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X-Men Apocalypse review: a bloated and cliched been-there-done-that kind of film

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

By the time you've heard the fifth cliched sentence - like many you've heard in the 7 X-Men films preceding Apocalypse and countless others - you know exactly what you're in for.

"Everything they've built will fall! And from the ashes of their world, we'll build a better one!" exclaims latest super villain Apocalypse (an absolutely wasted Oscar Isaac) before trying to bring about, well, the apocalypse.

Stale fare

Perhaps Bryan Singer should take that advice himself. His latest is a been-there-done-that kind of movie, a sort of throwback to the first couple of X-Men films that follows franchise formula pretty closely.

Namely: Heroes and villains, both old and new, clash with each other before recognising and joining forces against a greater enemy that threatens them all.

Cities are demolished, mutant powers are showcased, punches are thrown (mental ones too) and at some point Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) makes a heartfelt plea to the humanity he knows still exists somewhere inside Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

Wolverine gets one completely mad dog scene before rushing off into the wilderness - but not before he gets teenage Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) jealous over him and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner).

Huh. Wonder when we saw all those plot lines last.

Cliche central

If Apocalypse is truly to be the end of the First Class Trilogy, then none of the characters have really learned anything new or progressed since the last film.

Prof Xavier is successfully running his school for the gifted. But there are no X-Men yet so you gotta wonder what he's really been up to over the past 10 except for grooming his perfect hair. Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) is still teaching there and he gets the lovely job of looking after new recruits Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). So far, the same old.

In Germany, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is running around trying to help mutants. Magneto, who's settled down in Poland after the events of the last film, is brought back into he fold after his wife and daughter are killed. That obviously puts him back in the foul mood we're so accustomed to.

They're soon all brought together, including Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who's looking for his dad Magneto, when CIA agent Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) accidentally witnesses the resurrection of En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse, the world's oldest mutant who's woken out of a 3,000 year slumber.

The titular heroes' plan once he wakes up and sees the decadence of the '80s is to bring about a new world order. Which means wiping out all of humanity, of course, with his sand-controlling powers. And since his original Four Horseman are long dust, he acquires four new followers - Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto.

Everything that follows is formulaic and stale, stuffed with some great CGI- stuff. Yawn.

Flimsy storyline

As an audience, we've been getting used to superhero films with a large number of characters. Some manage to keep the story intact by using the characters to add richness. But while most Apocalypse is cluttered, that clutter doesn't serve the film well at all.

That's because X-Men movies are usually at their best when they hone in on one specific relationship. The debut film in the franchise was driven by Wolverine and Rogue's close bond as outsiders. X2 was about Wolverine battling with his past. First Class dove into the complexities of Xavier and Magneto's friendship. Days of Future Past was largely about Mystique and Professor X's journey toward redemption.

The movies of the franchise have always fared best when the conflicts are personal. It's why we love characters like Xavier, Magneto, and Wolverine. It's never been about their super powers; it's about their struggles and shortcomings.

But Apocalypse gives us about 10% of back-story for 90% of its characters, and only really focuses on large-scale CGI destruction.

It's the adults (McAvoy, Lawrence, and Fassbender) who really end up doing the emotional heavy lifting. Isaac's Apocalypse is like a dull version of Tom Hardy's Bane - brutish and monosyllabic.

And for the most part, every other character in Apocalypse is a glorified cameo. They show up, say a line or two, shoot laser beams out of their eyes or some other cool thing, and disappear. Munn's Psylocke (who looks like she stepped out of Power Rangers) exists purely for her assets.

But it's Evan Peters and Hugh Jackman who steal the show (again) with two brief sequences that are more fun and exciting than the rest of the film's runtime.

Note to Fox and Marvel, we need a Quicksilver standalone film. Evan Peters, much like Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool, has that perfect mix of smarmy and badass.

The verdict

Singer's latest film is overloaded with action and computer-generated mayhem to conceal its own shortcomings: it has nothing new to say.

So basically in a year where the superhero genre has arguably hit the heights of greatness (Captain America: Civil War) and the depths of the cesspool (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), X-Men: Apocalypse is in the middle area while teetering toward the lower side of the scale.

Trust your gut, skip this one and wait for it to come on TV.

RATING: 2 out of 5

First published: 20 May 2016, 7:27 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.