In the recent few years, there has been a deluge of superhero movies being churned out by Marvel. We had hardly recovered from the massive showdown between feuding teams led by Captain America and Iron Man in Civil War, that we are thrust into the chaotic world of the X-Men universe with the eighth version in the series- X-Men: Apocalypse.
Bryan Singer, the visionary behind the highly praised X-Men trilogy in the 2000s and the subsequent rebooted series, is back with the unstoppable mutant franchise. After X-Men: First Class (set in the 1960s) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (set around the 70s), the series takes another decade leap into the 1980s.
The beginning X-Men Apocalypse of the movie takes us way back to 3600 BC, into the cavernous chambers of a pyramid in the Nile Valley, where a psychic mutant En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is betrayed and buried alive. Apocalypse, who is the first mutant in the X-Men universe and the most devastatingly powerful foe that our mutant heroes have ever faced, awakens from his slumber in the 1980s, and is dismayed that the world is now being ruled by violence and weapons of mass destruction. He recruits mutants from across the globe- Berlin, Poland, Cairo, the US etc, in order to achieve his nefarious plans of destroying the existing civilization and rebuilding it on his terms by purging the human race of its weaker elements.
The film is chock-a-block with earth-shattering special effects and grand scenes of widespread destruction, but fails to live up to the expectations and hype generated by First Class and Days of Future Past. Fans of the franchise should certainly watch it once, but it ain’t something that they will be too nostalgic about in the future. There are several pros and cons to X-Men: Apocalypse, which we discuss below:
Jean Grey, Quicksilver and all the young mutants
Sophie Turner, better known as Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones, plays Jean Grey, and along with Quicksilver (Evan Peters, reprising his role from Days of Future Past), is simply fantastic in Apocalypse. The duo is a show-stealer in every scene that they are, especially in a long time freeze sequence where Quicksilver rescues children from a burning mansion, with the scene set to ‘Sweet Dreams’. Quicksilver has the best jokes in the movie and it was no surprise to see the audience hooting and cheering every scene that he appears in.
Also, unlike the Avengers movie, where the female characters like the Black Widow and Scarlett Witch are relegated to secondary roles in the climactic action scenes, Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Jean Grey play a crucial part in the final battle with Apocalypse. Tye Sheridan as the befuddled and brash Cyclops and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the delightful scripture-reading Nightcrawler also deliver a fine performance.
Michael Fassbender as Magneto
Michael Fassbender has a very intense face and it is only suitable that he plays the harrowing role of the grim anti-hero Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto again. A Holocaust survivor, Lehnsherr heeds his former friend Charles Xavier aka Professor X’s advice and is leading a quiet life with his wife and daughter. However, tragedy befalls the family and once again, Magneto is back with his powerful magnetism ability, seething for revenge against humanity. He is enlisted by Apocalypse as one of his ‘Four Horsemen’, with the other three being torm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn). Michael Fassbender has been one of the main reasons why I have watched the rebooted X-Men series at least six or seven times and he does not disappoint yet again.
The entire Apocalypse arc
The official Marvel website describes En Sabah Nur or Apocalypse’s powers in the following way:
‘Apocalypse’s full extent of powers remain to be revealed, especially to the extent of which powers have since been augmented by alien technology. Apocalypse claims to have control of his body on the molecular level and structure– allowing him to shape change and elongate with virtually unlimited range, to increase density and allow his body to mimic metals and armors, to teleport, and to be virtually immune to the effects of age. Apocalypse can also increase and enhance his strength to levels surpassing that of the Incredible Hulk. Apocalypse can grow to giant sizes, and gain the power of flight, sometimes through turning his arms into wings or jets. Apocalypse can also transform himself into a variety of human disguises.He has exhibited energy absorbing and projecting abilities in the past. Apocalypse has been termed an “External,” due to his mutant ability of immortality. Briefly, Apocalypse has shown potential to be a powerful psionic.It has further been hinted that Apocalypse’s body is ravaged by a techno-organic disease. Many of his regenerated bodies must use an exoskeleton body armor to prevent his energies from consuming him. Apocalypse can apparently merge/switch host bodies to continually revive his self-consuming body.’
Apocalypse is not only the most powerful antagonist in the X-Men series but also one of the most formidable villains in the entire Marvels universe. Barring a post-credit scene in Days of Future Past, Apocalypse is not mentioned in any of the movies before. The buildup for Apocalypse should have been more awe-inspiring, evoking feelings of excitement and dread among fans for the final battle. Instead, we have a stand-alone story with a hideous looking overgrown smurf Apocalypse trying to sound all grand and pretentious. The character never seems like much of a threat, despite all his roaring and bellowing. I would rather watch the finale of the cartoon series X-Men Evolution than subject myself to the laughable machinations of Oliver Isaac’s Apocalypse.
Xavier vs Magneto morality clash once again
Instead of giving more screen time to the younger and more exciting mutants, X-Men: Apocalypse yet again veers into familiar territory with the clash of moralities between Charles Xavier and Magneto. For heavens’ sake, that angle has been covered numerous times in all the movies before so is it really necessary to subject us to the same drivel? Also, some of the dialogues are really awful (especially in the Auschwitz scene) and make you feel like clawing your heads with Wolverine’s blades (Hugh Jackman’s cameo as Wolverine is kickass, though).
Bloodless action scenes of immense destruction
We all know that comic studios are wary of showing any blood or gore in action sequences of superhero movies, lest it repels their young fans. However, there should be at least some touch of reality by displaying the consequences of the massive destruction that follows in the gargantuan clash between the heroes and the villains (something that Captain America: Civil War did in a smart manner). Our ocular senses are subjected to one visual assault after another that it becomes all jaded too look at. Filmmakers should realize that non-stop special effects and a barrage of blistering action shots has become all too familiar in superhero movies and frankly, should come up with something new.
Overall, I would recommend X-Men: Apocalypse if you are simply looking for some good, popcorn entertainment. Go in with low expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised with some of the better parts in the movie.