Viewed and Reviewed: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

dir. Bryan Singer

written by: Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris

starring:

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, among others

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2.25 out of 4 stars

When young, recently ruby-bespectacled Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops begins to acclimate into Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, he, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler and Jubilee detour to a mall to wile away an afternoon at Return of the Jedi. Discussing the film, they enter a self-aware moment highlighting the troubles with trilogies. The first film struggles at establishing the plot but ultimately is responsible for setting the tone. The second one is the highlight; it is more plot intensive and emotionally memorable. The finale must formulate a conclusion: these actors are tired of their roles, and adaptation wise, authors enjoy the three book dramatic progression and paycheck earning potential of the trilogy.  Is it any surprise that the third picture is often the weakest of the trilogy?  Endings of all kinds are tricky, and why should a movie series be any different than a relationship?

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When we reached the conclusion of the previous X-Men trilogy, we discovered our weakest insert to the franchise.  A disappointing mixture of a promising civil rights allegory with directorial disappointment and casting switch-ups that really screwed up the Dark Phoenix saga. For another substantial story arch trilogy conclusion, X-Men: The Last Stand abandoner Bryan Singer tackles X-Men: Apocalypse.

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After his worshipful release from his collapsed pyramid, ancient mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) begins his hiring process for his replacement four horsemen. Snaring Egyptian street thief Storm (Alexandra Shipp, an underused improvement over Halle Berry), they travel the globe collecting the most powerful of mutants, including Psyloche (Olivia Munn), Archangel (Ben Hardy), and fugitive in hiding Magneto (Michael Fassbender, portraying a softer side of Erk Lehnsherr).

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Meanwhile, Westchester, NY, is all abuzz with the arrival of Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan, a fun but forceful Cyclops).  The young man adjusting to opening his eyes finds he is not the only mutant struggling to not only fit in, but not accidentally murder those in eyesight. Following some catastrophic happenings around the mansion, Cyclops, Nightcrawler (a pleasantly warm and lithe Kodi Smit-McPhee), Jean Grey and Quicksilver (Evan Peters stealing the show again) attempt to save their captured compatriots. Epic battles ensue.

 

The most comic book stylized of the series, Apocalypse stands as the most action-centric entry. Leaning toward 3-D monstrosity, the production is saved by its self-aware 80’s nostalgia and surprisingly apt performances. Storm and Cyclops, as mentioned, improve upon the original trilogy adults for comic-faithful roles, though neither gets much beyond an introduction.  Returning characters provided expectedly lived in performances with an expectedly strong showing by Rose Byrne, but Sophie Turner handling the psychically tortured Jean Grey earns highest honors.  She provides a protective loner aware of the danger living inside her powers.  Her ability to give into the mental torment facing her character, she is more convincing of the overwhelming power than Famke Janssen found in three movies.

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Only providing a fraction of the civil right allegory present in earlier films, this movie takes itself much less seriously than its predecessors, which isn’t a terrible thing. Where this trilogy succeeds is not meddling the visually focused story with excessive exposition. The impending continuation of the story is likely, and Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg have left room for expanding the cinematic adaptation of these well loved characters.  

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Certainly not as cohesively abbreviated as Captain America: Civil War in condensing a mammoth graphic run, X-Men: Apocalypse captures the camp era of this mutant universe unlike its predecessors.  The effects heavy, explosion laden action movie is best enjoyed as the close of a generation of exploring these characters.  As Singer and Kinberg announced their exit, they encouraged the continuation of the franchise.  Easily my second least favorite X-Men movie, they have laid a path for a different fanboy, or hopefully fangirl, to take their vision for these superheroes into the 90s.

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