By Scott Ng
Batman V Superman and Captain America: Civil War have had their day in the sun, and now it’s time for the X-Men to stake their claim on the superhero summer of 2016.
Brian Singer returns to direct X-Men: Apocalypse, the latest in a series of adventures detailing the beginnings of the X-Men team starting back in X-Men: First Class, and finally sees Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, and Storm re-joining the X-Men universe proper after the subtle reboot in X-Men: Days of Future Past, alongside new additions like Jubilee, Angel, Caliban, Psylocke, and of course, the titular villain Apocalypse joining the cast for a wild romp that will take the viewer from Poland, to Westchester, and finally to Cairo, Egypt.
X-Men: Apocalypse was very well-received among fans when it was first announced, given the popularity of Apocalypse storylines in the Marvel comics, and we’re happy to report that the hype is absolutely justified. X-Men: Apocalypse sees the first mutant, En Sabah Nur, better known as Apocalypse, revived centuries after his human followers betrayed him and his Four Horsemen- four beings he empowers to levels close to his own. Arriving in a new era and seeing the world far from rivalling the glory he imagined, Apocalypse seeks out new followers to complete his vision of a world dominated only by the fittest.
The movie juggles a large cast– what remains of the First Class team makes and appearance, we are re-introduced to some of the classic X-Men team from the very first movie, new villains and major characters are introduced like Psylocke and Angel. Understandably, with such a large cast not everyone gets a fair amount of screentime and a satisfying character arc, but Brian Singer largely pulls off the movie to great aplomb, generating little moments of levity and comradeship to create tangible bonds between the characters. Of particular note is the film’s work with Magneto– exploring a side of the character more often seen in Fassbender’s indie work to create a very well-rounded character with the clearest and best motivations in the film.
Sophie Turner as Jean Grey proves to be a particularly inspired decision– her time as Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones has let her perfect the secretly vulnerable ice queen act, and she brings to good use with the cultured, elegant, yet troubled Jean. It is safe to say she essentially outshines the film’s star, Mystique, who continues to be the main focus of the rebooted series alongside Professor X, who finally gets his signature bald look in this outing. Tye Sheridan and Kodi Smit-McPhee are well casted as Cyclops and Nightcrawler respectively, and we can already tell you Alexandra Shipp’s Storm mohawk haircut is going to be the thing once this movie is released.
Eye beams leave trails of red across the screen, blood dirties the floors of the Weapon X program, the world itself is upheaved through the powers of the mutants– X-Men: Apocalypse is a visual CGI feast that must be seen to be appreciated. While some elements look obviously computer generated at the film’s climax, which involved the gradual disintegration of all metal in Egypt, the mutant-on-mutant battles here are as good and intense as ever, as Singer flows in and out of the individual battles. The final fight scene gets a little drawn out, but there’s a huge payoff waiting at the end that’s sure to tingle fans in all the right places.
Quicksilver gets another show-stealing slowmo segment that’s bound to raise the speedster’s popularity even higher than before, and we think it won’t be long before we get a huge payoff with a Magneto-Quicksilver storyline- solo spinoff Magneto movie, please?
We’re happy to report Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse is a step forward from the wealth of cool-yet-easily-defeated enemies we’ve seen in superhero movies for a while now. Apocalypse doesn’t sit back in the shadows like Thanos, or spend his time brooding. He’s a mutant with a mission, and his every move has purpose, coupled with a power set that is freely used to demonstrate his superiority to make Apocalypse one of the better movie super villains to emerge from any franchise.
Apocalypse’s survival of the fittest doctrine is well expressed and made easy to understand here, and despite Oscar Isaac’s noticeable lack of stature, especially next to Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, he has his moments of aplomb that convey majesty and terrifying grandeur befitting the would-be king of the world.
Olivia Munn’s Psylocke shows hint of promise- first appearing aligned to the Morlocks, she ends the movie in an interesting place that will have fans puzzling and theorizing. However, her character plays little more than a bit role in this outing, and we’re hoping something more meaty awaits the character in future installations.
X-Men: Apocalypse is a fun thrill ride from start to end that deserves a place in the conversation of great superhero summer blockbusters. While the large cast somewhat hampers character development especially for minor characters, the movie does manage to tell some intriguing and effective stories through the characters, with Magneto’s arc being a particular highlight of the movie.
The X-Men movie franchise has a bright new star in the making with Sophie Turner, and even as Jennifer Lawrence turns in a by-the-numbers performance, it is clear that there is plenty of star power to carry the franchise to a new starting point. And with the tease they left for the next movie? (ed. Note: yes, there is an after credits scene!) We can only say we can’t wait. 8.5/10