Movie Review – “X-Men: Apocalypse”

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It has eye-popping special effects and a true larger-than-life villain.

“X-Men: Apocalypse,” is actually about something, with the intramural/intra-mutant quarrel built on a reality that the shoe-horned in fight in the blockbuster “Captain America: Civil War”lacks.

The violence has consequences. Blood is spilled, and people die.

And it has, for the most part, better actors — James McAvoy, the tormented and empathetic Micheal Fassbender, Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and the omnipresent Oscar Isaac’s jawline and furrowed brow  are visible under the makeup and effects as that villain.

With Bryan Singer back behind the camera, the action beats are meaty and the odd lump-in-the-throat is possible as the story sums up so much of what we’ve learned about these characters, who have survived brawls, betrayals, discrimination, the Holocaust and the Atomic bombing of Japan between them.

But the epic effects, titanic struggles timed out every 30 minutes or so and ever-growing, ever-evolving line-up of characters of “Apocalypse,” coming hot on the heels of “Civil War” and “Batman v. Superman” and “Deadpool,” underline the exhausted ingredients of the formula these movies all use. So many movies, so many mutants, with filmmakers straining to find something new to do with them, and watching them try too hard is wearying. They’re joyless technical exercises, as predictable as a video game.

It’s 1983, and Xavier (McAvoy) is happily running his school for the “gifted” (mutants). Magneto (Fassbender) has been in hiding since trying to overthrow the government back in ’73. He’s sweating away in a steelworks in Poland, married with a little girl.

Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is every schoolkid’s heroine after besting Magneto a decade before. But she’s keeping a low profile through the ’80s her own self.

Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) is discovering he’s just as “special” as his brother, Alex, aka Havok (Lucas), and maybe an ordinary high school isn’t for a guy whose eyes can burn through steel.

x3The lightning-quick Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters) figures it’s time to leave home and show his stuff.

There’s an underground world of mutant cage-fighters in Berlin and a cult dedicated to this long-gone mutant in Egypt. And that cult may get its wish if En Sabah Nur, the Original mutant (Oscar Isaac) comes back from the dead and fulfills his dream of remaking, “cleansing” and ruling the world.

Puny humans have no prayer against the First X-Man. Might the other X-Men have a shot?

This finale to the “prequels” sees Xavier finish rounding up the technology we saw in the original trilogy, and hears McAvoy sound a LOT more like Original Xavier Patrick Stewart in the role.

Xavier preaches “hope” and cautions that every gift can sometimes be considered “a curse.” Especially the most special gifts of all — reading minds, moving objects with your brain, shooting fire out of your eyes and what not.

And the junior mutants learn this lesson the hard way.

The most interesting new character is Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and Singer shows off the best stop-time effects the movies have ever seen as he dashes in to save others in less than a blink of an eye. He gets a his own showcase scene set to ’80s Eurythmics pop.

Least interesting is Psylocke, mostly due to the fetching Olivia Munn’s lack of comfort in her skimpy costume and the elbow-length gloves that confuse her about what to do with her hands.

The most fascinating continuing character is Magneto — Holocaust survivor, given to switching sides and turning on humans because he’s seen the worst the human race has to offer. He’s the most motivated villain these movies have produced.

The coolest character? You know who that is, and can only hope he skips that barber’s appointment and makes an appearance.

Fassbender makes us feel things in ways nobody in the “Avengers” universe seems inclined to try. McAvoy, too, gives his character heart and motivation.

But Lawrence’s disengagement as an actress in her two past-their-expiration-date franchises (“Hunger Games” and X-Men) has been obvious in her performances. She has a “big speech” in this just as she did in the last “Hunger Games,” and she never looks more like a gawky teen than when she’s supposed to be commanding.

Isaac is mostly lost under prosthetics and effects.

“Who rules this world?” he growls, upon awakening to the sight of “$25,000 Pyramid” and “Knight Rider” on TV, ’80s haircuts and Atari and “Six Million Dollar Man” T-shirts.

The attempts at humor don’t have the light touch of the best “Avengers” pictures. Singer and the script and the newby characters try too hard.

Take away “Deadpool’s” self-referential sarcasm and the genuine gloom “Batman” still conjures up, and one is hard-pressed to think of anything novel any of these movies have brought to the medium or the comic book popcorn picture this year.

Box office numbers don’t back this up, but could 2016 be the year we finally overdose on comic book movies? The staggering ticket sales have producers all sure they’ve found the foolproof formula for a blockbuster — Lots of special people, The More Mutants the Merrier — wisecracking and brawling with one another.

But it’s getting to be enough, already. And when the end comes, studio executives, unlike our favorite mutants, are not clairvoyants. They’re killing the golden goose. And when it dies, they’ll never see it coming.

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MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images

Cast: James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Olivia Munn, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Nicholas Hoult
Credits: Directed by Bryan Singer, script by Simon Kenberg. A Fox/Marvel Studios release.

Running time: 2:23

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11 Responses to Movie Review – “X-Men: Apocalypse”

  1. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    – Teddy Roosevelt.

    That perfectly sums how ridiculous it is for non-artists such as yourself to bash the hard work of actual artists. Get back to me when you make an actual contribution to the arts.

    • Teddy Roosevelt read real books. Try it. The first “X-Men” and “Days of Future Past” rose briefly above the level of “piffle.” First “Captain America,” first “Spider-Man,” ditto. First “Iron Man,” first “Avengers,” first “Deadpool,” amusing entertainments. Everything else is repetitious sausage, pumped out on demand. They’re piling more and more characters into these movies because you won’t put down your iPhone and pay attention unless you’re delighted to see some renamed version of someone with enhanced strengths that we’ve seen before in other characters. On and on it goes. It’s junk, and if I’m spitting into the wind, so be it. I’ll be the last one pointing it out, making you wonder if you’re wasting your money and imagination on dim-witted pulp with a Stan Lee cameo in it. “X-Men” is kind of exhausted and joyless. Competent but not fun. Teddy Roosevelt would be renting “Revenant,” after having read the REAL BOOK.

  2. Overton Lee says:

    I rarely post but I actually had to because of the initial post and then your reply. Instead of try to comment on carlos initial post and your response I will tell you of an experience I had last night with my best friend. I am 39 year old guy, and my best friend is 38. We grew up in the prime age of comics and superhero cartoons (the 1980s).

    We went last night to see Civil War. We both walked out of the movie feeling the exact same way. It’s the first time since the birth of this new comic book age that I actually felt true mental fatigue and exhaustion.

    These movies are getting more and more repetitive. It was very hard for me to call Civil War a bad movie because it wasn’t. However it was pretty much the same movie I have seen before with a few variations.

    There are so many fantastic stories in the comics for these characters but it seems that studios because of their desire to turn as much profit as possible are unwilling to explore new ground. These movies are getting repetitive and it really showed in Civil War.

    Tons of fantastic action scenes tossed in ever 20 minutes to keep the audience engaged while filling in with lots of talking and pointless plots with a peppering of eastern eggs and side plots to build on new upcoming movies to keep the cash cows going.

    Watching Civil War I finally felt that the “expanded universe” might actually have big flaws. You need to have watched and remember so many previous movies to feel any of the weight in Civil War (and there is very little to begin with). So many characters that just felt tossed into the mix for the sole purpose of making more money. Great characters that are given little to do other than be apart of elaborate action set pieces, and then are discarded.

    Civil War felt like Avengers light. It didn’t feel like a Captain America movie. It was a massive step down from Winter Soldier, and there was no weight to anything going on because I knew no one was going to die or suffer any real harm. Marvel movies feel like they have come off a factory conveyor belt. They refuse to take risk and as a result we continue to get the same movie over and over again. There are only so many times I can see Cap toss his shield and knock someone out or Iron Man fly around shooting stuff before I just stop caring.

    Batman v Superman was a terrible, awful movie but I give it props for trying to do something different. It failed miserably at trying to be different but at least it tried. Your review of this new X-Men film sounds very much like how I felt after Civil War.

    These movies are cash cows and as a result have to continue to be made to keep the cash flowing in. The movies have to be made even if there is no story to tell and that’s a shame. That is pretty much how I felt with Captain America: Civil War. A movie made for the sole purpose of making money. Not for the sake of art or giving fans an interesting and engaging story. Don’t make a movie just to make a movie. Make a view with the idea that you are trying to entertain the audience…if you do that the money will come. Making movies with the sole purpose of making money and because of that you are going to keep rehashing what worked until people realize they are watching the same thing and stop going to see it is an awful idea. It will result in the Superhero film bubble bursting and studios drawing the conclusion that people didn’t want to see superhero films anymore so they will stop making them. In reality it will be because audiences decided to stop seeing the SAME FILM over and over again just in a new shiny package.

    Days of Future Past was a great movie. It was ambitious in it’s attempt to correct the mistakes of Last Stand while trying to bridge to gap between the old and the new while telling a compelling story and breathing new life in a series that felt dated. It sounds like instead of making a new film telling a new story they decided to cash in on the success of the last film, which is to rehash what we have already seen. So very sad..

    • Yup, “Days of Future Past” had ambition. “Deadpool” had wit. “Batman v. Superman” had political currency. But they’re all, even the ones that show this silly mayhem has consequences, adhering to a formula — script templates that just change names. Four in four months is INSANE. Marvel is watering down the brand. The new Spider-Man looks cute and twerpy. But we’ve SEEN that. They need to say NO to some of these projects. Most of them. But it’s a corporate decision now. They’re churning out products, not cinema or “art.”

  3. Tolulope says:

    I like the fact that you keyed into an omnipresent issue in the superhero blockbuster that many are ignoring. It’s the invisible elephant in the room, or the one that many fanboys/girls pretend is not there. It is the ominous feeling that was a fog over all the good that I saw in MARVEL’s Captain America: Civil War. This genre is becoming quite generic, formulaic and stale.
    From your review XMEN does nothing to expand the horizons of the genre. Say what you will about ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’, it was a truly ambitious venture which eschewed simplistic formulaic storytelling for complexity and gravitas. Unfortunately it was not critically rewarded for its risk taking and that could lead studios to adopt the Marvel formula more and more. Which would speed up the exhaustion of the genre.

  4. Chris says:

    I’d say the use of that Roosevelt quote is misguided. Mr. Moore is actually the one putting himself out there, slapping his name on an opinion, contributing to an important conversation about how comic books films are sucking the air out of the room. My own personal superhero fatigue started setting in around 2012, when Nolan’s Batman cycle ended and it became apparent, with The Avengers, that the Marvel thing was going to continue ad infinitum with each new episode carrying the approximate weight and capacity for surprise as a 2am rerun of Law & Order. The irony is, I love comic books, enjoyed being catered to, and that wave of movies from let’s say 2000-2012 had amazing stuff. X2 contains solid allegory, SpiderMan 2 is fun and actually pretty moving, Nolan’s movies are all excellent. But are these films really about anything that they weren’t about from the get go? “Use your powers wisely” and “don’t let the government legislate us.” That’s it. I’m out of themes. The movies are now being judged on how slavishly they adapt the comic—whether this or that costume or batmobile or Easter egg from issue whatever made it in—and on how many characters they can juggle before derailing. Moore is right, while I’ve rolled my eyes at or disagreed with critics as much as anyone, he is taking the stance of a film lover who wants something to get excited about. It’s a nobler position than just saying “well, it did what it had to do, 3 stars!” I don’t see this as a case of a philistine buffoon attacking great art and daring innovators, which is how I’d interpret the TR quote. He’s not hating on these films so much as bemoaning their omnipresence and sameness.

    (Also, Roosevelt hated monopolies. He’d probably have passed some kind of federal edict by now allotting x-amount of dollars toward movies with no capes. No MidBudget Drama Left Behind)

  5. Dringo says:

    I’m a huge fan of comics, and I’ve seen most the comic-based movies made in the last 15 years. I have no desire to see XM:A. The formula is wearing thin even for a fanboy like me. Thank God for Deadpool or this year’s crop of superhero movies would be almost a total loss. I mean, Civil War was ok but I’d rather read the Civil War comics again than see the movie a second time. What we need is an R rated Weapon X movie on a smaller scale (no more saving the frigging universe) with Wolverine, Deadpool, Sabertooth, and maybe Psylocke.

  6. Toomes says:

    I have a suggestion. If you think you are superhero fatigued then don’t see any more superhero movies from now on because your opinion will be very biased.

    • That’s not the way it works, “Toomes.” I see most everything — all genres. And will continue to do so. I raved up “Deadpool.” And I’ve liked the odd “X-Men” “Avengers” “Iron Man” Captain America” and the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” movies. So the problem here might be the person you see in the mirror. See all the movies, see movies that don’t have boys and girls with tights and supernatural powers, and maybe your wider world view will show you the difference between quality (script, acting, directing, effects, in that order) and mindlessly endorsing whatever pap Hollywood/Comic Con pump out.

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