In 2011 Matthew Vaughan kicked off the revival of the younger X-Men with First Class and set things up, then along came the return of Bryan Singer with Days of Future Past and seriously kicked things up a notch with quite possibly the best X-Men film to date, but how do you follow that? Well the strategy appeared to be to bring in the most dangerous and powerful mutant that the X-Men universe has ever seen, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) and giving us even more younger versions of loved characters to geek out over, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), Ororo Munroe (Alexandra Shipp) and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The team must unite to fight Apocalypse and his four horsemen, Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn), before they can destroy the entire world. The casting choices from the get go of First Class have been effectively dead on from Michael Fassbender to Jennifer Lawrence to James McAvoy (who was willing to shave his head for us to see the first appearance of younger bald Charles Xavier) and the additions of people like Evan Peters as Quicksilver in Days of Future Past and the even newer members in this film have only improved the franchise. Turner and Sheridan introduced themselves with fine form as Jean and Scott, they took centre stage and got right into the mess of things, the same goes for Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, they all took the roles and made them their own, out of the shadow of their predecessors. The other end of that however is characters like Storm (Shipp) and Psylocke (Munn), who though had terrific potential with this film, were given very limited involvement or dialogue and disappointingly not given chance to reach that potential, particularly Munn whose usual charm and slick wit was not even touched and given only a few memorable frames, which were actually included in the trailers. The second disappointment is the complete misuse and confusing story arch of Wolverine, though Hugh Jackman has appeared in every X-Men film and for good reason, this strange iteration of him felt wholly out of place and unnecessary, if not slightly uncomfortable, which is a bad set up for the next and final Wolverine solo instalment.
The undeniable highlight is Quicksilver (Peters), his quick and funny dialogue, as well as his scenes of super speed are fantastic to watch, without which the film would have taken a much darker turn. The charm and loveable quality that we usually get from these films is all resting on Peters shoulders on this one but he does a brilliant job and his entire involvement is the pinnacle of the writing for this film. Isaacs as our villain does a great job, and being covered in that hefty blue costume day after day shows clear commitment which is highly respectable but while the characters powers are extremely impressive, the character as a whole feels like nothing particularly special, once it’s clear that he can pretty much do whatever he likes, the rest of his performance just feels inevitable and unsurprising.
That follows on nicely to the films main problem, there are no real surprises or unexpected events, Apocalypse is an all-mighty villain but these films always end the same way so the journey to get there becomes less exciting and fairly typical. The result of that is a huge shame because what is physically going on through that time, visually and in regards of special effects is something really quite good but it’s not being backed by a strong and engaging story which affectively dulls those factors. The other difficulty the film has is spreading the focus much too thin between the characters, which doesn’t give some moments the due care and attention that they deserve and having to quickly move on because there is so much stuffed into one film, when a large chunk of that could easily be replaced with a more in depth and thoughtful scene.
As a whole the film is entertaining to watch, there’s plenty of the elements that were enjoyed from the previous two, but it’s lacking much of a kick. The excitement is somewhat missing and at the end of it, the overriding emotion is mostly one of being underwhelmed, despite some great introduction of characters and great scenes.