Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Rose Byrne
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images
“X-Men: Apocalypse” lives up to its name, giving us an enormous spectacle that’s going to be hard to top. There are a great many characters, much bigger special effects, and a massively more powerful villain than in the recent X-Men films. If you want to maximize the bang for your buck and like Bryan Singer’s other X-Men work, this is the way to go.
The film opens in ancient Egypt, where an aged, blue mutant (Oscar Isaac) is in the process of transferring his consciousness to a new body. Things don’t go quite as planned, and he winds up trapped far below ground, unconscious. After a rather clever opening credits sequence that recaps history and the previous X-Men films, we are in the 1980s. Professor X (James McAvoy) runs a flourishing school for the “gifted” (read: superpowered) along with Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is living under an assumed name in Poland. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is a hero to mutants around the world for her actions in “Days” and spends her time rescuing mutants from places like forced cage fight rings. And that blue guy? He gets out, and he is not happy.
Our heroes have to band together to stop him – he’s En Sabah Nur, the first mutant. He once ruled most of the known world, and he has no intention of giving that up now. As is traditional, he recruits four “horsemen” to serve him: Magneto, African street-kid Storm (Alexandra Shipp), cage-fighter Angel (Ben Hardy), and the mysterious Psylocke (Olivia Munn).
We get plenty of epic fighting and superpower demonstrations, especially once Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) shows up. He’s just gotten his destructive eye lasers and is still learning to control them. Other mutants familiar to fans show up, including Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Quicksilver (Evan Peters, in a well-deserved larger role than in “X-Men: Days of Future Past”), and Havok (Lucas Till). If you’re not a fan of CGI effects and borderline ridiculous battles, this is not the film for you. Everybody’s superpowered with the lone exception of government agent Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne), and it turns out En Sabah Nur can make his mutant friends vastly more powerful than they were to start with.
With all these characters and all the fighting going on, there isn’t much time for character development, and different actors handle it different ways. McAvoy and Fassbender project incredible sincerity and angst, respectively. Lawrence brings her Hunger Games work to bear, giving us a hopeless, emotionless Mystique who is clearly pretty traumatized by what’s happened around her. Peters once again shines as the only character in the film who actually has fun using his powers.
If you enjoyed “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and love spectacle, do not miss “X-Men: Apocalypse.” If you’re looking for nuanced character development or dislike special effects, stay away.