Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
2 hours, 24 minutes
Though Brian Singer’s “X-Men” kicked off this current wave of comic book films back in 2000, these movies have been relegated to tier 2 status among their peers. Though they are technically Marvel characters, due to contractual issues with 20th Century Fox, these films exist in their own universe with their own convoluted timeline.
Some are better than others, but the X-Men usually serve up at least solid entertainment, if not particularly stirring. The last film, “Days of Future Past” saw a shake up the continuity set by the previous six films by introducing time travel into the mix. This was a clever opportunity for Brian Singer, who’s helmed half the series’ films, to do a soft reboot, similar to the way J.J. Abrams treated “Star Trek.” This latest film takes place in the 1980s, and sees the recruitment of series originators, Cyclops, Storm, and Jean Grey, but not before taking a quick trip back a few millennia to the very first mutant of all.
En Saba Nur, the aforementioned progenitor of the mutant race has lived for tens of thousands of years. His power, the ability to enhance the powers of others, not to mention the ability to transfer his consciousness from one body to the next, has rendered him virtually immortal and all-powerful. Through the ages, he has adopted the mutant abilities of his hosts including, most recently, the tendency to rapidly heal from any wound.
When we meet Nur, it is nearly six thousand years in the past, in ancient Egypt. He is worshipped by most as a god. At the ceremony of his transference, however, a few dissenters sabotage the event, bringing a massive pyramid down on the top of his head, as well as on that of his four horsemen, powerful mutants who protect and serve him. Nur, who will be referred to as Apocalypse from here on out, survives but is buried and asleep. It will be 58 centuries before he is discovered and awakened, but once awake, he wastes no time in assessing his new situation.
In the meantime, series favorite Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is on the hunt for mutants in trouble. She is in hiding, a far cry from her proud and open intervention in the events of the last film. Professor X is running the school for “gifted” youngsters, that he always dreamed, and Magneto is laying low in Poland, having found a wife and daughter in the ten years since the last film.
Unfortunately, nothing gold can stay, especially for poor Magneto who never seems to be able to catch a break. Soon, events will transpire to find Magneto joining forces with Apocalypse, along with a damaged winged Angel, a woman who can create psychic weapons, and a street urchin with the ability to control the weather. The professor and his fresh recruits will have to fight the forces of evil and hopefully convince their brethren back to the side of right.
I enjoyed “Apocalypse” quite a bit despite its overstuffed plot and elements of silliness. Where most of the Marvel films I see are legitimately great films, I think I like the “X-Men” movies in exactly the way comic book movies were intended: solid, escapist, with not a lot to think about or dwell on after.
This movie has its problems. The look of Apocalypse is pretty silly, and burying an actor of Oscar Isaac’s caliber under all that goofy makeup is a bit a of a travesty. I also didn’t get the Angel I always loved from the comic books. This Angel is somehow a little wimpy-looking, and his transformation to Death doesn’t do much to help.
Most the acting, though is pretty good, with Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy proving they are as equal to the task of playing the elder statesmen Professor X and Magneto as their Shakespearean counterparts Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. Magneto’s story this time is by far the heaviest, so much so that I wondered if Singer and Co. weren’t heaping on the misery a little thick. His conflict has always been the central unifying conceit of the series, but surely he deserves a break.
Evan Peters, playing the lightning fast Quicksilver once again has a scene-stealing scene, though he is given a little more to do this time. Jennifer Lawrence does an adequate job, but you can clearly see she’s tiring of the blue makeup and overly dramatic plots. She wasn’t one of the world’s biggest stars when she got the job playing Mystique in “X-Men: First Class,” but now she doesn’t need to be a naked shape-shifter to pay the bills. I’d be very surprised if this isn’t the last time Lawrence makes an appearance in this universe.
Hugh Jackman, appearing here only briefly, is also on the cusp of retiring the character of Wolverine after eight films. He has one more in him, a futuristic western, if the blogosphere is to be believed, which will see Logan as a retired hero, trying to live a quiet life in a nightmare world. I guess we’ll see.
Only time will tell what comes next for the X-Men franchise. I know 20th Century Fox would love to keep it going — they have, in addition to the next “Wolverine,” plans for a spin-off, “The New Mutants,” which saw the adventures of a bunch of misfit teen mutants. This latest crop of young actors, including Sophie Turner from “Game of Thrones” are certainly contracted for multiple films, so it’ll probably all hinge on the box office take for “Apocalypse.”
My gut is that as long as there’s money to be made, Fox will keep churning these out, every couple of years. They may not have the well-oiled machine that Marvel has going, but they do have an ace in the hole. Last year’s surprise smash hit “Deadpool” is technically an X-Man, or at least a character from those comics. Could we see a cross-over in the future? This is Hollywood — anything’s possible.
“X-Men: Apocalypse” is rated PG-13 for lots of cartoon action violence and brief language.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.