X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

xmenapocalypse_2016_poster
  • Time: 144 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
  • Director: Bryan Singer
  • Cast: Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult

Storyline:

Since the dawn of civilization, he was worshiped as a god. Apocalypse, the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel’s X-Men universe, amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible. Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto, to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven with the help of Professor X must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction.

3 reviews

  • X-Men: Apocalypse does not quite plumb the depths of awfulness as prodigiously as X-Men: The Last Stand but, coming off the franchise’s high point of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest entry into the hugely profitable X-Men series can’t help but disappoint. It also serves to reinforce the increasingly inescapable fact that when it comes to nurturing and expanding a cinematic superhero universe, no one does it better than Marvel.

    Apocalypse spends time doing both too much and too little. The film takes place in 1983, ten years after the events of Days of Future Past in which Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) inadvertently exposed mutantkind to the rest of the world. She’s been a fugitive since then, but she has also become an idol for the current crop of youngsters enrolled in the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. Among the notables, the telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), whose ability to emit laser beams from his eyes has finally come to the fore. Both struggle to understand and control their gifts, which they regard as a curse, but Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and brainy blue beast Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) are on hand to guide the two (and occasionally exercise literal damage control).

    Jean has plagued with visions of the end of the world, which brings us to the other main storyline, that of the titular villain (Oscar Isaac, encased in prosthetics), a recently resurrected demagogue, and his mission to cleanse the world of the weak. To that end, he recruits four disciples: storm-brewing African orphan Ororo (a striking Alexandra Shipp), warrior with a whip Psylocke (Olivia Munn, who looks supremely uncomfortable in her character’s skintight costume), winged bad boy Angel (Ben Hardy, forgettable in the film’s most underdeveloped and dispensable character), and the powerful Magneto (Michael Fassbender, intense and giving good yell), who has been living a quiet and content life in Poland until tragic circumstances force him to reluctantly embrace his dark side once again.

    X-Men: Apocalypse dwells far too long in the gathering of its characters both new and old and, once assembled, proceeds to strand them in a smorgasbord of special effects and terrible dialogue. Marvel is a master in integrating new characters without sacrificing any given film’s central dynamic. Here, director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg, cram so many characters into the narrative that it dilutes the continually fraught relationship between Xavier and Magneto and Mystique, the woman caught between their warring ideologies. It’s understandable if the filmmakers want to emphasise people like Jean and Scott since they evolve into two of the most integral figures in X-Men history, but they are given nowhere near the more considered treatment bestowed upon, say, Mystique and Hank when they were introduced in X-Men: First Class. As a result, Jean and Scott are irritating distractions and it doesn’t help that Sheridan and especially Turner are dull and underwhelming. It’s all too easy to scoff at actors playing comic book characters, but there is a skill required in transcending the inherent silliness of being in costume and showing off your particular party trick. Which is why it’s a bit perverse to basically bench your star players – McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence, all of whom combine charisma, a certain gravitas, and not taking oneself or the character too seriously – for the sake of giving the second string team time in the spotlight.

    That said, if you’re going to showcase secondary characters, then choose the right ones. Kodi Smit-McPhee as the blue-skinned Nightcrawler is most welcome as is Evan Peters, who reprises his role as Quicksilver to equally scene-stealing effect. Quicksilver’s “Time in a Bottle” sequence from Days of Future Past is one of the all-time best moments in film, and Singer stages a similarly elaborate scene that has Quicksilver saving Xavier’s students from an explosion to the tune of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics. It may be the sole instance in Apocalypse where the special effects are deployed with wit and energy of being utilised to depict the destruction done in the name of Apocalypse’s remodeling project.

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  • Following Matthew Vaughn’s enjoyable franchise reboot X-Men: First Class (2011) and Bryan Singer’s mind-bending follow-up Days of Future Past (2014), the latest entry into the ever-expanding world of the X-Men that began back in 2000 promised – according to writer Simon Kinberg – a scale and scope on such a level never before seen in a superhero movie. While the latest villain to face Professor X and his crew certainly ups the ante by offering the threat of global extinction, X-Men: Apocalypse suffers mainly because we have seen the likes of this before, after all Ultron threatened the same thing just last year in Marvel’s Avengers sequel, and Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay have been doing this since the mid-1990’s.

    Apocalypse just doesn’t offer the same sort of unique strangeness that assisted Days of Future Past in being the best entry since X2 in 2003, nor the impressive grip it kept on its large ensemble of super-beings and superstars in First Class. When it all boils down, Apocalypse is simply a tale of good vs. bad, introducing a hefty influx of new characters and old (with many of the latter re-cast with up-and-comers) in the process. The threat facing the wheelchair-bound telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his School for Gifted Youngsters this time is the first and most powerful mutant of them all, En Sabar Nuh aka Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). When we first meet him, Nuh is in Ancient Egypt where he is worshipped as a god. Fearing his power, his worshippers betray him, leaving him entombed within a collapsed pyramid and killing his Four Horsemen.

    In 1983, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), the shape-shifting mutant, is in East Berlin rescuing teleporter Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from a human-run underground fight club and its winged champion Angel (Ben Hardy). Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is hiding out in Poland with his wife and child following his attempt to assassinate the President of the USA ten years previous. Charles is still running his school, which has added some interesting new recruits in fellow telepath Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers aka Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). When Apocalypse re-awakens and decides that humanity has lost its way, he sets about recruiting his four new Horsemen, including Magneto, to help him destroy the world and rebuild it with him as its leader.

    Anyone who loved Quicksilver’s scene-stealing appearance in Days of Future Past will no doubt appreciate Evan Peters’ extended role here, as he is again central to an impressive set-piece that is equally playful, inventive and exciting. For a movie with such a grim outlook at stake, it ironically works best when going about its business with a sense of humour. In the dramatic moments, its fails to offer any real impact, almost completely ignoring any religious undertones that would have made the film infinitely more interesting, and covering familiar ground in terms of Charles and Erik’s somewhat rocky friendship. Although Isaac gives it his all, it is the young actors that are the standouts. Turner, Sheridan and Smit-McPhee manage to both channel the actors who came before them and making the characters their own. Hopefully then, the franchise is in safe hands moving forward (there are no signs of it stopping), but for now, Apocalypse is very much a case of same-old, same-old, and not much more than a relatively entertaining way to kill 2 and a half hours.

    Rating: 3/5

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  • Worshiped as a god since the dawn of civilization, the immortal En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) becomes the first and most powerful mutant. Awakening after thousands of years, he recruits the disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and other mutants to create a new world order. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) lead a team of young X-Men to stop their seemingly invincible nemesis from destroying mankind.

    There have been many superhero team up films this year with Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War; now you can kind of add this one to the list. Since this series has mostly taken place in the past, we are inching closer and closer to the formation of the X-Men we all know and love. We are given re-introductions to characters we are all familiar with their younger incarnations…most notably Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Ororo Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp).

    The film does a lot of jumping back and forth between characters and locations making it tedious to follow. We obviously all knew where this was going to lead, but the film takes quite a long time to get there. Nothing really notable happened until at least halfway through the film, and seeing that it was already almost 2.5 hours, that’s too long.

    When compared to the previous two films in the series, First Class and Days of Future Past, this plot is too simple and lacked the depth which made the previous two so compelling making this installment dull in comparison. There are only two big plot lines including the formation of the team fighting against the rise of Apocalypse (I don’t know why I keep calling him Apocalypse because he never called himself that in the film). Each of those plot lines contained many subplots of their own. The main problem with this film is that it lacked any balance between subplots.

    Because of all the characters the subplots juggled, the film didn’t get the chance to gain any momentum. Buildup is okay when it actually leads to something, but it didn’t really happen here. There were parallels here between this and the most recent Fantastic Four film where the film consisted of 95% buildup and 5% disappointment. This film follows a similar formula plot-wise with the majority of it being buildup, with some lighter moments featuring a lot of forced humor to a big battle sequence, but it lacked substantial impact.

    It would have meant more if the film’s villain En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse was better established. He never really got his footing here as we never really got a sense of how evil he was. His plans weren’t exactly clear either so it was hard to ever take him seriously. Why does he want to blow up the world? How can he build a new one if it’s destroyed? What didn’t help his case was that everything about him just felt silly. From his look and his cheesy dialogue, this made him hard to care about as a character. Instead of a real foil, he just felt like more of a means to an end bringing all the characters together to form the team which will inevitably make up future films.

    Overall, while being a step back in the new X-Men series, this is still a good action film with good special effects and good performances but the story and pacing are what hold this one back from joining First Class and Days of Future Past.

    Score: 7/10

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