‘Apocalypse’ a welcome introduction of new yet familiar characters
Wait, so after countless tales about Wolverine, Mystique, Professor Xavier and Magneto, we’re finally going to see some other X-Men take center stage, maybe even save the world from a destructive superpower?
Look, this isn’t a complaint about “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which was a solid entry in the “X-Men” film series in its own right. But after six main series film (and multiple spinoffs) centered around a handful of legendary mutants, it was getting about time for someone else — anyone else — to have a turn in the spotlight.
To be honest, it could have been any bunch of the younger mutants. (The third part of the reboot, “Apocalypse” takes place decades before the original movie trilogy.) And while misgivings could be forgiven for who were eventually chosen (another Phoenix storyline?), it simply had to happen. How many more tragedies could Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) suffer before he seriously went insane? How many more speeches about hope and unity could Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) give before even he became inured to them? And, most importantly, how many more times could Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) save the day from the egotistic natures of the two men closest to her? The material was getting thin here.
Speaking of which, the storyline of “Apocalypse” won’t exactly stimulate your brain, but at least it went in a new direction. The film kicks off in Antiquity, showing us a stunning Egypt bathed in gold. Its ruler, En Sabah Nur (an unrecognizable Oscar Isaac), is a mutant, a blue-skinned dude who is said to be the first to posses the x-gene. His ability: to collect the powers of other mutants — through some ancient, body-snatching ritual, of course. However, his desire to attain more power backfires, leading to a revolt against him and causing him to be entombed for thousands of years.
But, as is wont to happen in these types of movies, he doesn’t stay imprisoned. A chance encounter with Dr. Moira MacTaggert (Rose Bryne) sets him free, and what he sees of our the modern world (well, the 1980s) enrages him. Decadence, technology and non-mutant humanity running the joint? Not if En Sabah Nur has anything to say about it.
His quest to conquer and subjugate humanity, however, wouldn’t be complete without a squad of his own. In short order, he assembles his Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Ororo Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp), who has the ability to control the weather; Angel (Ben Hardy), a winged-man capable of flight; and Psylocke (Olivia Munn), a telepathic and telekinetic mutant with quite the deadly energy sword. (Storm was located in Cairo while Angel and Psylocke are found in East Berlin; Mystique and Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) make appearances here, as well.)
The Fourth Horseman, you ask? None other than Magneto, who basically chose to become a family man in Poland. Well, that was plan until, in what has to be just the unluckiest sequences of events, the metal-controlling mutant finds himself holding his dead wife and daughter. Stricken with grief, he rampages, joining Apocalypse’s cohorts to returns mutants to their rightful place as rulers.
Back in the states, a much younger band of mutants are slowly learning to harness their powers. Some characters you may be familiar with: a powerfully telepathic and telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner); Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), a mutant who shoots beams from his eyes and who wears a signature pair of ruby glasses; Jubilee (Lana Condor), who can create psionic energy plasmoids. Some return from previous installments, including Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) as Scott’s older brother and another mutant who manifests weaponized energy; and Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who can move at supersonic speeds.
Soon enough, En Sabah Nur kicks off his grand plan of causing planetary devastation with the idea that whoever lives was clearly meant to become part of his new world order. The final piece of that puzzle, which he basically stumbles into, involves the Professor and his amazing power to control others’ minds. Taking over his mind, En Sabah Nur uses the Professor’s powers to forcibly launch every nuke in the world into space so they won’t interfere. That chaos that follows (which involves yet another explosion at the academy) results in Apocalypse the Professor so he can take his power, Magneto basically tearing the world asunder and the young group of yet-to-be-heroes captured or incapacitated. The mission for the remainder is simple: Save the world, of course.
The battles in “Apocalypse” are outrageously chaotic and destructive, once again showing the powerful cinematics the latest “X-Men” films are capable of. They’re also incredibly fun, especially the final battle between the mutants and En Sabah Nur, which basically sets up the general idea for the following entries in the series.
Which, to be honest, probably isn’t going to be incredibly creative. The film’s structure didn’t really make use of its powerful cast roster or its near-endless vault of characters and stories from the last several decades. Instead, the heroes we already know are getting a second chance at saving the world. What happens to certain characters, however, will be intriguing because it’s clear their futures aren’t the same in this timeline. (This one differs from the original trilogy, even if Hugh Jackman still makes appearances — this time as Weapon X.)
In the end, “X-Men: Apocalypse” gives us enough of an entry point for future installments without forgetting to finish its original story. It will be a nice treat to see what happens with the new crop of X-Men as they hone their skills and battle against new enemies. Maybe this time around they won’t be glorified chess pieces in an epic struggle between Professor Xavier and Magneto. Maybe they’ll forge their own destiny, with powers and struggles all their own. If only the rest of us were gifted with clairvoyance.
Three “Wait, am I watching ‘Inception’?” stars out of five.