Given the reviews for the sixth X-Men movie, you’d think it was on a par with Batman and Robin for badness. So as I settled in with a heavy heart, I’d expected a tsunami of awful to wash over me.
What I didn’t expect was how good it would be.
Okay, echoes of The Mummy (1999) resonated through the opening scenes (vast ancient Egyptian vistas, malevolent antagonist), but once we fast forward to 1983 and are reunited with Moira McTaggart (Rose Byrne from X-Men: First Class), things settle down well considering how many characters director Bryan Singer has to juggle.
Returning cast James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence are all excellent, but only Evan Peters stands out among the generic supporting characters. His Sweet Dreams moment is a high point.
Oscar Isaac is suitably menacing as the eponymous villain and the effects are pretty good.
Okay, it’s not perfect. Sophie Lawrence seemed miscast as Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler needed someone with more depth than Kodi Smit McPhee, but its strengths were many.
A scene in woods with Fassbender and his family and the destruction of a notorious death camp packed quite a punch.
The series could do with a rest for a few years, but given the calibre of this movie, I imagine a 1993 offering is just a matter of time regardless.
Marvel don’t seem to want unique directors any more. They want plate spinners, helmers who can keep keep multiple storylines going while dazzling audiences with a wealth of computer enhanced effects. The major plus point with Captain America: Civil War is that the Russo brothers manage to keep two dozen plates spinning at one time while avoiding the usual Marvel pitfall – hero faces off against boss monster/villain. In this case half a dozen heroes face off against more MCU favourites.
The big problem is it’s hard to care about Cap’s plight – defending his buddy, Bucky Barnes – when the latter is so vanilla. Sebastian Stan could have been played by an animated action figure for all the empathy I felt for him. The bromance between the two is uninvolving. Thankfully, Chris Evans and Robert Downey jnr share more chemistry. Enough to carry the movie forward as their personal differences spark, sometimes literally.
With old favourites Black Widow, Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man back for more, they attempt to steal the limelight from series newcomers Spider-Man and Black Panther.
It ticks over, lurching from one action set piece to another, peaking with the 17 minute airport battle and finishing with a more personal showdown.
It’s fun, good value for money and more appealing than The Winter Soldier.
Let’s hope that now they’ve got their personal differences ironed out, the team can reassemble for the two part Infinity War as more buildings are levelled and a few thousand computer graphics jockeys earn their keep with the pending cast iron money spinners.