Sunday, May 29, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse: Review

Considering this is the third superhero movie in two months, you might be wondering if X-Men: Apocalypse is worth your time. Ask yourself this. Do you ever wonder why Professor Xavier went bald? Or how Scott Summers got his glasses? If the answers you desire are more complex than “receding hairline” and “nudged an old lady with his car”, then this might well be the film for you. It has answers to these and other burning questions: such as how is Quicksilver, Eastern European-sounding and dead at the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, alive, American and looking like Andy Warhol here?

The long answer is that the rights to Quicksilver are shared between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the X-Men Universe, and both have different origin stories and conceptions of the character. The short answer, of course, is that no one in their right mind should care. I’m glad they featured him in some form, because Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver is responsible for the best sequence in the movie, in which time seemingly freezes as he zips around saving people from a collapsing building. It’s an expanded version of a similar scene from X-Men: Days Of Future Past—not the only borrowed idea in the movie, but done with humour and some style.

Like nearly every film in the franchise before this, a large part of Apocalypse is a recruitment drive, with new X-Men found and old ones resurrected. The world’s oldest mutant, En Sabah Nur, has awakened in Egypt after a five-and-a-half-millennia slumber, and apparently gotten out of the wrong side of the crypt. He is now called Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac, buried under blue prosthetics) and he wastes little time in finding his Horsemen—Grumpy, Bashful and Dopey (actually Famine, Pestilence and Death). And, on the non-apocalyptic side, there are younger versions of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee).

It takes about half the film to get the opposing forces ready. Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) is living a quiet life in Poland before he faces another loss in what has been an astonishingly unhappy life and reverts to being Magneto. His reappearance and the threat of Apocalypse draws Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) back to the school for mutants, where she and Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy), Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) fend off an attack by Apocalypse, while the new recruits battle an old enemy (old for us, that is). It all leads up to a giant battle in the desert between the reunited X-Men and Apocalypse—who, as his name suggests, is bent upon destroying humanity.

I went in expecting dull writing (“wreak havoc,” Xavier tells Havok) and uninspired direction (quick zoom-in signals important line about to be uttered), but what surprised me was the number of references to god in the film. Magneto sinks to his knees, raises his arms towards the heavens and shouts, “Is this what I am?” Nightcrawler makes the sign of the cross. Apocalypse notes that he’s been called Ra, Krishna and Yahweh. My guess is that Singer wants us to vaguely equate Apocalypse with ISIS: an ancient enemy from the Middle East, big on mind control, bent on establishing an ancient empire. Xavier even tells him, “You’re just another false god.” At least he doesn't say 'false prophet'.

This review appeared in Mint.

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