-Men Apocalypse isn’t going to stand on its plot alone, but the visually arresting sequences, nostalgic setting and slick action still makes for a fun Saturday night movie with the friends. Just don’t expect anything more than that.