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'X-Men: Apocalypse' Film Review: A mutant twist on the end of days

May 12, 2016Ben Mk



   
When the X-Men franchise began 16 years ago, the comic book movie landscape was a much more barren one. X-Men: Apocalypse, on the other hand, opens to no shortage of competition from super soldiers, caped crusaders and iron-clad warriors, so it's no wonder that the movie attempts to meet moviegoers' expectations by raising the stakes to globally catastrophic proportions.

Set in 1983, a decade after the central events depicted in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Apocalypse finds the characters from the series' last two installments scattered around the globe, with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) busy liberating mutants in East Berlin, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) living as a family man under an assumed identity in Poland, and Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) back in Westchester, New York, teaching a whole new generation of mutants how to harness their abilities.

Their fates begin to intertwine when Magneto's true identity is uncovered, which leads to the demise of his wife and young daughter, and sets him down the dark path of revenge. However, it's really Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) who brings these characters together, when she discovers that an ancient mutant named Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) has awoken from his millennia-long slumber. Determined to cleanse the Earth of all human life, Apocalypse intends to destroy everything on the planet and rebuild the world anew; and, of course, it's up to the X-Men to stop him.

Joining the fight this time around are younger versions of Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), three inexperienced teenagers who find themselves thrust into the confrontation with Apocalypse and his four acolytes, including Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp). Luckily, these new X-Men recruits also get a little support from Days of Future Past fan-favorite Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who steals the show with another fun-to-watch display of his lightning-fast reflexes.

Directed once again by Bryan Singer and written by Days of Future Past screenwriter Simon Kinberg, Apocalypse is notable for the way it successfully merges an '80s period aesthetic with the X-Men's colorful and distinct comic book look, creating a strong throwback for fans of the X-Men comics from that era. That very same fanbase, however, might be disappointed by the filmmakers' decision to all but jettison this approach in the film's third act, in favor of yet another climactic battle fought with sleek, futuristic technology and dark, leathery uniforms.

Otherwise, the tone of the movie will feel instantly familiar to fans of the previous X-Men outings, which is to say that it's not quite as grim and serious as Batman v Superman, but, still, not nearly as humorous as anything one might find in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also intensely familiar is the overall arc of the movie, which bucks the trend of the 2016 superhero films thus far by having a plot that doesn't center on the strife between the movie's protagonists, instead pitting our mutant heroes against yet another big, bad, seemingly insurmountable threat.

It all adds up to a divisive moviegoing experience, because while some audiences will appreciate the fan service the film pays to longtime devotees of the franchise, others will assuredly take issue with the way the movie fails to truly propel the series forward, from a storytelling aspect. That is to say, instead of carrying forward with the strong moral themes and social undercurrents earlier X-Men entries were known for, Apocalypse dials them way back, preferring instead to focus its efforts on bombastic, blustery action set-pieces and classic comic book villainy.

Make no mistake, this mutant twist on end-of-the-world movies is a prime example of a summer blockbuster. However, it certainly doesn't feel as substantial as it should. That being said, there's still plenty of fun to be had here, especially if you're a fan of Oscar Isaac, Weapon X cameos or the 1990s X-Men animated series. Just don't expect X-Men: Apocalypse to be as narratively complex as Days of Future Past, or as subtly thought-provoking as X2.


X-Men: Apocalypse releases May 27th, 2016 from Twentieth Century Fox. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 24 Mins.








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