Let’s face it. You already know if you’re part of the of the audience receptive for one more X-Men movie. Apocalypse is the ninth installment in the X-Men film series (if you’re counting Deadpool). A certain level of skepticism is raised whether it’s warranted or not. Honestly I was lukewarm to the idea of another one of these pictures. Color me surprised because there’s still a lot of entertainment packed into this admittedly messy picture. If you’re not rolling your eyes at the thought of an additional installment, then you’re at least primed to enjoy this.
In a nutshell, the plot concerns what happens when Professor Xavier’s class of super-powered mutants take on Apocalypse. Who’s this now? Well apparently he was the world’s first mutant. He ruled ancient Egypt circa. 3600 BC before being buried alive by his followers. He awakens in 1983 pretty ticked off by humanity and wants to take over the world. Naturally.
Bryan Singer is back in the director chair for the 4th time . He understands this franchise better than anyone. It’s set in the 1980s which occurs ten years after his critically and commercially successful X-Men: Days of Future Past. Apocalypse unquestionably pales in comparison to that movie. The computer graphics are wonky in parts and the narrative gets a bit chaotic with the numerous characters. There’s a bunch, but let’s reflect on that cast for a moment: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn and Kodi Smit-McPhee. This is a tightly wound orchestra of actors. It reads like a who’s who of great up and coming stars. The best and brightest of their generation in service of a special effects laden fantasy.
The drama absolutely benefits from the superior acting skills of that incredible ensemble. Ok so I’m a little miffed they hired Oscar Isaac, and then obscured him beneath pounds of makeup rendering him unrecognizable as the villain. That could’ve been anyone under that blue face. But Jennifer Lawrence who plays Mystique, gets to actually look like Jennifer Lawrence through most of the film. She takes on a greater role here. As Charles Xavier has done previously, it partially falls on Mystique’s shoulders to help lead and mentor the X-Men. Apocalypse still has some room to develop these personalities amongst the pyrotechnics, For example, the connection between Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) and her forgotten memories of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is addressed. Their relationship is further deepened and the result is almost poignant.
If characterization and plot are truly what you crave, you probably should try an indie drama. Amazing action set pieces are the mark of a good superhero film. Apocalypse presents several that give virtually every individual the opportunity to shine. Magneto has retired from super-villany and so he has been working at a factory in Poland as Erik Lehnsherr. After an incident there reveals his true self, Magneto must confront a threat to his wife and daughter. Let’s just say, her locket is a lot more dangerous than you think. The return of the Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is an opportunity for another slow-motion rescue sequence in the middle of the movie. It’s a music video scored to the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) and it’s dazzling. Professor X’s battle of shared consciousness with Apocalypse is a conflict that technically takes place in the mind. It’s an interesting concept that should be difficult to portray, but it’s executed in a most captivating way. And finally Sophie Turner as Jean Grey gets a chance to tap into something called the Phoenix Force in the film’s rousing payoff which ably juggles most of the cast. Yes, the entire climax rests on a lot of invincible people using their supernatural strengths to stop a godlike villain until one exhibits the greatest power to surpass them all. That’s not the optimal recipe for creating a heart-pounding conclusion but it’s certainly not boring. I’ll concede it may not be the best in the series (Days of Future Past). However this is far from the worst (X-Men Origins and The Wolverine). X-Men Apocalypse is enjoyable fun, sitting comfortably in the upper half of the X-Men franchise.