The X-Men Face Apocalypse and Still Stand Tall
X-Men: Apocalypse: Rated “PG-13“ (144 min.)
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Days of Distant Past
Okay, we’re going to be honest with you here. If you have watched all (or most) of the previous X-Films, or have read (but stopped) any (or all) the X-Men comics — or any combination of the above, watching this film could potentially confuse you (we were an avid reader of the X-Titles through the mid-‘90s and have seen (and reviewed) all the X-Films, and admittedly, we were more than just a tad confused as well. Still, trust us when we say that if you are even a tad confused by what is happening on screen, let it ride for a bit, and eventually it will all work itself out spectacularly — really.
A Brief History of X-Films
This film, follows in the footsteps of X-Men: First Class (2011), and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), bringing to close this second X-trilogy which assembles a second generation of X-Men (to battle a new threat to the world. Still, before we get there, let’s recap for a bit. In First Class it is 1962 and Xavier and Lensherr (Professor X and Magneto / McAvoy & Fassbender) gather together what was essentially the first team of X-Men to face off against Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his team of “Anti-X-Men” in order to prevent the Cuban missile crises. In Days of Future Past X-Men from various teams and timelines from 1973 to 2023. 50 band together to fight off the threat of the mutant-killing Sentinels. The resulting action of this second film was to meld the first X-trilogy (which ran from ’00 through ’06) with the ongoing one, and bring everything into line for this new team to be assembled.
X-Men: Apocalypse | Final Trailer
And in This Corner, Apocalypse
So now we’re here, and in this outing, we learn that Mutants aren’t as new a piece of evolution as previously thought. That since the dawn of civilization, there was another, very powerful mutant who was worshiped as a god. This mutant, Apocalypse (Isaac), is the first and most powerful mutant on the planet, and over the centuries of his life, he has managed to amass the powers of many other mutants, becoming both immortal and invincible. Upon awakening in 1983, after thousands of years asleep, he is disillusioned with the world as he discovers it and sets about to recruit a team of powerful mutants — dubbed the Four Horsemen — comprised of Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psyclops (Olivia Munn), and a very disheartened Magneto, so that he can cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will naturally reign as god.
The Fate of the World
With the fate of the World hanging in the balance, Mystique (Lawrence) seeks out the help of Professor X so as to assemble a new team of young X-Men so as to stop this new nemesis and save mankind from and utter complete destruction. On her own, Mystique has been helping to rescue oppressed mutants, including Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), becoming involved in the struggle against Apocalypse. When she hears what happened to Erik (to his wife and daughter), she returns to the X-Mansion. For his part, Xavier, over the past decade, has abandoned his quest to build a team of combatants, and has turned his ancestral home into a school for gifted youngsters (read: mutants) which has grown significantly. Among his students are the young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). It is these students and others (including Quicksilver (Evan Peters) whom Raven recruits to challenge Apocalypse.
The Coming of Apocalypse
A Gathering of Heroes
While the film(s) continue to take liberties with the cannon of the comics, they do still recognize the source material and adhere as close to it as is humanly possible So while many character origins are altered others — Psyclops, Angel — are quite different. Here save for small bits here and there, Angel, Storm, and Psyclops are given very little to do, thus having their characters being the least developed (there is a boat-load of characters in this film — nearly as many as in Captain America; Civil War — so some of that is to be expected). It is also important to note that this film (as have been all the previous X-Films) a much darker and down-beat film than have been most of the Avenger-themed films. This is not a bad thing; it is just that they are fundamentally different films.
Quicksilver Messenger Service
Building a Legend
All of which is to say that this was still an action-packed, and exciting film, and one well worth seeing. With this outing, director Bryan Singer has managed to successfully tie together most of the dangling strings of the previous films while lining up whatever is to come next. He has set up the familiar team, and hinted at what is to come (there are two end-of-credit trailers, one after the main credits, and one after the last of the credits have crawled north of the screen; and yes, Stan Lee makes yet another cameo), and has done so admirably (hey, X-History is not only as convoluted as you can it is about as convoluted as you can possibly get). We get to see how the interpersonal relations of the team member form (the budding romance between Scott and Jean, how Storm origin as a street urchin and thief ties in, as well as a bit of both Angel and Nightcrawler come about.
Rise of the Four Horsemen
Days of Future History
As stated, like the other X-Films, this is a darker film than the other Marvel films, yet there is still that sense of a deeper humanity, as well as real-world, humanitarian issues at play. This has always been a hallmark of Marvel comics and its subsequent films. This isn’t just about spandex-and leather-clad, over-muscled men and women beating each other into submission; there is empathy, pathos, and yes, even a modicum of humor seasoned throughout this film. Over the course of the film, we come to understand that these are real people with actual lives, and not cardboard cutouts sprung to cartoon life from colorful comicbook written for children. This is a notable addition to the lore of Marvel heroes and (if scuttlebutt and rumors are to be believed), Fox is positioning the series to come in line with the already established Marvel Cinematic Universe; something that can only benefit everyone concerned.