The X-Men franchise has now spawned eight films. When you consider the novelty had dried up and collapsed on itself like a curled out turd by the time of the second one, that really is a stark blast of unfathomable lunacy. It infers that, even after any engaging, comprehensible storytelling ceases to exist in the series, genuine human beings still demand more, as if it won’t increase the chasm between their brain and skull. Who are these terrible people suckling mediocrity milk from the comic book cash cow? Who keeps paying to see Hugh Jackman as a lumberjack augmented with bread knives? Is it you? You’re a fucking disgrace.
Anyway, now we have this one – X-Men: Apocalypse, whose title isn’t actually foretelling the end of the series; it’s just the name of a bloke who looks like Ivan Ooze from the Power Rangers movie. He (Oscar Isaac) is an ancient Egyptian mutant, believed to be the first ever, who has survived for centuries because he can do data transfers with other mutants, inheriting their bodies and their powers. After a particularly long nap, Apocalypse awakens to discover that humanity has smeared Earth with its arse gravy and he must now reclaim it for the ‘strong’. That involves recruiting a posse of four super powerful individuals who are highly susceptible to turning good.
Considering the previous film (X-Men: Days of Future Past) ended with Wolverine’s subconscious being transported to an earlier version of himself, where all the characters are conveniently replaced by younger actors in a move that will probably ensure another octet of films, it’s not the most natural of places to continue the franchise. But that was always going to be the case after their clock-tampering antics left us on a more confused timeline than an especially nonsensical episode of Doctor Who. The subsequent result is a film that acts as both a sequel and a prequel, revisiting familiar faces but pointlessly retelling some of their origin stories. I’m sorry X-Men, but you didn’t need to show us Cyclops blowing up a toilet door with his eyes and you definitely didn’t need to give him Ray-Ban laser glasses.
Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is a particular source of annoyance in this film. He’s utilised as Apocalypse’s main weapon, unleashing his full potential by moving the metal in the earth and sea. It’s a planetary refurbishment that just happens to be killing millions of people. That’s fair enough, but seeing him do it isn’t half as interesting as you’d expect. For the most part he inactively levitates in a magnetic field like an anti-Buddhist who, instead of thinking tranquil thoughts, is busy launching pieces of scrap metal at Egyptian children. Despite adding yet another genocide to his CV, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is still convinced there’s good in Magneto. And, frustratingly, he’s right. This is a villain that has switched sides so often it’s become impossible to take him seriously. ‘Oh look, Magneto’s is brining us to the brink of extinction once again. What is he like?’
Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique isn’t much better. Having decided she’s now one of the good guys, she’s started recruiting friendlier mutants on behalf of the X-Men. That essentially makes her a blue-skinned Katniss Everdeen, except, for the majority of the film, she’s not blue. She’s meant to be one of the more carefully handled characters, so you can imagine how interesting the remaining colourfully suited twats are. The key word is ‘lost’: we’re lost in time; the characters are existentially lost, the interest is lost and director Bryan Singer has lost the plot. With a title like ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, they could have made a far greater film about mutilated men fighting for survival in a world unaccepting of eunuchs. Maybe it was about that and I just missed the metaphor.