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An Ancient Threat Arises In X-Men: Apocalypse

Updated on June 19, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse brings an ancient power into the 1980s, and the threat his power brings to the world. In the Egypt of about six millennia ago lived a leader named En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), who could absorb extraordinary powers when he came in contact with others with desirable qualities. However, he needed young bodies to continue living, and gets them through transferrence ceremonies. During one of these, foes of the leader seal him in his pyramid chamber. He remains there until CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) comes to investigate Nur's worshippers. She arrives to see the beginning of Nur's emergence. Nur immediately seeks allies, and gets two in a young Orono Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn), whose abilities include a proficiency with laser swords. As he quickly catches up to the current day and age, he decides he wants to take the world into his own hands. He even gives his allies new tools.

When Nur launches the world's nuclear arsenal into space, he gets the attention of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). He goes to MacTaggart to learn what she knows. Meanwhile, Nur recruits others to put his world plan into action, including Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who'd lived in Poland under an assumed name until a tragedy affected him. Professor X, though, still has Raven Darkholme/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) as an ally, and Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) helps at Xavier's school. Their new students include Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) also finds his way to Professor X, while Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) still assists with his super speed. Nur eventually reaches out to Xavier telepathically, though the professor resists Nur's attempts at mind control. While X mounts a battle against Nur, Colonel William Stryker (Josh Helman) makes efforts to rein in the X-Men.

X-Men: Apocalypse is an enjoyable sequel, though the film does have some notable problems. For example, over the course of the X-Men Origins franchise, the characters age little. That is not an issue for the ones who are supposed to age little over the 20-year time frame of this series, but the same non-aging has been applied to X, Mystique, Magneto, MacTaggert, and Quicksilver. Also, since Nur/Apocalypse could be accessed by his followers, he should have been able to escape his chamber before MacTaggert arrived. I suppose sealing him in the pyramid without the chance for transferrence was a form of suspended animation. What saves Apocalypse from being an even bigger mess is the introduction of the new characters and the X-Men fighting on two different fronts. Bryan Singer has always brought a passion into the X-Men films he has directed, but the screenplay from Marvel Cinematic Universe veteran Simon Kinberg feels rushed and, as a result, underdeveloped. The story, though, does maintain an evolution consistent with the things viewers have already seen throughout the X-Men franchise.

Good work in their roles runs throughout the ensemble. McAvoy remains a wise and benevolent Xavier, who has accepted life in a wheelchair as he shows others how to use and control their special ablities. Even as Apocalypse and Stryker want to turn X's powers to their gain, he doesn't seek vengeance; he simply seeks a world where co-existence becomes more accepted. Lawrence finds the accolades of others uneasy as Mystique, yet she wishes to work with Xavier to make his students aware of their gifts and responsibilities. Isaac is strong as Nur, a being who wants the world to be one where he leads, and those he lets live follow. Fassbender shows vulnerability as Erik, but his problems bring Magneto out of exile. Hoult, Byrne, Peters, and Helman reprise their roles effectively, while Munn, Sheridan, Shipp, and Smit-McPhee impress in their X-Men debuts. Hugh Jackman has a cameo as Wolverine, here a captive and a guinea pig of Stryker's, while Stan Lee makes his usual brief appearance as a worried husband as Nur unleashes his power on the world.

I am beginning to wonder if the Marvel Cinematic Universe has reached a turning point. Since Avengers: Age Of Ultron struck a big positive chord with me, I have continued to enjoy the MCU releases I've seen. However, the most recent entries have been less super as the series quickly moves from one release to the next. X-Men: Apocalypse certainly has a powerful foe in its title character, as well as a threat from military who perceive any mutant as a threat. The film, though, shows its inconsistency as the Origin series goes from decade to decade to decade, and presents a foe whose power should have manifested itself once someone gained access to his chamber. The X-Men franchise, though, has an array of interesting characters with extraordinary ability who answer the call when any threat makes itself known.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give X-Men: Apocalypse three stars. X marks a power struggle.


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