For the seventh in the X-Men movie series, and fourth he has directed, guru of all things mutant Bryan Singer has thrown everything into the pot and hopes there’s something for everyone. X-Men: Apocalypse definitely is a mixed bag, and the director, with help from screenwriter Simon Kinberg, might have bitten off too much. But I have to say what is on screen is highly entertaining for fans of the X-Men brand, one of Marvel’s most reliable.
I had heard bad buzz before going into last night’s public preview openings (I missed the press screenings when I was in Cannes). But not being one slavishly trying to hold the filmmakers to some kind of ridiculous standard of quality –this is just a comic book movie, folks — I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked this one much better than the past couple of entries in the franchise. Maybe that is because I really dug the new villain, a 5,000-year-old mutant originally named En Sabah Nur but now known as Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). The film opens in ancient Egypt, where Nur, the world’s oldest mutant by far, is about to be preserved to ultimately rule for all eternity. As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), these sequences look like they were thrown in by distributor 20th Century Fox because they had some sets and costumes left over from Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods And Kings and wanted the most bang for their buck. But there’s a problem with Nur’s plans, and an earth-crushing shakeup causes him to be entombed for about 5,000 years before waking up in 1983, which is about 10 years after the world first learned of the existence of mutants.
But this guy has them all beat in terms of seniority, and as he uses his newly restored powers on the current populace, he finds the world he left behind has fallen into dangerous hands with nuclear weapons, bad leaders, etc. He determines, with the help of some other mutants he enables along the way, that in order to save the world from itself, it first must be destroyed and “cleansed” as one of the subtitles for his oddball language explains. And so Nur is off to do just that.
Meanwhile, in what looks like a setup for future X-Men editions, or at the very least a pilot for a TV series, we are taken back to Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) thriving School for the Gifted Student, where a whole new group of recruits is being put through the paces. We meet, among others, Scott Summers aka Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), whose eyes can kill; Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), whose telepathic talents are acute; Jubilee (Lana Condor), with hands that are impressive; and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a long-tailed blue mutant with strong teleporting ability. He also gets the laughs.
Of course this wouldn’t be an X-Men without some of the originals, so Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven is back imparting her collective wisdom and Erik aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender) gets the most serious storyline as a man trying to live a normal existence in Poland but is haunted by new demons. A visit to Auschwitz gives this film a few sobering moments not seen in previous chapters. Even a particularly intense Wolverine (unbilled Hugh Jackman) stops by for a cameo. But for me, Isaac, even under piles of makeup, steals the show with his Apocalyptic plottings. Fun stuff. Singer, Kinberg and Lauren Shuler Donner produced.
Do you plan to see X-Men: Apocalypse? Let us know what you think.