The X-Men franchise has always been one of my favourite superhero ensembles out there. It’s not just your typical ‘over powered good guy saves the world formula’ which we’ve seen again and again and again. It was about discrimination against a group of humans that can’t fit into normal society. It was about being true to yourself even though everyone else might see you as a dangerous, fire spouting or laser shooting freak. And it was about the evolution of the human race and the fight for survival of the fittest. And yes, of course it was about things exploding in the most spectacular way possible.
X Men: Apocalypse, directed by Bryan Singer, is set in 1980s America after the events of X Men: First Class but before and after some of the event of X Men: Days of Future Past but in parallel with X Men: Wolverine (but in a different time line from the original X Men trilogy). If you didn’t understand it’s okay, because no one who’s made these movie does either. Which is why you should never get involved in time travel unless you’re Doc Brown. Apocalypse is an ancient being – the first mutant ever – that has awoken from a 4000 year nap and is disappointed that mutants have not enslaved the human race yet. Hence he decides to take over the world by amassing a giant army of four mutants and plans to bring about an Apocalypse (who would have guessed). So it’s up to the X Men, who are not called the X Men yet but will be by the end of the movie, to stop him.
Yawn. How many times have we heard this before? Bad guy think that humans suck, and therefore must kill them. Good guys form a team with cool outfits to swoop in and save the day. It’s a generic formula that may have worked before, when super hero movies were still a new thing. But we’re getting one every couple of months now, and if you’re not doing something different than all you’ll get is a groan and a bad review.
What’s sad about this X Men movie was that there was so much potential for another good instalment to the rebooted trilogy. Apocalypse could have been truly scary, if he were given some better lines and didn’t look like he was wearing a neck brace the whole time. Magneto’s arc throughout the movie was compelling, no small part due to a great performance by every straight man’s man crush Michael Fassbender. If only Apocalypse didn’t have him on a leash the whole time, because God forbid we have a villain whose motivations we actually care about.
And then there’s Jennifer Lawrence. She’s done a fine job in other X Men movies, but here she seems like she’s only there because her contract demands it. She’s playing the role, but looks like she had to be lobotomised while doing so.
It wasn’t bad – it was fine. The plot was fine, the action scenes were fine, and overall you leave the movie feeling like fine, but unsatisfied. In my opinion this X Men could have been good, really good, and that’s what made this movie so disappointing. The franchise is losing touch with what moviegoers are looking for in a superhero flick. Superhero fatigue is in serious danger of happening, and in two or three years time movies like X Men: Apocalypse might be dead on arrival at the box office.
I’m no professional film-put-together person, but the good versus evil formula won’t last long. I think it’s time for characters to be more ambiguous – they do some good, and they do some bad, and have the conflict be over ideologies rather than absolute right or wrong. It’s the only way to make characters with invincible powers that can end the world more relatable and ultimately, more compelling.
But keep Michael Fassbender, I have no complaints about him.