Bryan Singer is back with his latest cinematic outing, another X-Men film! He was the first director to bring the mutant heroes to the big screen, starting out with a very solid first installment (though I will never forget nor forgive “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.” – urgh). The sequel, X2: X-Men United was a great film (with a rubbish title) – it had a great set of villains, an intriguing plot, and some very good writing. To this day it remains one of my favourite X-Movies, in fact – one of my favourite superhero movies – and it left things set up for an exciting third installment. And then Bryan Singer swanned off to go direct a bad Superman film and everything went to shit. X-Men: The Last Stand (why not X3, eh?) was taken over by Brett Ratner. Brett. Ratner. Ugh. It was like a really bad and ill-conceived rebound fling after a tragic break up. But then X-Men Origins: Wolverine happened, actually one of the worst films ever made – a film lurching from bad set piece to worse set piece to WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO DEADPOOL – NO. The second Wolverine film was better, but then being stabbed in the leg is arguably better than being stabbed in the eye. But then shone a light at the end of the tunnel…
In 2011 Singer returned to the franchise prequel/reboot/thing for X-Men: First Class, though this time as a producer. He had been in talks to direct, but ultimately there was too much schedule conflict with (the achingly dull and predictable) Jack The Giant Slayer – but even just getting Singer back in the writing room, and giving him a big oar to stick in as producer, was enough. First Class wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was the first good X-Men film in eight years – and with a new young cast. The potential for something great was there, and it was reached with last year’s Days of Future Past, which saw Singer back in the chair, (X-Men) uniting the casts of the 2000s films and First Class in his interpretation of one of the comics’ most iconic plot lines. The film was fun, tense, well-acted, wonderfully directed (especially the Quicksilver scene, which everyone goes on about – but they should, it’s great) – and most importantly it erased almost all the events of the bad films. Score. Unfortunately, though, this means the pressure is on for X-Men: Apocalypse….
First things first: they’ve at least dodged the Ultron bullet and not stuck “Age of” in the title. It is really hard to get an age across in a 150 minute film where the goodies really have to win and the villain whose age it is has to compete with fifteen heroes for screen time. Second things second: I appreciate the ballsiness of Singer to take on Apocalypse, as there’s every chance of upsetting every superfan in comicdom while also isolating the more casual X-Fans. Apocalypse is an iconic villain for fans of the comics (and the amazing 90s cartoon), but there’s no denying that he is weird and complicated: an ancient Egyptian who is immortal, has infused himself with alien technology, and is here to be a right old nuisance by trying to end civilisation as we know it, probably. He’s a complicated character, but if done well he could be fantastic.
The trailer kicks off with a blurry shot of Apocalypse doing sod all, and then erupts into a flurry of random apocalypsy images, weird symbols, mushroom cloud explosions, cups of tea being knocked over – chaos. And then we get our first look at the new Jean Grey, Sophie Turner (aka Sansa Stark, nobody’s favourite Game of Thrones character). She has seen the end of the world, but don’t worry because (not bald) Xavier (the genuinely excellent James MacAvoy) is here to reassure her it was just a dream. But while his voice reassures, his eyes are full of intriguing worry… And they’re right to be, for soon enough we’re confronted with eerie music (The Hunted, by Snow Ghosts) and a monologuing villain going on about how great he is and how everyone important in history was him, or some crap. And then one of the goodies (in this instance Rose Byrne’s Moira MacTaggart, still reimagined as a secret service agent rather than a geneticist) starts going on about how old and great and dangerous this guy is. We get it, his name’s Apocalypse – we’re meant to be scared of him.
We’re then treated to some visual reminders of who is a part of the ever-swelling roster of these films, with in-chipping from Havok (Lucas Till), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and a quick look at the new incarnations of Nightcrawler and Jubilee (get hype, 90s cartoon fans). And then the real excitement begins… Apocalypse is usually joined by four mutants under his control – his four horsemen. A lot of speculation has been speculed on this subject, with my own theory being that Wolverine would turn bad take on the role of Death – but the trailer has other ideas, dropping a very strong hint that Magneto (Michael “The Fass” Fassbender) will actually, willing or no, join forces with the ages old big bad. It looks very much like the four horsemen will be Storm (now played by Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (nobody’s favourite X-man) and Archangel.
Or maybe he’s war, and archangel will spread the wings of death like in the comics. Either way, some metal is getting effed up.
Thanks to Days of Future Past fudging up time, we’re able to team up characters, such as Cyclops and Nightcrawler (and these two plus Jean Grey in uniform as X-Men is an exciting sight), ahead of schedule by the original films’ schedule – and this also means that there is genuine jeopardy. Time has been fudged, any of you can die – so when Magneto helps Apocalypse to steal an unconscious Xavier (why is your wheelchair metal, you’ve met Magneto several times – build everything out of plastic and glass or something) then things are actually getting tense. We even get treated to one of Apocalypse’s odder powers – his ability to grow really big. It worked in the cartoon, because it was a cartoon, but here it does look a little bit like something out of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland – which isn’t a compliment.
As a climax to the trailer we get to see Quicksilver running fast again, Oscar Isaacs (Apocalypse) shouting about himself some more, and then some stuff being destroyed (the mutant school and some bridges again today). Xavier confesses that he’s never felt power like this before – just in case you hadn’t caught on that Apocalypse is powerful. And then it’s the title screen and the trailer is over. Or is it?
No! A door opens and there is bald McAvoy, at last! He looks a little bit like he’s cosplaying as the Patrick Stewart Xavier, but it’s still fun. Interestingly there is no sign of Wolverine here at all, but he’ll probably turn up at some point in the film itself. What seems apparent is that the film does already feel a little over-crowded, but there’s a lot to get excited about – and from what I’ve seen we can all look forward to more great performances from Lawrence, Fassbender, Hoult and especially McAvoy, who has really shone in these films for me. I’m cautiously optimistic that this will prove to be a good film – I’m not convinced it will be as good as Days of Future Past, but I’m looking forward to it for sure.