Erik/Magneto Michael Fassbender who has the power to manipulate magnetic fields in X-Men: Apocalypse. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox
Erik/Magneto Michael Fassbender who has the power to manipulate magnetic fields in X-Men: Apocalypse. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

Film review: X-Men: Apocalypse is unconvincing and riddled with clichés

X-Men: Apocalypse

Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac

Two stars

The latest X-Men movie is an awful, joyless slog. Ancient, god-like mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) awakens from a millenia-long sleep with designs on ending the ­universe – not a morning person, clearly.

He recruits four mutants, including Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to be his ­horsemen of the apocalypse. Professor Xavier (James ­McAvoy) and his young X-Men, naturally, oppose him.

The opening – a camp, amateurish melodramatic sci-fi scene that would have been too schlocky for an episode of Stargate SG1 – does not bode well. Xavier spouts two clichés in four lines of dialogue, as we cut to an unconvincingly animated CGI Egypt circa 2000 BC. En Sabah Nur, the first mutant, is betrayed by his followers and enters a long slumber.

Isaac is a good, charismatic actor, but is here entombed in a layer of makeup and prosthetics too thick for acting to penetrate. His character is less interesting even than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze in 1997’s awful Batman & Robin. Every time Apocalypse and his gang takes to the screen, your heart will sink a little.

Fassbender, at least, offers an almost plausible portrayal of Magento’s angst. At the start of the film, he has a wife and children – as the posters show he joins the bad guys, you sense immediately that his happiness is not going to last. But he is given dialogue, motivation and direction so farcical that even the usually reliable Fassbender can’t pull it off. Going from family man to pro-genocide – and another twist before the end – is quite a character arc.

X-Men: Apocalypse makes Batman V Superman look plausible and well-scripted.

This film is on a par with Transformers 3, which, though long and painful, at least tried to be light-hearted.

The only funny bit involves Quicksilver's (Evan Peters) speedster power – a gag already used in X-Men: Days of Future Past, a flawed film that now looks quirky and interesting by comparison.

Captain America: Civil War (made by Disney's Marvel Studios) is a clear lesson in how to write a witty, entertaining superhero film. Apocalypse is a clunker that encapsulates all the worst clichés of the genre, with none of the charm.

After a string of Spider-Man movie failures, Sony recently agreed to share their rights to the character with Marvel Studios – it’s time for 20th Century Fox to do the same with the X-Men.

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