X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) Review!!

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Synopsis – With the emergence of the world’s first mutant, Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

My Take – This ninth installment is another fine chapter in a franchise that director Bryan Singer brilliantly setup in 2000, and returned with the excellent Days of Future Past in 2014. Yes, it may be a CGI heavy action-adventure but it’s bold, effortlessly mixing action, characterization, social commentary and mythology that we have come to expect from this saga. Whilst it doesn’t hit the heady heights of Days of Future Past’s epic ness it still is a really good watch and I fail to see to understand most of the negative reviews, even though I agree with some of the wrongs pointed out, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it the worst of the franchise! (X-Men: Last Stand & The Wolverine tie for that place).  The story follows the mutants several years after the events of DOFP that revealed the existence of mutants to the world – we find Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) continuing with his School for Gifted Youngsters, as he welcomes new students (Sophie Turner‘s Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan‘s Cyclops, and Kodi Smit-McPhee‘s Nightcrawler) who are coming to terms with their powers. Meanwhile, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is still conflicted about which side she wants to be on as she seeks out other mutants, while Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is hiding in Poland with his wife and child. Soon, however, the world’s first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) wakes from a centuries-long sleep to find weak, blind leaders ruling the world.

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He gathers together Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Archangel (Ben Hardy) and Magneto, using their fear and anger to convince them that humanity’s time is up, as result the X-Men must unite once again to defeat his extinction level plan. Agreed! The film has some serious issues in regards to its pacing and treatment of some of the cast, however, the film has managed to do something no other comic book film to date has ever done to date, to bring the scope of the original comic’s mythos successfully to the screen. The film is also being widely criticized for its 144-minute runtime as the film definitely takes its sweet time getting to the grand finale. But what it does use that expansive runtime for is key bits of world building, and as a comic-book and literature fan, I’ll take good world building over a rushed, propulsive plot any day. I have never been a big fan of the X-Men series as a whole, but as a kid I have grown up watching the 90s X-Men animated series, and this is the probably the only film of the franchise which dives into pure fan service, which understandably is not going down well with certain section of the audience. Kudos to Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughan, who continue to inject fresh ideas with familiar elements, building an unpredictable universe with deep stories, creative visuals and fantastical characters. The story integrated into previous movies, without discord and, had a non linear tact.

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This enriched the film with a dexterity so easily missed in many super hero movies. I felt warmed by the emotional connection the characters radiated. They reflected proud performances (at least from most of them). The one thing which did not resonate with me was the depictions of Magneto & Mystique in this film. I understand Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence are bigger stars now in comparison to the time they came on board First Class back in 2011, and I guess their contracts up, but its really disheartening to see two central characters (and effective performers) being reduced to second fiddles in favor of the younger cast. At least Magneto’s character does have some emotionally worn down moments in the first act, while JLaw’s Mystique/ Raven never rises to the occasion. I like how Raven is saving mutants but I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to be the “poster child” for mutants. Her entire arc in First Class was being a “mutant and proud”, after being insecure over her appearance and now she can spread that message but chooses not to. Despite all negatives I could pick up on with the slow-moving plot, some weak sections of the cast and a few other completely forgettable technical nit-picks, the film certainly knows how to show its audience a good, fan-service filled time. One thing I could never criticize the X-Men franchise of is becoming stale, especially Singer‘s entries, is that they work well as stand alone films, which is a lot more than I can say for most of Marvel‘s last few entries in their cinematic universe. With the original film, Singer redefined the superhero genre in cinema, with X-2 he created a multi-layered conflict between multiple factions of humans and mutants and with Days of Future Past he gave audiences a gripping time travel adventure. The film takes a step even further away from the franchise’s ‘based in reality’ roots but does so with grandeur and confident swagger, while retaining a sense of realistic emotion and genuinely funny humor that never over plays itself. The film is a behemoth, a comic-book epic of a level of ambition I’ve never seen successfully put to screen before. The film does something that no other film has ever done: made me feel like I’m watching a comic brought to life from page to screen right before my eyes, and the feeling is absolutely glorious. The action is electrifying, the powers bright and flashy and displayed in their full glory, from Psylocke’s energy sword to Cyclops eye beam.

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And like other Marvel films, we have yet another wasted villain! As compelling as descriptions might have made him appear, the titular ‘Apocalypse’ doesn’t seem capable to inspire the terror he seems to claim. For a villainous figure whose omnipotent power is meant to decimate civilizations, his efforts are mostly spent for futile chases that mostly involve expanding his network of mutants. Oscar Isaac does the best he can as the maniacal main villain, but the character is fairly one-dimensional and audience reactions to him will be hit or miss depending on your preference. The Four Horsemen are the worst offenders, with Storm, Psylocke and Angel practically having about 5 lines of dialogue between them in the entire film. With Alexandra Shipp getting the best deal among the three. She just might make you forget about Halle Berry (even with a believable African accent). Olivia Munn and Ben Hardy serve no purpose whatsoever. However, the rest of the film’s cast manages to salvage their parts in fantastic fashion. James McAvoy continues to distinguish himself as a different Professor X who’s funny and yet heartfelt performance stands alongside Patrick Stewart‘s iconic portrayal of the character. A character that has been proved to be consistently excellent and a standout, though, is Evan Peter‘s Quicksilver, who plays a much larger and more involved role here than his previous outing in Days of Future Past. He has another standout, spectacle scene and probably the best action sequence in the film all to himself. Michael Fassbender does his part well, but unfortunately underwritten. Jennifer Lawrence is wasted. Nicholas Hoult is as always likable. Ty Sheridan, Sophie Turner & Kodi Smith are excellent. Kodi Smit-McPhee‘s Nightcrawler was an effective comic relief, while Summers/Cyclops and Jean Grey bring a fresh and welcome set of perspectives to the film and it’s nice to finally see a Cyclops audiences can truly empathize with on screen. Lucas Till as Havoc and Lana Condor as Jubilee are also wasted. Rose Byrne makes a welcome return to the franchise. Hugh Jackman has an excellent cameo as the wolverine (Like you didn’t expect that to happen). On the whole, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ falls short in comparison to its previous instalments, but on its own stands well as a very enjoyable superhero film, thanks to its enthusiastic and well-committed cast, thrilling action scenes and wonderful moments. It may be a fallout from “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, but this Bryan Singer‘s boldest move for the franchise, for better or worse.

3.5

Directed – Bryan Singer

Starring – James McAvoy,  Michael Fassbender,  Jennifer Lawrence

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 144 minutes

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