"X-Men: Apocalypse" Film Review: Written by Simon Kinberg, Directed by Bryan Singer
The X-Men. A team of disparate super powered individuals thrown together with the singular mission of perpetuating the greater good against the insurmountable odds of their exclusive world. When crises strike, they use their unique gifts to repel and dispel the evil that threatens to permanently shroud civilization. If this in fact the case, why are they continually castigated and ostracized by humanity? These fears are rooted in misunderstanding and have resulted in casualty upon casualty. What choice do they have? What choice do any of us have?
When Bryan Singer, director of such ensemble classics such as "The Usual Suspects" and "Apt Pupil", originated this series way back in 2000, he was making a demonstrative proclamation that being different could be empowering. Patrick Stewart's wheelchair bound telepath Charles Xavier represented hope and prosperity while Ian McKellen's very Malcolm X-like reactionary mutant Magneto aimed to challenge this and offer an alternative that shoots first and asks questions later. The ideological divide that split them seismically became the basis for a total of 10 films that not only explored their rivalry but that expanded on the greater implications of such a war. Why couldn't meta humans be accepted and made to fit into society as thriving members of the world? Singer's franchise intentionally echoed the fears of our own nation that was steeped in a wartime budget deficit and economic turbulence that we hadn't seen in many years. While not offering any easy answers, characters such as Shadowcat/Kitty Pride, Jean Grey, Cyclops and, most especially, franchise representative Wolverine, put forth the notion that its difficult to adapt but it could very well be integral to feast or famine, survival or demise.
X-Men: Apocalypse serves as a fitting culmination to all the legwork, world building and character maturation that Singer had laid down previously. Picking up precisely 10 years after the incredible events of 2014's critically lauded and fan favorite X-Men: Days of Future Past, Apocalypse finds our mutants domesticated and attempting to start fresh by assimilating into humanity and working alongside humans deep in the shadows. This was originally Professor Xavier's idea that humans and mutants can co-exist and not spend their lives in a perpetual state of discontent and acrimony. Magneto has since adopted a new, domesticated name and even fathered an infant girl with a wife who knowingly understood his identity but accepted him anyway as he attempts to turn over a new leaf. Similarly, James McAvoy's ever so suave Xavier has turned the X-Mansion into a school for the gifted with plans to open it up to enrollment for humans as well. Nicholas Hoult's Beast now keeps his blue skin and fur under wraps via a serum he created for himself to make him appear totally human. Even Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique/Raven seems more subdued and no longer identifies with Magneto.
The build-up to the introduction to the titular big bad is palpable and by the time he does appear onscreen in all his muscular glory, the stakes feel well earned and the impact far reaching. As with many superhero epics, cities get leveled in the pursuit of snuffing out the villain. The case is no different, here, but, unlike the "Avengers" films and this Spring's "Batman V. Superman", there's more logic to the carnage and because of Xavier's native humanitarian personality, the hurt feels deeper. There's also many surprises along the way that go back to connect the previous films. The same young version of Weapon X developer Col. William Stryker appears here and he is more ruthless than he ever was in previous incarnations. There's of course the incredible cameo that everyone was waiting for and it sure as hell doesn't disappoint. We also finally get the backstory we needed regarding the start of love between Wolverine and Jean Grey and Singer places a particularly touching moment between the two characters that is sure to please fans. Leave it to Games of Thrones's Sophie Turner to truly own the role made famous by model-turned-actress Famke Jansen. Magneto's characterization is also more weighty this time out. Just when you think there's a silver lining to his life especially given the events of the last film, it gets so much worse and course corrects him on the path toward becoming the human hater that we see in Ian McKellen's portrayal during the first two "X-Men" movies.
Apart from the life-sized drama, Singer's artful direction on a budget of this scale is also commendable. He even makes room for another scene-stealing sequence with Quicksilver that completely pole vaults over the one that was featured in Days of Future Past. However, despite his heroics, tragedy still lies in his wake. Thankfully, scribe Kinberg's script is fast and fun even amid the carnage and it isn't totally melancholic in tone. Overall, this movie just makes you ache for the next (and last) standalone Wolverine film starring Hugh Jackman. On that note, due be sure to stay for the post credits. You don't wanna miss it!