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X-Men: Apocalypse




X-Men: Apocalypse (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

06/02/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



 The X-Men re-form to take on a god-like being bent on ending the world in X-Men: Apocalypse, the third movie in the James McAvoy/Michael Fassbender younger-X-Men incarnation.

Sigh, when isn’t a god-like being trying to take over the world in one of these movies? I think that set-up right there explains why I liked Captain America: Civil War.
The movie opens with some early mutant activity in ancient Egypt. A being treated as a god — who is eventually called Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) — is guarded by four mutants and periodically treats himself to a spa day wherein he transfers his essence to another body, usually another mutant body so he can pick up some new powers and abilities. During one such transfer, the local human population decides enough is enough with this guy and is able to kill Apocalypse’s mutant henchmen and trap the big guy in a pyramid. 
Years later —  in the 1980s —as Apocalypse wakes up, we find out where all of our players are. Professor Charles Xavier (McAvoy) is at his school, providing a safe place for new generations of gifted children including super-strong mutant Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and the latest addition, Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), brother of Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till), who has just figured out that he has laser vision. Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is living in Poland, working in some kind of factory and living a quiet country life with his wife and daughter (who, as we learn, apparently has some kind of animal summoning abilities). Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is kind of a freelance mutant rescuer, getting people like Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) out of the underground freak-show and mutant-fighting circuit. 
Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne), CIA agent and crush of Xavier, is on some kind of mission in Cairo and comes upon the place where Apocalypse is entombed. She’s not quite sure what she’s witnessed when she sees his pyramid get all glowy but soon Xavier (whom, you’ll recall, she doesn’t remember meeting and kissing) comes by to get her to help them figure out what is happening in Cairo. 
Meanwhile, the earthquake caused by Apocalypse’s awakening led to an accident wherein Erik accidentally revealed his powers. His discovery leads to a tragic turn of events that sets this man who has become relatively peace-loving and human-life-leading back on his murdering ways. 
Thus does Mystique resurface at Professor X’s school to get his help in searching for Magneto, to find their old friend before anyone else can. The storylines all come together as Magneto joins Apocalypse — as well as the mutants Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn) — in Apocalypse’s quest to remake the world as one that will worship him. Magneto, as usual, seems fine with whatever Apocalypse’s plans are as long as they allow him to get out his rage and prevent the human-on-mutant violence that he’s sure is not far away. 
Magneto versus Professor X, eliminating the human threat versus engaging with humans — this is the core struggle of the X-Men universe, at least as portrayed by all of the movies. I understand why the movie needs an Apocalypse, why most of these movies need a villain outside this equation, which is to give all the mutants a reason to have to choose between the two philosophies of living in a world where they are both in the minority and yet powerful in ways the majority isn’t. I understand why Apocalypse is there, but he’s not particularly interesting. Oh, all-powerful thing who wants to rule the world? Again?
The movie is at its most captivating when it focuses on the individuals. Fassbender — not just because he is, like, many levels more talented than this nonsense — and Magneto always have the most interesting scenes, the most interesting arc. He has a good reason for his behavior and plenty of motivating factors in why his story plays out the way it does in this movie. Professor X is less compelling but his gentle mentorship of freaked out young mutants offers some nice storytelling beats. 
But the Apocalypse story, while it is the engine that drives the plot, feels like it takes away from the better elements of the individual characters. It adds a “jumble of things” quality to this story that already has so many parts that just setting up where everybody is seems to take a good while. The movie has some solid ideas about how these mutants can live in the world but then bogs them down in a bunch of overheated CGI and an “Easter eggs for everybody!” approach that takes away from some of the movie’s smarter elements. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not arguing for some darker, thinker X-Men — I think “dark superhero movie” needs to get a rest as a movie trope for a good long time. Like, maybe, let’s revisit it in the 2020s. Or the 2120s — I’m sure DC will still be trying to make its movie franchise happen in the 22nd century. Nor do I necessarily think everything needs to be “Joss Whedon’s Marvel Comics” whatever. But a streamlined approach to X-Men storytelling (not trying to give us the origins of, like, every one of the X-Men in every movie) and a bit more focus on the personal relationships (which was sort of The Thing that made X-Men: First Class work) would help make levity more natural and give emotions more punch.
X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t a complete bummer. Any Fassbender is good Fassbender. Evan Peters shows up again as Quicksilver and though his showpiece moment feels more like fan service than actual story necessity, it is some mighty fine fan service. And McAvoy, though he always seems to get the second best of everything, does add an element of the real person to his portrayal of Professor X. C+
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language, and some suggestive images. Directed by Bryan Singer with a screenplay by Simon Kinberg, X-Men: Apocalypse is two hours and 25 minutes long and is distributed by 20th Century Fox. 
 





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