Friday, June 3, 2016

Movie Review - X-Men : Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse was THE best movie I've seen in a long time!

  The 6th movie in the Fox Studios X-Men series (9th if you count the two Wolverine and one Deadpool films) ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ hit the theater last weekend. I had been looking forward to this film since the 2014 ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ teased the super-villain Apocalypse, an ancient mutant whose powers include the ability to supercharge other mutants. I made it to the Fridley Theater in Marshalltown with the entire family and our neighbor Don into a sparse movie theater last Saturday night to see this film.

  The reviews for ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ haven’t been very good and the movie is not grossing anything near the levels of the Marvel studios recent ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (Fox owns the rights to the X-Men portion of the Marvel Universe). I don’t pay much attention to reviews and in this case I was glad of it – this movie was outstanding in every aspect.

  The six X-Men movies are divided into 2 sections, the first three with the original cast of Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, etc…) and the reboot with a new cast and a new origin. 'X-Men: First Class' was set in the 1960’s Cuban Missile Crisis while X-Men Days of Future Past brought the old and new casts together in a time travel saga set in the 1970’s. X-Men Apocalypse is set in the 1980’s but unlike the previous two movies there wasn’t a huge investment in making the movie a period piece, with the budget used instead for the pyramids of Ancient Egypt and the destruction of the world as we know it.

  The beginning of the movie is in ancient Egypt and shows an aged Apocalypse transferring his consciousness into a selected mutant’s body which is how he accumulates his powers. Some treachery leads to Apocalypse being buried under his pyramid in a stasis field until the 1980’s when he is uncovered. This took up a half hour of the movie which I didn’t mind because the pyramid implosion is tremendous and the stage needed to be set to see what Apocalypse was all about and how his followers were so devoted they would defend him to their last breath.

  Meanwhile in the present time of the 1980’s we catch up with some of the X-Men ten years after Magneto’s attack on Washington outlined in ‘Days of Future Past’. We see Mystique on a quest which leads her to meet mutants Angel and Nightcrawler in a fight club. The fight scene was excellently staged, showing Angel as a savage winged creature instead of just a flying mutant and Nightcrawler’s teleporting and tail work at close range in a ferocious battle. The fight club only takes a few minutes and then we catch up on Magneto who has forsaken his quest against humanity and is living a seemingly idyllic existence as a nondescript iron mill worker in Poland with his adoring wife and daughter.

  Unfortunately tragedy continues to follow holocaust survivor Magneto as his true identity is discovered when he saves his fellow worker from being doused with molten iron. Magneto is confronted by a police unit in the woods far away from any metal. The police unit kills Magneto’s wife and daughter which treats us to a typical awesome Magneto moment as he uses his daughter’s metal necklace to slit the throats of the entire police unit in seconds.

  Meanwhile Apocalypse is released from his statis field under his pyramid and again walks the earth. He touches a television and assimilates the entirety of world history from the airwaves. Apocalypse is aghast to discover humans rule the world instead of mutants and sets about making things the way they used to be. His first step is to assemble his four horsemen which includes Storm, an improved Angel retrofitted with razor sharp metal feathers, and Magneto himself. We get a taste of Apocalypse’s power when he kills the iron workers that reported Magneto to the authorities by merely waving his hand and dissolving them into ashes.

  While all this is going on we are treated to plenty of the X-Men. The featured characters of the band in this movie are newly arrived Cyclops and Jean Grey. A short amount of time is spent hinting at their future romance but the movie is mostly focused on action as Professor X is made aware of Apocalypse when searching for him with the powerful ‘Cerebro’ device that can scan every mind on the planet. Apocalypse instead takes over Cerebro and uses it to control the soldiers that hold the keys to all the nuclear weapons on earth, shooting them into outer space and detonating them. Apocalypse then convinces Magneto to use his amplified control over metal to destroy the planet while he selects Professor X’s body and powers for his new incarnation so he will be able to control every mind on the planet.

  My favorite part of the movie was pretty much the same as my favorite from ‘X-Men:Days of Future Past’ which is the portrayal of Quicksilver’s super speed powers. In this film the speedster saves almost all the residents of Xavier’s School for Gifted Children from a massive explosion with the camera stopping everything except Quicksilver who seems to be moving at normal speed in a slow motion world. It is a unique take on super speed which is almost always shown as a super-fast person in a normal speed world. My favorite part of the movie was when Quicksilver saves some goldfish by using their goldfish bowl to catch their water and then the fish all in midair! I can see a Quicksilver movie being as big a hit as Deadpool with the adventures of the 30-something speedster that lives in his mother's basement resonating with every geek in the world.

  I don’t want to give away too much of the movie but I will say that it was action-packed and even at a running time of 144 minutes I never thought it was too long. The mutant powers were all excellently done and the special effects of major cities slowly crumbling was as realistic as any I’ve seen. Apocalypse was a worthy villain and one that both Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios should take note of for the big screen debuts of Darkseid and Thanos. Apocalypse’s world view that the most powerful should rule the world with no regard for the fate of the less powerful combined with the seeming compassion he shows towards his ‘four horsemen’ made his character pop in a way that rivals the Joker’s unique brand of insanity for easily understood villany.

  There were only a few things I didn’t like about the movie. Apocalypse was far too powerful to be bothered by run of the mill X-Men like the Beast and even Quicksilver. I doubt a being that can turn people to dust with a wave of his hand would be bothered to do more than wave that hand to dispense with any but the most powerful mutants. The glaring character weakness I was disappointed in was the mighty Magneto. His rage at having his family murdered was great but his being willing to turn his back on Apocalypse came out of left field in my eyes. There are just small quibbles in an otherwise excellent movie.

  ‘X-Men Apocalypse’ was the top-grossing movie of the weekend but has not attained the numbers of previous X-Men movies and doesn’t appear to be coming close to Deadpool, Batman vs. Superman, or Captain America: Civil War. This is a shame since I consider this movie to be the best comic book movie so far this year. I think part of the problem is the reboot of the X-Men movie franchise while still attempting to retain the continuity to past movies by being set in the past has confused many movie goers. DC seems content to restart their franchises from scratch and it will be interesting to see how Marvel handles the eventual need to replace their Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America actors. With this movie I consider the X-Men franchise successfully rebooted and it only remains to see whether the group can be brought to the modern day time before yet another reboot is required.