AM At The Movies: ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’

Above: Director Bryan Singer returns with ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’
Above: Director Bryan Singer returns with ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’

X-Men: Apocalypse
Starring:
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Run Time: 2h 24m

The third film in the second trilogy of X-Men offerings, Apocalypse jumps ahead 10 years from the events of Days of Future Past and while it isn’t as strong from a narrative standpoint as its predecessors (X-Men: First Class being the other in this series), it does re-introduce the younger versions of some familiar characters and set up numerous potential avenues to explore going forward.

Plus it’s a pretty fun popcorn movie.

No one is ever going to mistake the X-Men franchise with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy or even suggest that it has the star power and swagger of the various projects involving The Avengers, even though Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender are perennial Oscar nominees.

These movies might be the most comic bookish of all the comic book movies – a collection of flicks designed to give you what you want out of characters you know and stories you recall if you were a fan of Professor Xavier’s troop before they hit the big screen, while still delivering enough backstory and action sequences full of cool mutant powers each time out to initiate new audience members.

This time around, we’re stuck in the ‘80s and the X-Men are doing battle with Apocalypse, the first mutant who was once viewed as a god, awakened from a lengthy entombment to discover the world is not to his liking. So along with his trusty Four Horsemen – Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto – he’s going to tear it all down and build it back up in a more pleasing design.

You know the beats from here – good guys can’t let bad guys win, must rally together to stop them – so rather than trying to nimbly navigate the plot without dropping any spoilers, let’s instead focus on some of the performances and takeaways – again, without trying to give away too much.

First up, one of the trailers makes it known that Wolverine shows up – there is a scene with his adamanium claws extending after young Scott Summers/Cyclops says, “We had a little help” – and they handled it perfectly, weaving in a cameo without making this about Wolverine. There is a third standalone film on the way that can take care of that.

Secondly, there are quality tie-ins to the previous films in this trilogy and known stories from previous X-Men adventures. It’s how they work in Wolverine and produces a couple different avenues to explore in the future, and even if you don’t know the backstory, everything still fits within the context of this film.

That’s harder to do than people recognize and meshing these stories together to create the larger X-Men universe as a whole has been handled pretty well by the group that has worked on these last few films.

Because she’s one of the biggest movie stars in the world and the franchise was fortunate enough to lock her into the role before she reached that point, Lawrence’s Mystique is front and center throughout, becoming the de facto leader of the X-Men. Again, not telling you anything you can’t surmise from the trailers where she delivers an over-the-top “You’re X-Men!” but it just feels weird because really? Mystique leading a young team of X-Men that includes Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast and Nightcrawler, who debuts here and was a great addition, much like he was back in the first trilogy.

Ultimately it works because of how things have played out in the previous films and where we’re at in the timeline of this ongoing story, which writer Simon Kinberg has said will progress to the ‘90s with the next film.

The new additions are solid and several get key moments that will set them up for that next film. It feels like we’re moving towards retracing the steps of the first three X-Men films, which wouldn’t be a bad idea since this trilogy has been executed better and far more enjoyable.

Even if it doesn’t get that far, X-Men: Apocalypse is the kind of entertaining comic book flick that leaves you waiting for the next installment to get announced and start taking shape, which is all you can really ask for in this age of franchises and sequels when you’re eight films into a world, nine if you include Deadpool.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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