Thursday, June 9, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

**1/2 out of ****

X-Men: Apocalypse is a film for which I’d built enough dread to be pleasantly surprised when I found myself enjoying a good portion of it. Sadly it still represents a franchise that is painfully lost.

There is a beautiful meta-joke in the middle of this film's 1980s setting when young versions of Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Jubilee, come out of a movie theater after seeing Return of the Jedi. They argue the greatness of The Empire Strikes Back against the innovation of the original Star Wars but conclude that the third part is often the worst.

This jab may not save this movie from its inevitable weaknesses, but it rightfully reminds us the X-Men: The Last Stand, derailed this series from the progressive direction of the second one and did too much damage to what was being built to possibly recover. Some people may like X-Men: First Class, but I'm still of the opinion that it was a lousy prequel that only had its moments. 

I didn't think that Days of Future Past saved the series either, but it certainly had a sense of fun in spite of its problems. Apocalypse hardly feels different.

The central story conflict is the film’s weakest aspect and had me yawning during its climactic showdown. Oscar Isaac plays the original mutant who once reigned as a god in ancient Egypt until a coup buried him beneath the earth for thousands of years. Now having emerged, his angry reaction to modern civilization is his only motivation to gather mutant followers to help bring about a world-wide cleansing for mutant supremacy.

Isaac does what he can with the role, but Simon Kinberg's screenplay turns what could have been a rare fascinating villain into a generic one.

However - aside from Jennifer Lawrence’s obvious boredom with her character in this series - Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, and new cast-members have some compelling character drama to work with.

To the film's credit, the first section actually attempts to build from the last one by showing us a continuation the now alternate timeline where mutants were revealed to the world in the early 1970s through an act of heroism that has given them a good name in history. Meanwhile, Magneto (Fassbender) years after his attack on the White House, is in hiding back in Poland and is trying to start anew with a family, while assuming a blue-collar family-man identity until tragedy strikes, which is so strong, I would have been happier if the entire movie had revolved around his story.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” is nothing new and definitely not anything special, but it was a relief after my sabbatical from loud and dumb movies to find one that was loud and fun -even if it was still pretty dumb. 

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