Star Rating:

X-Men: Apocalypse

Actors: Oscar Isaac, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy

Release Date: Thursday 19th May 2016

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Running time: TBC minutes

Although Richard Donner's Superman was the first major film with a superhero as its character, X-Men effectively launched the comic-book films of the modern era. At the time, Batman had descended into parody with Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin taking its cues and tone from the '60s TV series whilst the grittier, harder-edged Christopher Nolan series was many years away.

Bryan Singer's take on X-Men would change the format and give us a more realistic take on superpowers and recognised that superhero films only work as allegory or in a specific genre. For him, the X-Men doubled as people living on the margins of society. In X-Men 2, there was even a scene where Iceman 'came out' as a mutant to his parents. Fast-forward on to X-Men: Apocalypse and now, we see mutants are fully accepted into society - albeit they're still treated with suspicion and prejudice. Set ten years after the events of X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Charles Xavier (McAvoy) is working to better society with his school whilst Mystique (Lawrence) is smuggling mutants out of East Germany. Fassbender's Magneto, meanwhile, has left behind his terrorist mantle and is living as an ironworker in Poland. However, all that changes radically when Apocalypse (Isaac) awakes from his long slumber and finds the world ruled by humanity and not himself.So, as these things go, Apocalypse sets out on his nefarious scheme with the help of a young Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn) to recruit Magneto and Angel (Eastenders' Ben Hardy).

A common theme occurring through all comic-book films this summer is the huge number of moving parts involved. With Batman v Superman, it was crushed under the weight whilst Civil War managed to keep things rolling smoothly with a strong script. X-Men Apocalypse falls somewhere between the two, neither fully losing itself in the pitfalls of endless exposition and - at the same time - never fully explaining the motivations and developments of the characters. Mystique is in East Germany, helping to smuggle mutants out. Why? Magneto's left behind violence. Why? Psylocke is considered a hugely dangerous person. Again, why? All these new characters are introduced, but before we can get a grasp on them, the film's already hurtling towards the CGI laden climax. Singer and Kinberg are capable of making a big, explosive blockbuster and with X-Men Apocalypse, you've really got that.It's just a shame that it is both audacious and bombastic and, at the same time, a little bit of anti-climax.

Oscar Isaac is horribly miscast as Apocalypse. The film spends an inordinate amount of time telling you how powerful and terrifying he is, but we never really feel it from his performance. Likewise, Olivia Munn's Psylocke doesn't really have all that much to do. Jennifer Lawrence, meanwhile, looks truly bored as Mystique. The character's vampish violence and playfulness is gone completely and replaced with a contractually obligated performance by Lawrence. Alexandra Shipp and Ben Hardy are given almost nothing to do whilst Nicholas Hoult, as well, seems listless in his role. Thankfully, James McAvoy and Sophie Turner turn in interesting performances whilst Evan Peters is clearly having a blast as Quicksilver. The inclusion of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine amounts to nothing more than an extended cameo, but it's arguably the best scene in the entire film - and completely out of step with the rest of the film.

For all these negatives, the poor storytelling, the sub-standard performances, there is something hugely bombastic and entertaining about X-Men Apocalypse. The visuals are a delight and when it's good, it's very good. It's just a shame that those moments are spaced about between the film instead of being more commonplace. The erratic narrative and script would make you think that the film had several writers, with several directors offering suggestions before departing the set. That, however, isn't the case. It's really down to Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg having too many plates spinning throughout. What made Days Of Future Past so good was that, despite the complex surroundings, it was a simple and clean story - Wolverine had to come back in time to stop Mystique killing this one guy. Here, it's Apocalypse attempting to wipe out humanity, recruit mutants whilst Mystique is battling her conscious whilst Xavier and Magneto are trying to heal their rift whilst... You see where this is going?It might just come down to the fact that Apocalypse was, simply, the wrong choice for a villain. It's been proven that CGI-laden finales are no longer going over with audiences and that villains - in comic-book films, especially - have to believable and understandable.

As it stands, X-Men Apocalypse is a bit of a mess, but a reasonably entertaining one. There are some good moments to be found, but there's enough bad points in the film to keep it from being great.