X-Men: Apocalypse

Posted May 27, 2016 by in

Quick Stats

Genre: action, superhero
Director: Bryan Singer
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Actors: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Length: 144 minutes
Release Date: 5-27-2016
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Donners' Company, Kinberg Genre, Mel's Cite du Cinema
What We Thought

The film has its moments. Some scenes are humorous, others exciting, and a death scene is especially touching. However, they don’t add up to much.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
After X-Men:  Days of Future Past, arguably the apex of the franchise, I x-men-apocalypseeagerly looked forward to the latest entry, admittedly both as a fan of the franchise and the X-Men themselves.   Could X-Men:  Apocalypse be even better yet?
     The film features one of the the X-Men’s greatest and most powerful adversaries, Apocalypse, a mutant thousands of years old, who in an arcane ritual, takes over the body of other mutants, and acquires their powers.  In 3600 B.C, at an imposing pyramid in the Nile Valley, he is worshiped as a god.
     However, Apocalypse is betrayed by his followers, and entombed in his own temple for millennia.  Returning director Bryan Singer makes all of this clear with very little dialog, instead relying on visuals and the clarity of his direction, much as he did in the opening of the previous film.  To be able to relay so much information with so few words is a testament to Singer’s acumen.
     Flashward to 1983, Ohio, where we are re-introduced to Scott Summers, a bullied teenager, whose dormant superpowers are about to awaken.  After nearly incinerating his tormentor with his eye-lasers, Scott’s brother, Alex (Lucas Till), who is also a mutant, takes him to Xavier’s School for the Gifted, a place all-too familiar to fans of the comics.
     It is here that Scott bumps into Jean Grey, who is now portrayed by Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner, a newcomer to the franchise, who turns in one of the film’s best performances (which is impressive considering the cast).  A telepath and clairvoyant, with powers almost beyond her control, Jean has terrible visions of Apocalypse’s return, and with it, the end of the world.
     Stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence return to their roles as Professor Charles Xavier, Magneto and Mystique respectively, and actors new to the franchise, such as Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Hardy take over familiar roles such as teleporting mutant Nightcrawler and winged menace Arch Angel.  The cast of characters is enormous, on par with that of rival superhero pic Captain America:  Civil War, and yet its plot is much more focused and cohesive.
     However, despite Civil War’s scatterbrained storytelling, I had a much better sense of who the characters were than in this film.  X-Men:  Apocalypse, on the other hand, is often too focused on plot, and has very little interest in its own characters, of which there are frankly too many.  The film introduces Psylocke (Olivia Munn), a mutant who can create energy weapons out of thin air, and yet we learn next to nothing about her.  Who is she, what defines her?  Perhaps she’s meant to be a mysterious figure, like Star Wars’ Boba Fett, who might be fleshed out in an inevitable sequel (and the ending suggests that).  But the same could be said for Arch Angel or Nightcrawler and several others.  They are super-heroes with super-powers, rather than people with personalities.  We know too little about too many of them.  This tends to be a weakness in the franchise, but that seems especially true here.
     The film explicitly (and humorously) X-Men: Apocalypsereferences the Star Wars franchise, and parallels can be found in the two film series.  In First Class, Magneto resembles Anakin Skywalker, a man with great good and great evil within him, who similarly follows a path of hatred and destruction, donning a mask as the final part of his transformation.  Apocalypse, on the other hand, is about the precarious nature of his redemption, and his arc is similar to Darth Vader’s in The Empire Strikes Back.  Of all film’s many characters, it is Magneto who experiences growth and change over the course of the story.  If X-Men:  Apocalypse is about any of its characters, it’s about him.
     As for Apocalypse himself, he is both a religious radical, and a theocrat of middle-eastern origin, bent on overthrowing global superpowers such as the U.S. and Russia.  In a bravura sequence, set to Beethoven’s Symphony #07 (second movement), Apocalypse does exactly that.  Through his character, the film expresses unease about the region.  Whether he is meant to represent groups such as ISIS, or established states, is unclear.
     As for other characters, Quicksilver is back for another bullet-time sequence.  His scene in Days of Future Past, was without a doubt, a highlight of the film (if not the entire franchise).  It was fresh, new, and exciting.  This time, it is somewhat entertaining, but its novelty-factor is gone.  Similarly, we’ve seen Nightcrawler’s schtick before, and a certain other character makes a nude cameo that we’ve seen twice already (and amounts to fan-service), in a sequence that is in service to an upcoming sequel rather than the story itself in an otherwise tight narrative.  If you found the sequel-baiting in Avengers:  Age of Ultron bothersome, it’s more blatant and distracting here.
     The film has its moments.  Some scenes are humorous, others exciting, and a death scene is especially touching.  However, they don’t add up to much.  I left not excited, but indifferent.  It’s not a franchise low, by any means (we all know which one deserves that distinction), but when something hits its high mark, perhaps it’s wiser to expect less rather than more.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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