Los Angeles, US (BBN)-One of the things that made the first two installments of the rebooted X-Men much more interesting than a generic superhero movie was the lack of a super-villain.
X-Men: First Class was more of a character-driven drama, a story of two gifted men who meet at a crossroads of history and become great friends, reports The Hindu.
The conflict there was an ideological one: should mutants try to control their powers to blend in with society and cohabit peacefully with humans?
Or should they embrace their powers, be proud of their identity and if necessary kill humans for the sake of their survival?
By the end of the film, we saw Professor Charles Xaviers (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) part ways.
From an assured, solid beginning, the X-Men series entered the murky waters of time travel in Days of the Future Past. We had a mini villain figure in Bolivar Trask, a scientist who created giant robots designed to annihilate mutants.
The X-Men, shown in a doomed future, could change all this if they travelled back in time.
The film suffered from a lack of clarity about the defined set of powers of the X-Men, it didn’t have the coherence of First Class.
But it worked as it was based on relationships between the primary characters.
It was about old friends who fell out giving each other another chance.
The main flaw
The problem with Apocalypse is that it doesn’t feel as much a natural progression from its predecessors as a third part of a blockbuster franchisee.
Its central antagonist- the ancient mutant who rises from the pyramids- is an archetypal villain that has no organic connection with the first two movies.
It feels like an excuse to bring the X-Men, who as we saw in the last movie blend into society, back into action.
The film’s opening is telling. It begins in 3000 BC Egypt. We see a supernatural force shaking up a pyramid.
As bodies are buried under what seems like a catastrophe, we are left confused about what exactly happened.
A dazzling time travel through the birth of Christ and other political and cultural signposts bring us to the 1980s.
When the ancient mutant (En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse played by an unrecognisable Oscar Isaac) wakes up thousands of years later sending vibrations across the earth, it changes the lives of X-Men, who are living in peace.
It unsettles the steady rhythm of Professor Xaviers’ school brimming with the youthful energy of new students.
The biblical reawakening also has its ripple effect on Erik Lehnsherr, who is living a solitary, peaceful life with his wife and daughter in Poland.
The sequence, set in a grubby iron mine where he works as a labourer, marks the return of Magneto.
The scene and the one following that are remarkably realised.
They are controlled, uncluttered and have minimal spectacle that bring back fond memories of First Class.
Unfortunately, the more spectacular it gets from here, the less involving it becomes.
You can’t have one X-Men movie after another where the crisis is resolved with the last-minute change of heart of one of its protagonists.
It is a shade darker but at its core Apocalypse feels like a recycling of the most potent elements of the earlier two films: family, friendship and the eternal question if mutants are better humans than humans themselves.
As a result, a lot of what we chuckled at and were awed by in the earlier movies don’t have their desired effect.
Xaviers’ nervous stuttering in front of a former girlfriend, for instance, tries a little too hard for laughs.
The film also doesn’t quite serve up a Quicksilver/ Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters) sequence that matches up to the exhilarating, now-legendary set-piece in Days of the Future Past . Still, the video-game-playing teenage slacker, Maximoff, brings a breezy energy.
There are enjoyable music video-like ultra slo-mo sequences.
In terms of plot too, he is involved in a twist hinted at in the last film.
It is brought to the fore here but isn’t used entirely so that it can be kept for the next part.
Director Bryan Singer makes the material shine when he gives it his light touches, like a clever 80s meta-moment when we see three new recruits coming out of a theatre playing Back to the Future discussing how the third part is always the best in the series.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Apocalypse.
It is a strictly one-time watch, the kind of film you doubt you would ever like to revisit.
X-Men: Apocalypse
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner
Runtime: 104 mins