X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
Author: JoAnne Hyde
Date: May 18, 2016

SYNOPSIS: Since the dawn of civilization, he was worshipped as a god. Apocalypse, the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel's X-Men universe, amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible. Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) with the help of Professor X (James McAvoy) must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction.

X-Men: Apocalypse is a huge film in both scope and intensity. Director Bryan Singer stated that the film contains more mass destruction than any of the previous X-Men films, and this may not set well with everybody. It’s a dark film presenting the darkest and most powerful villain yet: Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). Apocalypse is the first mutant, ancient and often worshipped as a god, with the ability to move between bodies, thus amassing the abilities of many other mutants. He doesn’t understand he’s a mutant and sees himself as a god.

Although the story line is set in 1983, the film begins in 3600 BCE in Egypt, where Apocalypse has been betrayed and imprisoned in an enormous pyramid. The segment is quite a spectacle, recalling “casts of thousands” films of the past. A small and clandestine group still worships him and manages to free him from his 4000 year-old hibernation, not realizing the destructive force they’ve awakened. Needless to say, Apocalypse is not pleased with the 1983 world he finds. As always, when he finds weakness, he wants to cleanse mankind of it and create a new world order. The X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction-level plan.

The X-Men are scattered as the film begins. Xavier (James McAvoy) is busy expanding his school for mutants, aided by Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Among the students are a young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). Both are trying to learn to control their formidable powers.

Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is travelling the world, using her shape-shifting powers to free mutants who’ve been imprisoned or are being abused. She frees a teen mutant, Kurt Wagner/ NIghtcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), from a cage fighting venue in Germany and takes him to Xavier’s school.

Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is trying to live an ordinary life, incognito. He’s in Poland, working in a factory. He has married and has a daughter. Needless to say something catastrophic happens to disrupt his pleasant life and make him easy pickings for Apocalypse. Erik is to become one of Apocalypse’s “4 Horsemen” as his rage is channeled into an even more powerful Magneto.

On the prowl for young, powerful mutants who can be influenced to join him, Apocalypse recruits Onoro Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Arcangel (Ben Hardy), and Psylocke (Olivia Munn). He tutors them in how to enhance their powers and creates lethal metal wings for Arcangel. Together, they begin to wreak havoc on the world.

Raven has learned of Erik’s misfortune and tells Xavier that they must stop Apocalypse and “save” Erik, who at this point only wants revenge. Apocaplypse seems invincible, but Xavier and his team seek help from an old friend, CIA agent Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) who has information about Apocalypse. Getting in the way, of course, is Col. William Stryker (John Helman), the military establishment’s chief opponent of mutants.

The X-Men, united by Raven, also enlist the help of Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who reveals a secret of his own. Quicksilver’s scenes entertain and provide a bit of much-needed levity. Another lighter moment comes along when Wolverine, Hugh Jackman in an uncredited cameo, explodes from confinement and reveals his, shall we say, persuasive physical prowess.

The ultimate confrontation between Xavier and Apocalypse is truly spectacular and electrifyingly tense. After all, how do you defeat a being who thinks he is a god and often seems like one? You’ll find yourself gripping those armrests, but I think you’ll be satisfied with the outcome.

The ensemble cast does a skilled job with each of their characters, but Michael Fassbender is a stand-out. He can convey so much emotion with the slightest gesture or facial expression. His performance is worth the price of your ticket.

Even though the scope of the film can be overwhelming, and the musical score excessively loud, X-Men: Apocalypse will please most fans. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: B+


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