This is a SPOILER-FREE review!
X-Men : Apocalypse, the sequel to director Bryan Singer’s 2014 blockbuster, X-Men : Days of Future Past (DOFP) was long awaited right from the time it was teased in DOFP’s end credits. Through a grand opening sequence circa 3600 BCE in the Nile Valley, the film shows us how En Sabah Nur, the world’s first mutant, used transference of his powers and soul into another body (Oscar Isaac) to become the God who would rule for lifetimes to come. But something goes wrong. Cut to present day i.e., 1983, a full decade after the events of the previous film. Classroom scenes explain that the world came to know of mutants when the events of DOFP took place. We also meet the new Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) whom his brother Alex takes to the Xavier School. The same paranoia and hate towards mutants is the norm even a decade later, with Archangel (Ben Hardy) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) shown to be having cage fights in East Berlin. Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) lives in Poland as Henryk Gurzky, with a wife and a daughter, and is a most wanted criminal now. Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne), the CIA agent we met in 2011’s X-Men : First Class, unwittingly awakens Apocalypse from his almost-5600 years’ sleep. Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) has visions of the end of the world when Apocalypse wakes up. He recruits four mutants, his four Horsemen. The fourth, Erik, has tragedy strike his life again as both the women in his family die in an incident. This forces him to go back to his murderous ways. Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) saves Nightcrawler from the cage fight and takes him to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to ask him to save Erik. The young X-Men’s team then gets going to once again save the world.
The first thing that struck me was the movie’s runtime — 144 minutes. The entire first half is devoted to showing Apocalypse’s origins and comeback with his horsemen. That’s all good but it slows the film down considerably. It isn’t until the X-Men and the baddies face-off for the first time, at the end of the half, that the film picks up pace and forces you to ditch the stupor. We get the breathtaking Quicksilver (Evan Peters) scene that was teased in the trailers (with another awesome short scene in the climax). The scene serves the plot and provides fan service too, given the reception that scene from DOFP received. The film is sombre and brooding until he comes along, providing literal and figurative speed to the film, and also some funny moments.
Thankfully though, the second half is pacier. The introduction of William Stryker, now a Colonel, and his Weapon X program, provides us “full Weapon X-mode” Wolverine’s cameo. There is a short scene featuring Jean and Logan where I wondered about some romantic angle between the two, like the original X-Men films. But then I thought that unlike Famke Janssen, Sophie looks almost like his daughter. Lol! Wolverine’s release-from-Weapon-X origin has been changed. That is in accordance with the new timelines and a result of how DOFP has enabled Fox to rewrite the canon however and whenever they like. There are lots of pop culture references to the 80s, like the movie’s soundtrack and a discussion among some of the X-Men returning from a screening of Return of the Jedi about which Star Wars movie is the greatest. One of them quips that the third part of any Trilogy is the worst. That is true of X-Men : The Last Stand. I wondered whether Apocalypse would fall prey to the curse too.
The film also exploits the star power of Jennifer Lawrence by using her without the blue make-up for most of the scenes. I was apprehensive about that before the film but JLaw being the actress she is, absolutely knocks her scenes out of the park. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are dependable as usual with Mr. Fassbender portraying the pain and angst of Erik perfectly. Oscar Isaac did well in the role of the titular villain but I never, even for a moment, found his character menacing. There wasn’t any scene where dread and fear gripped me, as a God-like villain ought to be capable of. Maybe that was because of the Hindi dubbing (poor me!) but the promised 3 or 4 different voices being used by him never came to pass. God-like? Puny God! The real standout was Sophie Turner. From the scared kid at the beginning of the film to the powerful mutant we have always seen her be, whether on-screen or in the comics, Ms. Turner was spectacular.
The film had a task on hand to build a new team of X-Men and it does that fairly successfully. The central theme in the movie was family. Some lose theirs, others find theirs and still others make new ones. The duties we have towards our families, and their love and sacrifices for us, come up time and again and help in keeping the narrative grounded amid the usual save-the-world rhetoric. The superhero genre is definitely seeing some signs of fatigue and it’d be better if filmmakers can find problems other than saving the world every time costumed heroes come together. The CGI-laden climax sequences also look jaded nowadays. It has a couple of issues with its pacing, especially early on, and a flat villain, but X-Men :Apocalypse still is much better than what The Last Stand was. If I had to rank it, I’d say it’s somewhere between DOFP and First Class. And among this year’s big three, it is above BvS (review here) but lags far behind Civil War (review here).
X-Men :Apocalypse is Rated U/A and is 144 minutes long. It is now playing in cinemas.
Rating : 3.5/5.
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