by: S. Scott Stanikmas – Senior Staff Writer
The X-Men franchise was one that was on the brink of extinction back in 2006. Despite it being said that the first three films were a trilogy and that it was done FOX knew it had a license to print money with Marvel’s mutants. Flash forward eight years and the world got X-Men: First Class, setting up a new timeline that cherry-picked what it liked from the previous films and ignoring what didn’t work (mainly X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine).
After wowing crowds with First Class and pleasing comic book fans and casual moviegoers alike with the epic time travel story Days Of Future Past, FOX and Marvel have decided to bring us the annihilation of the mutants -and pretty much the whole world – in the popcorn action flick X-Men: Apocalypse.
Starting all the way back in ancient Egypt we get our first look at En Sabah Nur (or as we know him, Apocalypse). Considered to be the world’s first mutant before there was a word for them, Nur is growing old and his body is failing him. His Four Horsemen find him a new host (Oscar Isaac) with the power of regeneration. The god-like mutant is paraded into his temple while his followers worship him for miles around.
Swapping bodies (and transferring all the mutant powers he has acquired from doing this process numerous times before) leaves Apocalypse vulnerable, which is when a rebel faction chooses to attack and end his reign of terror. The hench-mutants try and protect their master but are eventually killed and Apocalypse is left to slumber in a comatose state under miles of rubble.
Going forward to 1983-ten years after the events depicted in Days Of Future Past – we find our familiar faces living their “normal” lives. Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Professor X (James McAvoy) are running the school for gifted youngsters (which amongst the residents is the powerful telepath Jean Grey), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is living in seclusion with a new family and indentity, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is saving mutants all over the world (including Nightcrawler) and Havoc (Lucas Till) is helping his little brother (the young man soon to be known as Cyclops) come to terms with his newfound mutant abilities.
But danger lurks in the air. On the hunt for a sect of people known to worship En Sabah Nur, CIA operative Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) accidentally awakens the being known as Apocalypse. Now alive and unleashed in a world that is strange and new to him, the self-professed god has one mission: reform his Four Horsemen and have them bring the world to it’s knees in front of him.
Director Bryan Singer returns to the world he helped create to once again helm the exploits of the X-Men in another balls-to-the-wall action flick. The film tends to juggle numerous storylines and although Singer has proven himself a master juggler this one seems to get away from him every once in awhile.
At least he and his fellow writers – producer Simon Kinberg and screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris (of X2 fame) – plot a story that looks to build to it’s inevitable conclusion and move the universe forward in a natural way. I just found myself wishing the “world-ending threat” didn’t feel so dry and bland. Apocalypse, while a fan favorite and a powerhouse in the comics, never really felt like a real threat – more like the devil on the shoulder of those who can do the real damage.
X-Men films are always going to be a huge smorgasbord of characters and this one is no different. Bringing back favorites like Professor X, Beast and Magneto while introducing the next wave of mutants like Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) make this film feel a bit overstuffed – like a calzone fresh from the oven that’s been packed full of your favorite toppings. Sometimes you taste one flavor more than others and the same can be said here. Everyone has their favorite character and almost everyone will feel like theirs didn’t get enough screentime. The only consolation is that we all know FOX will continue to pump these films out as long as they make money so there’s always the next film to look out for an “underutilized” character.
And who knew the mutant gene was like the fountain of youth? I get why Mystique still looks youngish (her condition was explained in First Class) but why hasn’t anyone else aged. Professor X and Magneto should be in their 50s by now yet they look like they could pass for early 30s. I’m not saying swap out McAvoy and Fassbender for Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan quite yet but at least get some makeup on these actors to age the up a bit. Even Moira looked too young to be true.
Speaking of never-aging mutants, let’s talk about the adamantium laced elephant in the room – the unneeded Wolverine cameo (which was spoiled by the trailer and TV ads). I know that he’s one of the most popular X-Men and that it was fan service to see Hugh Jackman one last time (especially in the way that we saw him) but it felt very forced and didn’t do anything to further the plot, especially if the last Wolverine film we get is the Old Man Logan storyline that has been rumored. This was a wasted sequence.
What this film does do right is stack the building blocks for future films. Astute comic book fans will notice that the seeds have been planted for quite a few classic storylines from the four-color world. I just hope Singer stays around long enough to do them justice.
While not a complete cluster like Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, X-Men: Apocalypse does have the unenviable task of a release so closely to what has to be one of the best comic book movies of all time in Captain America: Civil War. Still, it manages to be a decent addition to the new timeline created a few years ago and will definitely have the mutant power of making a pile of cash at the box office.