Review: ‘X-Men: Apocalypse' lacks emotional punch

Olivia Munn plays Psylocke in “X-Men: Apocalypse.” (Twentieth Century Fox)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.

Secret ending? Yes, all the way at the end.

Running time: 145 minutes (~ 2.5 hours)

“X-Men: Apocalypse” is a superhero film that’s the ninth instalment in the “X-Men” film franchise. It sees the X-Men facing off against the world’s first mutant, Apocalypse, in a battle for the fate of the world. It stars James McAvoy (Professor X/Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique/Raven Darkholme), Oscar Isaac (Apocalypse/En Sabah Nur), Nicholas Hoult (Beast/Hank McCoy), Rose Byrne (Moira MacTaggert), Tye Sheridan (Cyclops/Scott Summers), Sophie Turner (Phoenix/Jean Grey), Olivia Munn (Psylocke/Betsy Braddock), Lucas Till (Havok/Alex Summers), Evan Peters (Quicksilver/Peter Maximoff), Kodi Smi-McPhee (Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner), Alexandra Shipp (Storm/Ororo Munroe), Ben Hardy (Archangel/Angel/Warren Worthington III), with a cameo by Hugh Jackman (Wolverine/Logan). It is rated PG-13.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” is the third movie in the James McAvoy-era of X-Men, and boasts a huge and popular cast of mutants. Despite the action and the variety of characters, it doesn’t have as much heft as the previous films, and feels like just another day in the life of the X-Men. It trades character development for visuals, and doesn’t wow you like the previous film, “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” does.

Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in “X-Men: Apocalypse.” (Twentieth Century Fox)

Highlight

Professor X and Magneto’s friendship

The bromance between the two mutant men is the stuff of legend. They understand each other so well, even better than they know themselves, and it’s this burden of knowing what’s best for each other that puts them in such ironic situations. While it’s not the focus of the movie, the drama between the two leads has the best character moments.

Good nods and winks to the audience

The movie makes several references to pop culture, especially pertaining to itself. It’s not afraid to poke fun at the franchise either, and genuinely delights in adding sly asides for more hardcore fans. However, these portions never overshadow the main plot, and are hardly noticeable if you’re looking for them. It’s truly a film by fans, for fans.

Professor X (Charles McAvoy) teaches in “X-Men: Apocalypse.” (Twentieth Century Fox)

Letdowns

Shallow character development

Having too many characters is not a problem. But many of them lack a defining character trait, meaning that they end up being forgettable roles. You remember the characters by their powers but not by their story, since their minuscule character growth is barely discernible. They are the same people at the beginning and end of “X-Men: Apocalypse,” and most importantly, the titular antagonist suffers from this same problem too.

The Horsemen are poseurs

The Horsemen don’t do anything but pose! They’re just Apocalypse’s entourage. Wherever he goes, they’ll plant themselves neatly and strategically around him, to round out his presence. You only see them in action in very few scenes. Apocalypse may claim otherwise, but he really has just one criteria for choosing his Horsemen, and that’s by how well they can pose.

Lacks emotional impact

Because there’s little character development, “X-Men: Apocalypse” has no dramatic weight in terms of story. You know the X-Men are supposed to win because the world is at stake, but that’s it. The personal stakes are inconsequential to the story, so you don’t feel anything even after the film has ended. The emotional gravitas just isn’t there.

Dialogue that describes action

If something is about to explode, you can bet that someone will say that it’s going to explode. If there’s an unstoppable force, someone will comment on the unstoppable force. Ditto for anything flying. It’s comic book dialogue (which serves a purpose, since a single panel doesn’t always convey the fluidity and motion of what is happening) that is completely unnecessary, since the action is always visually apparent. It’s very strange writing.

Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) in “X-Men: Apocalypse.” (Twentieth Century Fox)

“X-Men: Apocalypse” is a film for fans, but needs more emotional punch to be memorable.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes, unless you don’t like superhero films.

Score: 3.75/5

“X-Men: Apocalypse” opens in cinemas 19 May, 2016 (Thursday).

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