X-Men: Apocalypse review
Super heroes for the 1980s
Twentieth Century Fox’s X-Men series holds the record for the longest-running super hero film franchise, beginning all the way back in 2000. The blockbuster series had a supremely successful solo outing earlier this year in February with Deadpool and looks to take that momentum into Memorial Day weekend with the serial’s latest adventure, X-Men: Apocalypse. Having helmed the 2000 original, Singer (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie)returns to direct his fourth X-Men feature and brings the sixteen-year-old franchise full circle. He’ll have steep competition at the box office this weekend, however, with another widely-anticipated sequel in Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. Luckily, the newest X-Men movie delivers on every level with plenty of 3D action spectacle and enough twists despite amounting to exactly what one has come to expect from a movie starring Marvel Comics’ bravest mutants.
When Earth’s first and most powerful mutant, Apocalypse, awakens from an ancient slumber with an agenda of mass human extermination to further mutant-kind, a small band of Professor Xavier’s students (also powerful mutants) take it upon themselves to save the world. Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens, Inside Llewyn Davis) joins the franchise as the titular, yet underwhelming villain. Despite all of his overwhelming mutant abilities, Isaac’s Apocalypse never gets the chance to really lash out and sink his teeth into the role. While the bad guy has ample opportunity for brief displays of awesome power, the script never allows Apocalypse to approach his end game—culminating to somewhat of a disappointment considering how much time the film spends anticipating Apocalypse’s rise to power. The predictable-third-act-epic-showdown feels anticlimactic after nine movies because the X-Men never lose and the villain hardly puts up a fight this time around compared to some of the other villains our mutant heroes have fought.
X-Men: Apocalypse arrives in theaters as the fourth super hero blockbuster of 2016 and, as such, needed something to set it apart from the already-released content. While the film features mutants fighting other mutants, not unlike Deadpool fighting Francis (or Batman fighting Superman and Captain America’s Avengers fighting Iron Man’s, really), the 1983 setting gives Apocalypse a unique flair that the previous X-Men film similarly enjoyed with the 70s. The “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” sequence alone makes the price of admission worth it, especially in 3D.
Younger versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, and Nightcrawler join the growing cast and add a lot of fun to the film with their varying origins and distinct personalities as 80s teenagers who just want to hang out at the mall. Sophie Turner (“Game of Thrones,” Barely Lethal) plays Jean Grey with confidence and determination, certainly preparing for an amplified role in an impending sequel sure to cover “The Dark Phoenix Saga” during in the 1990s. Tye Sheridan (Mud, Joe) stands out as the headstrong leader Cyclops, a new student at Xavier’s school who discovers his mutant abilities in the film’s opening moments.
The returning cast all turn in solid performances with superstars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, and James McAvoy getting most of the screen time to leave Nicholas Hoult’s (Mad Max: Fury Road, Jack the Giant Slayer) Beast as the X-Man to receive the least amount of character development for a third time. Lawrence’s Mystique must assume a leader role among the world’s mutants following her actions in the previous X-Men movie despite her reluctance to do so as her long-time friend Professor Xavier (McAvoy) must assemble a ragtag group of his students to follow Mystique against Apocalypse’s Four Horseman. Fassbender receives the most freedom to really give a tragic, angry performance in the film for his third performance as Magneto. Following a devastating tragedy, Apocalypse presents Magneto with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to seemingly further mutants worldwide. Evan Peters’ (“American Horror Story,” Elvis & Nixon) Quicksilver, however, steals the show with his energetic, exciting role. Peters worked on X-Men: Apocalypse longer than any other cast-member in what largely amounted to an unforgettable, three-minute, effects-laden sequence and his dedication shines through.
Although Bryan Singer’s fourth X-Men movie contains an underwhelming villain and subsequently anticlimactic climax, the performances, twists, turns, spectacle, music, and setting make for a super hero film unique enough to set itself apart from 2016’s three preceding comic book blockbusters. On a Memorial Day weekend that sees the sequel to a billion-dollar Disney movie, another Adam Sandler Netflix movie, and the entire second season of “Bloodline” available to stream, X-Men: Apocalypse has plenty of competition ahead. However, the name brand of Marvel Comics and X-Men alone should carry the film all the way to the bank, even if it doesn’t win the box office by a sizeable margin.