X-Men Apocalypse Review

Finally, a superhero series I’m actually interested in, the X-Men. Coming out two years before Sam Raimi’s Spiderman (thought by many to be the pivotal films for the superhero genre) X-Men showed how good superhero movies could be. And after watching Days Of Future Past literally 24 hours ago to be caught up with the entire franchise, now it’s time for the Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Oscsar Isaac and is directed by Bryan Singer. The film follows the young X-Men as Apocalypse (Isaac) the first ever mutant comes back to wreak havoc on the world.

The great cast we all know and love are back. In addition to the old regulars we have newcomers such as Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan and my favourite, Kodi-Smitt McPhee, recast to bring back younger versions of Jean Grey, Cyclops and Nightcrawler respectively. But even with the frankly amazing cast, there are too many characters. The first X-Men film gave us maybe around seven main mutants to remember. Here we have way too many; Apocalypse and his Horsemen, the older group of X-Men and the younger mutants as well. Lots of critics and fans have been hating on Oscar Isaac for his portrayal as Apocalypse. Sure, he was a bit flat, like if Ultron hadn’t had the brilliant voice of James Spader and we never understood what his powers were, but overall he was fine in the role.

The over-crowding of the mutants brings the other problem of the film to the front, the script. With all these characters are their different sub-plots and character re-introductions; it’ll get to the point where it’s been well over half an hour before you get back to certain characters. Mystique and Nightcrawler’s introduction especially, there are massive gaps in their parts of the story. And due to the odd editing, it seems like the duo are stuck walking around East Berlin for a couple of days instead of going where they need to immediately. To continue with the script, the film isn’t as witty as the ones before, with only a few jokes coming from the naivety of Nightcrawler. Character development, which Days Of Future Past managed to have a lot of, seems to happen here in an instant, with characters changing allegiances in mere seconds, rather than over the 2 AND A HALF HOUR running time.

It’s weird; all I seem to do with superhero films is rant when I come down to writing the review. Even with a franchise that I like, it’s just that saying anything I did like would essentially be repeating myself over and over again. The cast is good, the action is good, the effects are good, but we all know this already from past films. That’s not to say that there aren’t new, interesting side-plots. Quicksilver copies his set-piece run from Days Of Future Past in Xavier’s school, set to Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams and it is honestly the best scene of the film. A scene with Apocalypse, which uses a Beethoven remix (if I’m correct) is also fun for the choice and use of classical music in that scene. It’s just I can’t really remember anything from the rest of the film clearly.

The last thing I want to talk about is the scale of the film. In Days Of Future Past, the final climactic battle takes place on the lawn of the White House. All of the energy of the film was focussed on that space. In Apocalypse, it’s major battle encompasses nearly the entire world. When it’s spaced out it loses something. To make a nerdy analogy; in Doctor Who when the Doctor first faced the Daleks, it was a big deal. Now they appear so frequently it’s lost all sense of emergency. It’s the same here. It feels too big, too dramatic, too weighed down. It just needed to back up a small amount.

In looking back and writing this review, Apocalypse wasn’t as good as I remembered it being. I enjoyed myself while I was in the theatre, but it’s not a great X-Men or superhero film, just good enough.

Score: 6/10 Days Of Future Past was better.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review

I really have no prior experience with The Hunger Games franchise. I have never read the books and only saw the first in the film franchise (I was only half watching it as well). So in preparation for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 I have been on a Hunger Games crash course so I’ll know what’s happening in the new film (crash course here means reading the Wikipedia pages). So now I’m basically up to speed, let’s get on with it.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 stars Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore and is directed by Francis Lawrence. The film follows on from Mockingjay Part 1, as figurehead of the resistance Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) attempts to free the citizens of Panem from the tyranny of President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Just like the Marvel films of 2014, if you aren’t a huge fan of The Hunger Games series then you’ll have to probably go back and watch Mockingjay Part 1 so that you are up to date with the plot. Mockingjay Part 2 starts abruptly and doesn’t stop for people who don’t know the story, leaving me for the first few minutes trying to remember what I had learnt of the series and where we were in terms of the story. This may be due to the split in films, as they were made back to back they probably fit well together but as a standalone piece you really need to be on board before it starts.

Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t seem to display much emotion through the film, but thematically it makes sense. At this point in the series she’s the poster-girl for the rebel forces and is starting to get sick of not being allowed to fight alongside her friends. She’s become jaded and distant, a cold blooded-killer, and Lawrence plays it well. The rest of the cast play their parts well, but none of them are truly standout roles.

As Panem is in full revolutionary war, the fight scenes are really quite spectacular. One scene that stand out in particular is set in the dark tunnels underneath the Capitol, and is reminiscent of the xenomorph stampede in Aliens, with a motion tracker constantly beeping, indicating monsters in the darkness that wait at just the right time to strike at our heroes. The film actually plays these moments of tension build-up much better than films usually do, toying with the timing of revealing the monsters just to milk our expectations. Another battle that happens near the end of the film which shows the true civilian cost of war is a good gut-punch of a scene that really brought the grittiness to the screen.

That was all I really enjoyed of Mockingjay Part 2. Some people might say, “Well, you don’t know the franchise”. True, but Mockingjay’s faults are not due to its franchise, and more to do with it as a standalone film. First off, some of the script is laughably bad. There are some incredibly weak lines and situations throughout the film, including a poor attempt at survivors guilt on the part of Lawrence which feels totally out of place.

In connection with script, it seems that everyone who isn’t Katniss is wearing a countdown clock, counting down the seconds until they die to try an feel the film with some sort of emotional appeal. Maybe I’ve got too good at this, but I was able to say which characters were not going to make it to the end of the film around ten minutes into Mockingjay Part 2, and I don’t even know this series.

The spectre that is hanging over the film is the sad loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman halfway through filming, and the film does an alright job of trying to fill in his role. Lines were re-shuffled and scenes were cut, but around the second half of the film there is a definite hole where his character was meant to be, and the small amount of CGI they use to bring him back to life is rather shoddy.

I conclusion, while it definitely has some problems in the story department, and is incredibly over-long (I could easily cut 30-40 minutes from the run time) Mockingjay Part 2 actually makes me want to go back to the earlier films, just to see how the franchise started.

Score: 6/10 Fleeting moments of brilliance, but it’s length drags it down.