“Jean, it was just a dream.”
The X-Men have returned with Bryan Singer’s assembly of super-creatives, the Sing-Men, with Simon Kinsburg writing, John Ottman editing, and a star-studded cast performing. I was thoroughly entertained by the film as a whole, it was visually stunning, and the story reminded me of the comic books I used get lost in.
The antagonist, Apocalypse–played by Oscar Isaac (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, EX MACHINA)–seemed to lack substance in his pursuit of global genocide, and despite a millennia of collecting mutant superpowers, he seemed relatively limited, almost complacent with following through on threats against humanity recited every time he recruited a new Horseman. Isaac’s blue, ancient-steampunk character had mastered immortality, control over all matter essentially, and was ruling over ancient Egypt, giving him God status among the homo sapien society; a god of destruction, bent on eliminating “the weak” from the planet so the strong may prosper towards a better future. Sound like anyone we know? Hint: he’s tall, dark, handsome, can control magnetic fields, and just lost his entire family again– Magneto, come on down! Once again brought to life by Fassbender, and together with X-Men newbies, Storm (Alexandra Shipp, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON), Angel (Ben Hardy, EASTENDERS), and Psylocke (Olivia Munn, THE NEWSROOM), the electric-indigo quintet combine their powers to form a plot and start wreaking havoc on the human race like toddlers in a Lego brick metropolis.
Bryan Singer certainly wanted to remind people just who started the ancestral chain of seven (count ’em, seven) films with this latest installment of the X-Men franchise. There were so many references back to the inaugural film in 2000 I almost wished I could have compared the movies side-by-side and count the callbacks. Many of the set environments seemed to be copied directly; Xavier’s sleek underground hallways, the elevator door chime, the mutant-finding Cerebro computer, as were the most heavily weighted lines of dialogue, especially ones shared between Xavier and Magneto. It felt, at first, like a territorial jaunt atop my nostalgia, but Singer honored his interpretation of the X-Men by gently weaving together the sixteen year gap between X-MEN and APOCALYPSE by letting the nuances enhance the story, rather than steal the spotlight. Singer also made his feelings clear with a little jab at X-MEN: THE LAST STAND–directed by Brett Ratner–wrapped in a STAR WARS gag.
Fassbender brings a Shakespeare-esque suffering to Magneto, and once again, he embodies a villain with a palpable energy. Apocalypse plays on his weakness towards rage and pain to manipulate Magneto’s dark side and uses him to help facilitate the incipient armageddon. One last note about the four doomsday cronies; Olivia Munn was entirely unnecessary for this film. Sorry, Liv, I LOVED you as Sloan Sabbith in NEWSROOM, but her Psylocke was just tasteless purple sprinkles overtop 5-7 total lines and a few well-aimed camera angles. Once I realized the depth of her participation on the film, it was more of a distraction from the plot than a story-moving element. A psychic blade wielding, smoldering eyes distraction.
It wouldn’t be an X-MEN film without the Wolverine cameo. Hugh Jackman owned a huge chunk of screen time, enough to hinge the plot in a critical direction. Not only that, but we finally saw a version of Wolverine I’ve always wanted to see. The “fresh out of the Weapon X” phase of the character went on a surprisingly bloody rampage through a secret government compound, leaving bodies upon bodies in his wake and killing just the right people to help get our young new heroes clear of danger. Overlooking a rather awkward attack leap, I was giddy at Hugh’s return, and it gets me pumped for the much anticipated/currently filming untitled WOLVERINE sequel.
Evan Peters (AMERICAN HORROR STORY, KICKASS) stole the show once more as the super speedy Quicksilver. His ad-lib style line delivery and telltale slow-motion action scene is showcased once again when he saves an entire school full of children, clocking about Mach 4, before a gigantic explosion vaporizes them (a detonation window around 1800 milliseconds), all while jamming out to Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” The slow-motion element is used more than once in APOCALYPSE; Quicksilver shifts his gears from defense to offense while fighting the titular antagonist. I hope they continue expanding on Quicksilver’s powers, hopefully showcasing more fight scenes perhaps against another super speedster. Props to the visual effects designer, John Dykstra, for knocking this one out of the park.
Overall, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE held together as a great film and showcased the proper level of every movie element for modern-day cinematic storytelling.