X-Men Apocalypse: Review and Critique

“Everything they’ve built will fall, and from the ashes of their world, we’ll build a better one!”

Our famous superhero mutants are back in this latest installment from director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, X2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past).  After the White House Cabinet was saved by Mystique from Magneto and the Sentinels in the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, mutants have begun to coexist peacefully with regular humans.  This time, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his school of gifted – Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, GoT‘s Sansa Stark), QuickSilver (Evans Peters), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), and Raven Darkholme, a.k.a. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) – are faced with the threat of a self-prophecy-claiming mutant called En Sabah Nur, a.k.a. Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who wants to destroy the world and rebuild a new one for only the fittest.

He is so powerful that he can absorb the powers of other mutants, albeit an ancient Egyptian ritual in which his consciousness is transferred from his then-body to the body of the mutant whose powers he wants to possess.  Considering how many mutant bodies he has assimilated over time, before he is put into hibernatory sleep due to a betrayal in the opening scene, it is unknown how much it would take to destroy this guy, nor is it quite understood why he always wants four principle followers as disciples with him.  He wakes up, sees the world has greatly deviated from how he wanted it, decides the world needs “cleansing”, and recruits Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy), and – wait for it, of course – Erik Lensherr, a.k.a. Magneto (bad-ass Michael Fassbender) as his four disciples.  Is there a rule that four is the magic number?  Did he get that one from the Bible, or did the Bible get it from him?

Magneto has attempted to leave his villainous days behind and settle down in Poland with a wife and kid, even presuming a new identity to his co-workers at a steel factory where he works.  Unfortunately, when Apocalypse wakes up from his sleep, an earthquake(?) felt throughout the world causes an accident at work, forcing Magneto to use his powers to save a fellow man.  Someone or two rat him to the police, they put two and two together, and he is caught.  Due to an unfortunate sequence of events, the police in attempting to arrest him accidentally kill his wife and daughter.  With the help of CIA’s Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), who was involved in the plot of X-Men: First Class and whose memory was erased by Xavier after the Cuba beach scene, the X-Men attempt to locate Magneto via Cerebro so that they can convince him to come back and help him.  Unfortunately, it is too late, as, by that time, he has joined Apocalypse’s Gang of Four.  In the process following this attempt, Xavier is captured, and his mansion is blown up, leaving his students without a home.  To make matters worse, some of the main characters are captured by Colonel William Stryker (Josh Helman).  From that point on, it’s downhill: to save the captured mutants at Stryker’s facility, rescue Xavier from Apocalypse, and stop said villain from destroying the world.

Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t hate the movie.  For one, Oscar Isaac gives a menacing performance as the titular bad guy.  Even in a scene in which he taunts Charles Xavier becaue he is attempting to locate him, he gives off Sith Lord vibes, as if he were Poe Dameron turned to the Dark Side (all he’d be missing is a Darth BB-8).  However, it felt like there were questions unanswered and elements unexplained, some of them dealing with the ambiguity of the extent of Apocalypse’s power, other than how he is defeated in the end.

– How is Apocalypse able to “learn” about human civilization through TV by pressing his palms to the screen?  Wouldn’t he just obtain a series of moving images and sounds that might still need to put into context from explanations to interpret this and that?
– How does Apocalypse manage to hijack into Cerebro when Xavier is using it and cause every world country with nukes to launch them into space?  Is this why he says later that they are “still connected”?
– How is he able to prevent Xavier from using his mind-control powers when he is around?  He says it’s an ability he acquired “over the millenia,” so does that mean that sometime in the past, there was an anti-Charles-Xavier?
– So we know that he wants to capture Professor X so that he can transfer his consciousness to have his power and be able to take over every mind in the world.  Presuming, God forbid, he succeeds, would Jean Grey, as Phoenix, still be able to stop him?  Would her mind be exempt from Apocalypse’s would-be-ability to be “everywhere” and to be “everyone”?
– Towards the end of the film, Xavier and Apocalypse engage in some kind of battle in a “mental” dimension; Xavier initially gains the upperhand in fisticuffs, but then he is overpowered by Apocalypse.  Since they’re in each other’s heads, where is the breaking point in this fight, even if Xavier is beaten badly to the point of bleeding?
– Some of the mutants’ abilities probably seemed underused.  Jean Grey could have stopped Stryker from kidnapping the mutants in the first place, considering she’s Phoenix (unless I missed something); instead, she just uses her psychic power to prevent one of Stryker’s men from finding her, Scott, and Nightcrawler.  Plus, what is the point if Stryker only wants those few mutants and MacTaggert?  Quicksilver and Nightcrawler could have combined their powers to make a more effective fighting force (one can bend the rules of time, the other the rules of space).  Think about it – the ability to teleport at Quicksilver speed!  Also, what about Jubilee or any of the other mutants who were left alone after the mansion explosion?  Do we see them use any of their mutant powers to help out, especially if the world is at stake here?
– What was the point of having Stryker and Wolverine-as-Weapon-X?  Was it to pay homage or tip of the hat to X2?
– Why does Jean Grey have to learn to “let go” in order to unleash her inner Phoenix?  Wasn’t she told earlier by Xavier that she had to control her powers?  Did she have to steal a lesson out of Frozen‘s Elsa handbook?

Overall, the movie didn’t feel as well-paced as Days of Future Past.  Most of the film felt like one first act, and then suddenly, it felt like there was a jump to the third act and the story just ended.  Apocalypse seemed underused – another villain stereotyped as wanting to “cleanse” the world.  Does he use his powers more for that, or for giving his four “horsemen” makeovers with their uniforms and mutant abilities?

Nevertheless, it didn’t change my mind from wishing I had seen the film.  I enjoyed the live-action take on the iconic villain; I enjoyed seeing the newer, younger-generation X-Men; I enjoyed watching how the conflict would play out, however the pacing was.

Viewing Verdict: recommend seeing more than once


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