Movie Review – X-Men: Apocalypse
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” deftly rewrites history and opens up an array of possibilities for the future. The past concludes wisely, a choice made by free will and not by another’s control. The future starts off fresh.
16 years after the original trilogy, the final installment of the prequel directed by Bryan Singer, goes back to the past. All the way back to the beginning of civilization.
3,600 B.C. Egypt, where we’re introduced to the world’s first mutant, En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac, “Ex-Machina“). The mighty mutant fell into centuries-long slumber during an ancient attack. Thousands of years later, sunlight is aligned just right and Apocalypse is accidentally awakened.
It is now 1980s, two decades after the confrontational events in “X-Men: First Class.” Humans and mutants are finding an uneasy space to co-exist. While the School for Gifted Youngsters, led by Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy, “Wanted“), flourishes with students, mutants are still not accepted in other places. A clear example is where mutants are deemed as freaks of nature and cheered on to fight one another in an underground entertainment ring.
Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs“) presently manages to lead an unassuming life as a factory laborer in Poland with his wife and daughter. For all intents and purposes, he seems to have escaped his tortured Holocaust childhood and past mistakes. Until one day, his true identity is exposed during a life-saving act in the factory. The subsequent events and consequences are beyond tragic. Erik, once again, loses the people he loves most at the hands of humans. Fassbender shows Erik’s intense pain, agony and anger towards the inhumanity that have befallen his character again and makes him more vulnerable to Apocalypse’s influence.
Apocalypse, awakened in the modern era, finds that civilization is far different than what he’s envisioned. In his mind, the strong should dominate. Instead, he sees the world governed by systems that protect the weak. The only way to create a new order is to burn everything to the ground and start over from the ashes. He then recruits a few lost, impressionable mutants as his “Four Horsemen;” Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn). Magneto, though, is his prize.
In Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, we see young Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey/Phoenix (Sophie Turner), Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) come together under the guidance of Professor X and his right-hand man, Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, “The Hunger Games” series, “American Hustle“) makes an appearance after she learns about what happened to Magneto. Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) quickly appears, and just like in DoFP, his rescue scenes are vividly cheeky. He makes dire scenes memorably fun to watch.
The rise of Apocalypse doesn’t go undetected for long. Charles and Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) pay CIA operative Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) a visit. There’s a light and poignant reunion of some sort between Charles and Moira.
When Apocalypse arrives, all hell breaks loose. In order to accomplish his mankind cleansing ambition, he needs to control the one mutant with the most powerful mind in the universe, Professor X. Professor X, of course, isn’t going anywhere willingly. The apocalyptic battle, filled with visual blasts of superpowers, takes place both in the real world and in the minds. McAvoy’s acting makes the extended telepathic stuff believable and real.
As always, Professor X tries his best to keep volatile, anti-hero and old friend Magneto in line and appeals to his humanity. There’s a question here, however, about the too sudden change of heart and to what level all can be forgiven. There’s a also missed opportunity of a reveal that would have made the scene more emotionally resounding.
Aside from the underlying theme of tolerance, acceptance and co-existence, the enduring bond between Charles and Erik continues to be the beating heart of X-Men, even as there are scenes that feel like deja vu.
Even with the 144 minutes of running time, there are so many pieces to juggle that there’s bound to be characters that are underdeveloped. All in all though, most characters get to do something.
‘Apocalypse’ wraps up the current trilogy, but as long as “X-Men” continues, I do hope McAvoy and Fassbender will return. From the ending, it does look like there will be a new generation of X-Men.
Copyright (c) 2016. Nathalia Aryani.