Thursday, May 19, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

After the events in Days of Future Past, the trio go their separate ways: Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) now runs a school for the gifted; Raven Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence) rejects her newfound fame as a hero and sets up her own cause by rescuing oppressed mutants from their tormentors; and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) starts anew in Poland, away from all the action. All this changes with the reemergence of En Sabah Nur, also referred to as Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). Known as the world’s first mutant, he ends up trapped in a pyramid for a couple of centuries after he is betrayed in Ancient Egypt by those who worshipped him as a God. Awakened in current time, 1983, he picks up where he left off by recruiting four horsemen who will assist him in burying the world order that has arisen in his absence, and promising to build a new one from its ashes.

Two words and an exclamation point: JEAN GREY!

Apocalypse is creepy alright, but in a really, really odd way. Perhaps it has something to do with the make-up and the costume? He seems ready for battle. With Boy George. As lead singer of the Culture Club. Spoiler Alert: He loses because he chose a really monochromatic costume. Karma chameleon, bruh. Suffice it to say that the menacing Apocalypse we saw in the comics and in the animated series did not translate well into the big screen. Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask is way more effective as a villain, really.

But there’s just no topping Days of Future Past. What that film has done for this particular Marvel universe is phenomenal in terms of correcting all the wrongs and as a big FU to the entire franchise for turning sour. Remember The Last Stand? This does not mean to say that Apocalypse is bad. No, it is actually a good watch, but just feels like a downgrade from its predecessor. Think of the movie as fan service, the obligatory conclusion to a trilogy. It doesn’t need to be good, it just has to be made.

Perhaps the reason why it feels a bit reductive is because Days of Future Past already ended in a good note, in a way that it wouldn’t be that disappointing if you didn’t know what happened to them later on, and just leave everything in good faith. From the looks of it, yet another sequel is in the works; there is an after-credits scene hinting at it. It will be very confusing, though, what with all the messed up storylines and diverging characterizations they have already established since the first film came out in 2000.

Some film reviews suggest that First Class was McAvoy’s, while Days of Future Past was Lawrence’s, and Apocalypse is Fassbender’s. In a way, this is true. You just can’t help but feel for Magneto in this movie, like, give the guy a break? Seriously. But while his presence and the sincerity of the performance are both heartfelt, it does not really match how Lawrence totally owned the previous movie, which probably explains why both she herself and Mystique already seem too tired here.

It’s as if both Raven and Jennifer would break the fourth wall anytime and ask you to get them out of there. Imagine Mystique having a breakdown a la Hunger Games’ Johanna Mason, engaging in a profanity laced litany on how she already survived the time-bending apocalyptic scenario in the previous movie only to be subjected to another round in this one. But maybe that is the main purpose of this conclusion after all: introduce the newbies so that the old ones can retire, which is basically what happened in First Class.

The CGI is superb. As everyone already said, this is total fan service. The fight scenes are well choreographed. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) has another scene stealing turn which will have you revisiting your Eurythmics CD collection. Subplots that could end up being the focus of potential sequels area also all over the place. All in all, the audiovisual appeal is good enough for it to be engaging. It must be, if you go see it at midnight and manage to stay wide awake because of all the action going on. I know I did.

In the end, this is either hit or miss. It definitely is not the best superhero movie in this early 2016 barrage that we have received so far. I would rank it third right below Deadpool and way above Batman v Superman. Relative to the other two X-Men reboot films, this one pales in comparison to Days of Future Past, but almost on par with First Class. Almost. And Psylocke is a bitch. She smirks way too much. But I still love Olivia Munn.

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