The Marvel superheroes are on overdrive. We have barely recovered from the head-on collision between feuding teams headed by Iron Man and Captain America in Civil War. There is more rivalry to deal with in X-Men Apocalypse, this time between Team Xavier and Team Magneto.
Director Bryan Singer works with a chaotic story by a team of writers that comprises himself, his long-time collaborators Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, and franchise veteran Simon Kinberg. The new movie is a continuing chapter in the rebooted series about the mutant population that shares an uneasy coexistence with the “normal” world. A young Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) heads the school for gifted children whose illustrious alumni include Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
The film opens in the cavernous depths of a pyramid in the Nile Valley somewhere around 3600 BC. A psychic mutant is betrayed and buried alive, meant to be awakened in the mid-1980s, a time when Michael Jackson and The Eurythmics were top of the charts. As a repeated reminder of the period setting, Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is dressed in a red leather jacket inspired by “Thriller.” An unduly long time freeze sequence with Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who moves at the speed of light rescuing children from a burning mansion, is cut to “Sweet Dreams”.
Awakened thousands of years later, En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is now uber powerful and distraught that the world is ruled by violence and weaponry. He recruits mutants to help him bring down this civilisation and help rebuild it. Mutants surface from all over the globe – Berlin, Poland, Cairo, America – and they are soon divided between the good guys and the bad guys. Xavier gets add-ons Scott/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Nightcrawler and Quicksilver along with existing Jean (Sophie Turner) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast). Apocalypse finds his “Four Horsemen” in Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto, who is still tormented by memories of the torture of his parents in a concentration camp during WWII and his confused identity.
There are so many characters from the past, present and future that it’s hard to keep track. There are also desperate attempts at humour and cheap plays aimed directly at the fanclubs. For instance, the younger mutants while discussing Return of the Jedi mention that the third one in a franchise is always the worst, which is a clear dig at the Brett Ratner directed X-Men: The Last Stand. At almost two-and-a-half hours, in spite of collapsing cities, new characters and a Wolverine cameo, X-Men: Apocalypse offers so little over such a long running time.