Movie review: Newest ‘X-Men’ hits all the right spots
The 47th entry in the “X-Men” franchise (just kidding, but it’s easy to lose track) stays with the younger series of actors playing the Marvel mutants. You know, the ones with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles Xavier and Magneto, not Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.
But “X-Men: Apocalypse” opens a lot further back in time, in 3,600 B.C. Egypt, during a secret transference ceremony. Someone appearing to be a gnarly old man, named En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), is about to be given the gift of eternal life, and all of the fantastic power that goes with it. Well, no, that’s not gonna happen. A faction of Egyptians deems him a false god, and stops the ceremony in spectacularly destructive fashion. The thing is, they just don’t do it well enough.
A jump up to 1983 Ohio results in a visit with and background stories about many of the folks who have populated these popular films, along with a few new faces. High schooler Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) finds out, long before he takes on the name Cyclops, that there’s something really weird going on with his eyes. At around the same time, over in East Berlin, various mutants are forced, by Germans with guns and crowds filled with bloodlust, to fight to the death in electrified cage matches. One confused and frightened participant is young Kurt Wagner AKA Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-Mcphee). In nearby Poland, happy husband and father Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender), who knows well of his mutant powers but has been trying to hide them, to be “normal,” and has given up the name Magneto, accidentally reveals who he really is.
Good things happen, bad things happen; terrible tragedy meets with uplifting hope. And all paths lead to New York’s Westchester County, and Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. That’s where Scott Summers is dropped off, and told by Professor Xavier (McAvoy), “You can open your eyes. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
That would mark the second — after Erik’s untimely revelation — of the film’s many “oops” moments. Another one occurs when CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) accidentally, triggers the completion of that long-ago transference, thereby releasing the creature now known as Apocalypse.
There are treats galore for followers of these films and their comic book sources. Look: There’s Raven AKA Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, quite good here because she doesn’t have much dialogue); there’s Hank McCoy AKA Beast (Nicholas Hoult), taking time off from selling Jaguars in TV ads; and the snarky Peter Maximoff AKA Quicksilver (Evan Peters), providing some very fast-paced comic relief.
And there’s an instance, at least for this fan, where a couple of pieces of pop culture bop into each other, and caused me to blurt an out loud, “Oh, wow.” The film presents a young Jean Grey, played as an adult in other X-Men films by Famke Janssen, but portrayed here by — “What? Really? Is that Sansa Stark? (my just partially out loud reaction) — “Game of Thrones’ ” Sophie Turner.
As with all previous X-Men movies, there’s plenty of intensity, most of it this time courtesy of Apocalypse’s main goal: To cleanse the world. One of his methods is actually a positive idea.
Borrowing from “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” he brings about global peace by disarming all nations of nuclear weapons. But there’s also a malevolent side to his deed that will need some superheroes to remedy. On the other side, and again, keeping with the earlier films, there’s ample comedy. Followers will know that Professor Xavier and Moira once had a thing for each other, but circumstances forced him to erase any memory she had of him. When they again meet up here, he goes so ga-ga for her, the well-spoken fellow is literally at a loss for words.
Marvel maven Stan Lee makes his standard cameo at the 75-minute mark. About 20 minutes later, the film’s coolest cameo is briefly unleashed. But what’s most enjoyable is that so many more dimensions are added to the stories and the characters from the previous films, making this one of the best yet.
— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written by Simon Kinberg; directed by Bryan Singer
With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac