The X-Men series has been one of the longest running superhero franchises and, with Apocalypse, it manages to continue on a good if not spectacular note. Following the rise of the world’s oldest mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the X-Men, led by Xavier (James McAvoy), have to unite in order to stop him and his four horsemen, including Magneto (Michael Fassbender), from wiping out the Earth. It’s a simple plot but there’s a lot going on here, and director Bryan Singer just about manages to keep all the elements and characters balanced effectively. The action is perhaps the biggest and most bombastic of the series, often feeling like more of a straight up disaster film than standard superhero fare. This leads to many enjoyable set-pieces, with special mention going once again to the scene involving Quicksilver (Evan Peters), which is even crazier than his scene from Days of Future Past.
X-Men has always been a character piece, though, and this film does a solid job with this element. The best character here is Magneto; you understand the pain he goes through and his decision to join the Horsemen, with his complexity making him thrilling to watch. McAvoy is also strong again as Xavier as you see the loss of his optimism against Apocalypse and his failing strength. Peters provides enjoyable comic relief again as Quicksilver, while new cast members including Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), Tye Sheridan (Cyclops) and especially Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler) fit nicely into the universe. The weak link in the cast is Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, who ultimately seems tired with the whole endeavour, counting down the hours until she can appear in the next David O. Russell film.
The weakest element of Apocalypse is sadly the villains, with the exception of Magneto. Apocalypse himself never rises above the levels of generic doomsday villain with a God complex, though Oscar Isaac is magnificent as usual in the role. The Horsemen are worse, as Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Archangel (Ben Hardy) never feel developed as to why they follow Apocalypse, and ultimately feel like hollow opponents to the X-Men.
In spite of the poor antagonists, X-Men: Apocalypse is still a solid entry into the franchise, with enough action and enjoyable characters to fulfil audiences. Whilst it’s a step down from First Class and Days of Future Past, it’s still an enjoyable ride, feeling serious without being bleak and giving a strong place to continue the franchise from.