Dog’s Movie House: “X-Men: Apocalypse” Dense But Entertaining Superhero Epic!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
Director Bryan Singer helped usher in the modern era of comic book filmmaking with the original “X-Men” way back in 2000. Since then the franchise has continued to perform in a very strong manner with its most recent entry “Deadpool” becoming the most successful R-rated film of all time. Now after the success of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” Singer and company have tackled another popular storyline in the mutant comic series: The All-Powerful mutant Apocalypse and his Four Horseman. The result an extremely entertaining, somewhat dense comic film that sets up future installments without sacrificing the onscreen story.
“X-Men: Apocalypse” picks up ten years after “Days Of Future Past” in which mutants and humans exist in an uneasy state of truce. During this time we find Professor Charles Xavier (James McCavoy) running his school for the gifted and continuing to promote positive mutant/human relations. On the other side of the coin, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) has becoming something of a mutant role model as she travels the world saving mutants from human exploitation. The two are forced to join forces when the world’s first mutant, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Issac) is resurrected by his followers after centuries of being trapped underground. His mission: to remake the Earth in his own image, killing billions in the process.
To aid him in this mission he recruits four powerful mutants and augments them to serve as his “Horsemen.” They include the winged Angel (Ben Hardy), the powerful psychic Psylocke (Olivia Munn), the weather-controlling Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and the powerful Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who, after a family tragedy, is more than eager to embrace Nur (also known as Apocalypse) and his notion of destroying the human race. After Apocalypse kidnaps Xavier to absorb the Professor’s mind control powers, it’s up to Raven and a group of young X-Men, including Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) to defeat a mutant who has been worshipped as a god.
To give you an idea of quality, “Apocalypse is better than “Batman v Superman” but not quite as good as the recent “Civil War.” Director Singer and writer Simon Kinberg know their cinematic characters and have a definite direction in which they want their film to take. The action sequences are off the chain good with another standout sequence featuring Evan Peters Quicksilver saving the students from an exploding X-Mansion. The script manages to ramp up the emotional conflict as well, with Fassbender channeling the rage of Magneto into something that is an all consuming fire that we can all relate to. The death of loved ones is one of the few things garaunteed to make a rational man do irrational things and Magneto has never been the most rational of characters to begin with. His interplay with McCavoy’s Xavier is still one of the most compelling things about this whole series and although they don’t get much time together, the time they do get is very rewarding.
The returning cast members all do fine jobs, with Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult doing sterling work as Raven and Hank McCoy, respectively. Of the new cast, Turner (who does great work on “Game Of Thrones”) is a convincing young Jean Grey. Sheridan captures just the right amount of angst as the teenage Cyclops and Smit-McPhee has some of the films best lines as the young teleporter Nightcrawler. Let’s also not forget the aforementioned Peters as Quicksilver, who has an actual story arc in this film as opposed to the single scene-stealing appearance during the previous film.
Now let’s talk about the villains, shall we? It’s here where the characters get a bit of the short shrift. Isaacs Apocalypse is fairly one-note, but that’s okay because he considers himself a god. He doesn’t have any of those pesky human doubts and fears the lend themselves to complex character profiles. Isaacs portrays the world’s first mutant as a silken voiced manipulator and would be savior to only those mutants powerful enough to stand beside him. His recruitment speech to Magneto while standing at Auschwitz is particularly compelling. And although the makeup job on Apocalypse isn’t particularly frightening (though it is a close to the comic book representation as you’re likely to get), his powers are impressive and downright scary in their scope and variety. This is a guy who can remake civilizations with a snap of a finger and kill dozens my simply turning concrete into quicksand. Apocalypse may not be a complex antagonist, but he is certainly a formidable one.
The Horsemen, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. Magneto gets the most development, and that’s as it should be given he’s been the antagonist in every X-Men film to date (save the solo Wolverine movies, of course). Ororo Monroe, also known as Storm, gets a nice introduction but disappears for vast amounts of the film. Still, Shipp plays her with verve and sass and I look forward to her evolution as everyone’s favorite weather controlling mutant.
Angel and Psylocke, however, aren’t given a great deal to do in this movie and it’s a shame because they both look great. Psylocke in particular looks like she stepped right out of the comics, complete with skin-tight costume, impressive bustline, and the ever present psychic blade she employs as a weapon. Angel, especially with his metal wings, looks great as well, but he gets even less time than Olivia Munn’s Psylocke.
Now I don’t know if this qualifies as a problem or more of an observation, but it seems to be that for being the most powerful mutant on Earth, Professor Xavier is always getting his ass kicked or kidnapped. He never cuts loose (unless he’s forced to as he was in “X2: X-Men United”) and is almost always needed to be rescued. It might be the personification of his compromising personality, but I’d love to see him kick some ass in one of these movies for a change.
Overall, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is a fine addition to the franchise and, although it lacks a complex villain and is a tad overstuffed at times, is a fine way to spend your Memorial Day weekend at the multiplex. 4 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!
“X-Men: Apocalypse” is Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images