Directed by: Bryan Singer | 143 minutes | action, adventure, fantasy, science fiction | Actors: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Lana Condor, Olivia Munn, Warren Scherer, Rochelle Okoye, Monique Ganderton, Fraser Aitcheson, Abdulla Hamam
The superhero film can amuse not only by the grace of its supernatural protagonists, but also thanks to opposing forces in the form of evil super enemies. Without a villain there is little credit for the good guys. The goodness of characters can therefore be measured by the moral reprehensibility of their opponents. The same goes for their popularity. No X-Men without Magneto. Spider-Man is nothing without his nemesis Norman Osborn / Green Goblin. And, in the competing DC universe, Batman takes his fame from the no less beloved The Joker today.
In “X-Men: Apocalypse,” the film’s namesake is the supervillain on duty. This Apocalypse is the first known mutant on Earth and has its origins in the heyday of the Egyptian Empire. By manipulating atomic matter, he managed to capture the absolute power of historical greatness. Until an alliance of brave rebels puts an end to his evil practices. Apocalypse falls into a slumber from which he will only wake up in the 1980s. Just as the X men laid their special powers to rest for the sake of peace.
Yet the heroes are forced to confront Apocalypse. The fight between good and evil has only one winner. With Marvel’s signature synergy of humor and action, “X-Men: Apocalypse” works toward an entertaining climax of life and death. However, the contradictions do not help the tension. The rigid black-and-white thinking even comes across as quite old-fashioned. The entry of the character of Apocalypse in the comic version of X-Men was partly due to the fear that prevailed in the 80s of a devastating nuclear war. In modern cinema, however, that simplicity is no longer sufficient. “X-Men: Apocalypse” is therefore mainly stuck in one-dimensionality.
More could have been done there. The idea of an apocalypse does not only mean the end of a world, but above all a new beginning. The almost esoteric symbolism that the film uses with regard to Apocalypse (pyramids with gold capstones, disarmament of the Earth and the notion of freedom and enlightenment) is completely ignored as the film progresses. Just where the surface could have been transcended, “X-Men: Apocalypse” falls back into easy and often unnecessary action.
The men and women of the X-Men cannot overcome those rigid relationships. The events of “X-Men: Apocalypse” are set ten years after the predecessor “Days of Future Past”. New mutants like Nightcrawler, Archangel and Storm have entered the world stage. The youngsters are neatly presented each one, but because the film cannot say goodbye to its old heroes, none of them get the attention they deserve. Characters don’t seem to matter anymore in X-Men. The repetition of themes all the more. After six parts (the original trilogy plus the three reboot parts) the tune of being different sounds very familiar. The heroes have been enslaved to the plot. The performance of audience favorite Wolverine, who is allowed to show his powers in an otherwise completely meaningless scene, also testifies to laziness.
Fortunately there is still Magneto. Although his relationship with the X men, Professor Xavier in the lead, is not innovative either, he continues to single-handedly show that the world is not so black and white yet. Somewhere halfway through “X-Men: Apocalypse,” it is joked that the third of a trilogy is often the least. Without Magneto’s ambiguity, that irony would have become a bitter reality.