X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)






It’s better than X-Men:  Days of Future Past.  There.  I’ve said it.  Bring on the baseball bats and the thumbscrews. 

Sure, a lot of that is down to my new acting hero Oscar Isaac (about whom, more later) as Apocalypse; but it’s not just that.  No matter what you read and no matter what those dim-witted critics who find it hard to follow a story are saying, this is damned near the best of the series.

And while I’m in the process of annoying people with my opinionated stand on X-Men:  Apocalypse, let me make a couple of gratuitously sexist remarks.

When Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) says it loud and proud that she and her pals are X-Men, I just breathed a sigh of relief.  I keep waiting for those precious prats and pillocks of the P.C. Police to start shaking their little claws and demanding that the series be changed to X-Persons or X-Caucasians & Mutants of Colour or some such nonsense.

After all, now that we’ve legalized gay marriage and are well on the way to building transgender toilets galore, they probably have a very large hole in their busybody, interfering, creeping-Jesus lives.

Secondly, how could I not enjoy a movie where the lovely Jennifer isn’t even the most gorgeous — or second most gorgeous – woman in it?  And I think that I’ll let you make your own minds up as to who the Sad Old Bloke was staring at, a little drool running down his chin.


Damned with Faint Praise

OK; as you probably know by now, this outing of Professor Xavier’s Merry Mutants is the third part of a rough trilogy of origins that began with the brilliant X-Men:  First Class and continued with the rather wonderful Days of Future Past.  As with that previous film, director Bryan Singer pretty much takes it for granted that by this stage you’re up to date with what is happening in this fictional world.  Yet he remains incredibly deft at handling an enormous cast of characters and keeping straight the strands of a complex tale.

[Although not straight enough for some of our mainstream critics, who just get plain confused when taken out of their comfort zones – like the guy on the Dave Fanning Irish radio show, whose name I neither can nor want to remember.  Obviously more used to pretending that he sees Lots Of Deep Things in the films of Andrei Tarkovsky or Terrence Mallick, he keeps referring to these super hero films as ‘well made’.  Talk about damning you with faint praise whilst having a bit of a superior sneer.  Look, Dave Fanning, what is the point to wheeling on a bore like this who has neither interest nor context for these movies?  It’s just a waste of everybody’s time and sets my frigging teeth on edge.]


The gang’s all here:  Xavier (James McAvoy); Magneto (Michael Fassbender); Hank/The Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and a ton of others, with Rose Byrne returning as Moira McTaggert, who ties the good professor’s tongue up in understandable knots.  And there are a few interesting new old ones, with Sophie Turner (tired of getting the crap end of the stick as Sansa in every single season of Game of Thrones) appearing as the young, frighteningly powerful Jean Grey.


The Awesome Majesty that is Oscar Isaac.

It is set ten years on from the 1973 of DOFP and the planet’s very first mutant has been awoken from a sleep that he went into in 3,600 B. C.  And he has gathered together his Four Horsemen of the…eh, Apocalypse:  Storm (Alexandra Shipp); Psylocke (Olivia Mumm);  Magneto and Archangel (Ben Hardy), who represent Famine, Pestilence, War and Death respectively.

What raised this film to a whole different level for me was the very unexpected performance from Oscar Isaac in the role of Apocalypse.

Whenever he was on the screen, everyone else simply disappeared. I could not take my eyes off him.

Sure, I had enjoyed him in the appallingly under rated A Most Violent Year [reviewed here] and in the brilliant Ex Machina; but this time around he just knocked me out to the point where I will now go and see a film solely on the basis of him being in it.   Simple as that.

Isaac plays the insanely powerful Apocalypse in a deceptively understated, almost somnolent manner that to me was just breathtaking.  Every slightest movement, every nuance of his speech had me leaning forward, as if to drain each last drop from this utterly mesmerizing performance.  And physically, I kept thinking of the playwright/actor Steven Berkoff.  There’s this feeling of endless power barely restrained.  And of course, that is only a physical comparison because if this actually had been a young Berkoff then he would have been screaming like a mad man, roaring like a lunatic and chewing up every piece of scenery in sight.


Pissed off in the Eighties.

Possibly a better comparison would be to Marlon Brando when Marlon wasn’t being up his own ass.  Yeah, yeah, I can hear the groans of disbelief from here.  But yes — the Brando of On the Waterfront, the Brando of Apocalypse Now (fittingly) came to mind.  Isaac’s stunning performance held the strange vulnerability of the first and the twisted logic of the second – because Apocalypse awakens from his eons-old snooze, has a look around, sees Ronald Reagan mouthing out of him and decides quite reasonably that the 80s suck.

Hard to argue.

Then he thinks that this business of having a whole shit load of nuclear weapons spread around the globe and just ready to take someone’s eye out is probably the most stupid idea in humanity’s long history of stupid ideas.  And he’s going to do something about it.

Hard to argue.

Where his judgment gets a tad questionable is…well, are there any H.P. Lovecraft fans out there who remember one of his more OTT ranting, racist letters?  I’m thinking of the one where he said that a future India would only be inhabitable by cultured people when the whole place had been ‘cleaned off and fumigated’.  Ahem.  And that’s pretty much Apocalypse’s thinking, except he’s going one farther and wants the whole planet cleaned off – and since I have to live on it for my sins, I can’t be agreeing with that.

There are a hundred joys to take from X-Men:  Apocalypse, not least of which is the fact that scriptwriter and X-Men regular Simon Kinberg isn’t afraid to poke fun in his own direction, as when some of the young mutants have just been to see Return of the Jedi.  They all agree that the third film in a franchise is always the worst – and if you’ve seen X-Men 3: The Last Stand which was penned by Kinberg, then you’ll have a wry chuckle at that one.

Or there’s the excellent and sombre use of the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony to the background of Apocalypse sending the nuclear weapons into space.

Or – yes!—there is another superb Quicksilver set piece.


Look, you get the idea. I’m going to do you a favour and tell you that – if you’re a fan – then ignore the critics.  This one’s a cracker.  And I’ll even throw in another favour for free:  this time out, unless like me you like sitting through the closing credits, you don’t have to.  The tagline really doesn’t tell you much and you’ll sleep just fine without seeing it.










Author: Charley Brady

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