Mutants and mayhem equals pure magic – whatever the year
If you’re a Marvel Comic connoisseur – or just a fan of marvelous big budget special effects – X-Men Apocalypse 3-D is a full throttle 144 minutes of absolute cinematic decadence. The opening sequence is chillingly tense, and right from the fabulous title sequence we know we’re in for a wild ride. This is a film that is visually spectacular and epic on every level. So, Popcorn is a must.
This latest installment in the X-Men franchise from Director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, Superman Returns) is set ten years since X-Men: Days of Future Past, in the year 1983.
This makes for wonderful introductions to key X-Men personas while their mutant powers are un-checked and newly-discovered. A teenage Scott Summers / Cyclops (Tye Sheridan, recently named one of Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch and set to star in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation of the best-seller ‘Ready Player One‘) is escorted by his brother Alex to Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in New York to learn how to control his new found powers. A young Jean Grey (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner) is also a resident there, as protégé to Xavier / Professor X (James McAvoy) and is struggling to grasp her own powers. Beast / Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) is already teaching at the Institute, while Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver (Evan Peters) makes his way to Xavier’s school for his own reasons.
The fact that we are in essence viewing the future leaders of the X-men before they even realize it adds a great layer to the film – Bryan Singer says “And now that we’ve altered the timeline (with 2014’s ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’), there are endless possibilities.” This is the darkest chapter so far, chillingly somber, but by no means dull. The tie-ins throughout are perfectly fitted to the time frame are fantastically intricate.
Into the deepest, darkest depths
All X-Men films have a super-villain, of course, but none have come close to the epitome of evil …enter the titular En Sabah Nur AKA Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac brings a solid and terrifying magnetism to this character).
This dark force is the world’s original all-powerful mutant born in ancient Egypt, entombed with the help of his four horsemen – until now. Determined to cleanse the world, En Sabah Nur uses his malevolent powers to gather a new batch of horsemen – each representing a specific facet of the doomsday prophecy: Pestilence (Olivia Munn’s Psylocke), War (omitted to avoid spoiler), Famine (Ororo Munroe’s Storm), and Death (Ben Hardy’s Angel / Archangel). All this for our X-Men to deal with plus the added stress of a determined Agent Stryker (Josh Helman): hell-bent on developing a solution for the “mutant problem”.
Fear not, the favourites are also on hand – fellow X-men Mystique / Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is on the run and in hiding in Berlin since becoming the most wanted fugitive after the incident at the White House ten years prior.
There she finds a star struck Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Similar to Raven an incognito Magneto / Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) has been living in Poland and now has a family of his own.
Rose Byrne reprises her role as CIA Agent Moira McTaggert who fell in love with Xavier in X-Men: First Class and is investigating an ancient Egyptian Cult with ties to En Sabah Nur (unbeknownst to her). Interestingly, Xavier and McTaggert are essentially strangers in this film as he wiped her memory clear of the X-men and of their relationship at the end of First Class. This makes for welcome poignancy in such a high-octane movie.
Packed with goose bump inducing moments (yes, you will want to stand and cheer at some point in the film) X-men Apocalypse is a declaration of love for one group – and one group only – the true fans. One moment in particular is sure to delight the hardcore X-fan.
Without giving too much away, watch out for the marvellous tie-in moment with Jean Grey in the bunker of Agent Striker’s Weapon X facility.
There is also a stand-out scene at Professor Charles Xavier’s educational institute set to Annie Lennox and The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – one that will be talked about for while.
Sadly, as most fans know, it seems Hugh Jackman will be hanging up his Wolverine claws after the next Wolverine film. This week the Internet was ablaze with the rumour that Singer has pitched an idea for a female clone (X-23) of Wolverine for the upcoming X-Force movie (a paramilitary spin-off of the X-men franchise).
I guess we’ll need to wait and see, so watch this space folks; it’s going to be interesting to say the least. Lastly, for the franchise fanatic, stay seated till the very end of the X-men Apocalypse credits for an extra surprise.
Apocalypse is still enjoyable, but is far less innovative and interesting than most of its predecessors
Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt
Widely regarded as one of the stronger superhero franchises, X-Men: Apocalypse has the unenviable task of following X-Men: Days of Future Past which was exceptional and a genre classic. Having wrapped most of the original X-Men cast’s tenure in the previous film, they are back to fully focusing on the younger, sexier versions of the characters. The trouble is that keeping the films set in the past means that ‘prequelitis’ sets in and there is no real threat to the majority of the principal characters. Unlike First Class and Days of Future Past, there is no engagement with the actual political events of the time (the Cuban Missile Crisis and Nixon Presidency in their respective cases) and the 1980s setting becomes a bit stifling this time around. Apocalypse – who should be utterly terrifying and an interesting big bad in relation to the underlying themes of the series- is severely neutered in his incarnation here and a bit clichéd. James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence remain engaging but Michael Fassbender’s Magneto is becoming tiresome. He is unable to bring the same gravitas to the role that Ian McKellen did and the Charles Xavier / Erik Lehnsherr relationship is coasting a tad on the great work that McKellen and Patrick Stewart did in the first two X-Men movies. On a positive note, they do seem to be planning to develop Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey properly this time around, something that 2006’s The Last Stand botched royally. Apocalypse is still enjoyable, but is far less innovative and interesting than most of its predecessors, relying a little too-heavily on repeating past-highlights (the Quicksilver scenes for instance).