May 30, 2016

[Movies] X-Men Apocalypse (2016)

So Fox's continued ownership of the movie rights for the X-Men and all other Marvel mutants is a bit of a sore spot for fans like myself since it means that the X-Men stories will always remain separate from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). And yes, the MCU isn't necessarily perfect in its depiction of various heroes or comic book storylines, but it's still an interesting experiment in shared universe storytelling. Thus keeping the X-Men out of that loop because of legalities is beyond annoying.

X-Men Apocalypse is the latest installment in the Fox movie franchise and it represents the continuation of a new timeline for the series that had began back in 2011 with X-Men First Class. And with Days of Future Past having completely erased the old X-Men movie timeline, we're in brand new territory with all these alternate actors performing  in these now well-known character roles.

To be fair, this continuity seems to be doing a lot better than the first storyline that they had created for the X-Men. And while those older movies have a charm of their own, this new series continues to do its best to better tie the movie to the comics without being overly beholden to that prior movie timeline.

Synopsis: X-Men Apocalypse is the ninth movie in the Fox movie franchise but the third since First Class. The movie was directed by Bryan Singer, who had directed the first movie as well, together with a screenplay by Simon Kinberg.

In Ancient Egypt, we are introduced to a being with superhuman abilities known as En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), who is worshipped as a god. He is betrayed by some of his followers and is buried within his temple during the process where he transfers his consciousness to a new host vessel. In 1983, En Sabah Nur is finally reawakened and he quickly begins to take steps to conquer the planet in order to guide the human race to its full potential. At the same time, Magneto / Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) no lives a simpler life in Poland together with his wife and daughter in attempt to run away from his mutant legacy. Mystique / Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) travels the world fighting for mutants. And finally Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) continues to devote his life to teaching young mutants how to control their powers, although he longer seems interested in fostering a team of X-Men to take a more active combat stance in matters.

Considering how Days of Future Past did end with quite the climax with the X-Men being all awesome, it was a little disappointing that most characters took some major steps back in this installment. Magneto as a metalworker in Poland was a weird  diversion that didn't really need to happen beyond making sad Magneto even more sad. Professor Xavier running the school but not fostering the X-Men didn't make him all that different from his hermit/recluse phase in the last movie. so it felt like time wasted on yet another effort to get  the band back together before beginning the story proper.

En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse wasn't quite as epic as hoped, but not as bad as feared given early press for the movie. Yes he had some dark vision for humanity but the way he was going about his gal was strange. Apart from Magneto, his Horsemen were all sadly one-dimensional characters and so it didn't seem to make sense why to bother selecting key characters to become Horsemen as opposed to the somewhat bit players from the comics. The likes of Psylocke (Olivia Munn) were totally wasted in this movie given the general disregard for giving her any degree of character. Plus we had Apocalypse needing to bother with the creation of individual costumes in such an intimate manner, all the more it made his collection of powers quite nonsensical.

The story structure felt like a checklist of things they wanted to do without actually considering the overall flow of things. And thus we have the big En Sabah Nur teleportation around the world followed by William Stryker (Josh Helman) attempting to hijack the plot with the useless side-trip to his secret base only to find a reason to one again feature Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in this movie. Is Jackman the Fox equivalent of John Ratzenberger in Pixar movies? The only difference being how he always plays Wolverine?

To be fair, X-Men Apocalypse has some great moments of awesome, so the checklist approach wasn't too terrible. Everyone will naturally celebrate the physics-defying scene involving Quicksilver (Evan Peters), which was a natural expansion of the similar scene he had in the last movie. As indulgent as it was and how it's easy to argue that superspeed doesn't work that way, the scene was undeniably fun. And the movie has many such moments that are fun on their own but not quite meaningful in the long run. Thus the movie still gets a good 3.5 crazy pop culture references woven into the movie out of a possible 5.

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