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Franchise still kicking in 'X-Men: Apocalypse'

Though flawed, latest installment puts on a fun show


May 31, 2016

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    With a plot centered on Nazi war criminals and the Cuban Missile Crisis, X-Men: First Class was an origin story and revenge flick deeply rooted in the era of the 60s. X-Men: Days of Future Past also had a lot of fun using the 70s as a backdrop for its time-travel exploits. X-Men: Apocalypse, the latest addition in the 16-year-old franchise, disappointingly wastes its 80s setting and aesthetic for a more generic but grandiose disaster movie. 
    Directed by Bryan Singer, the movie kicks off with an extended prologue set in 3,600 B.C., detailing the temporary imprisonment of the movie’s main villain, En Sabah Nur, otherwise known as Apocalypse (Oscar Isaacs). Afterward, audience members are quickly whisked away to the present where the plot ricochets back and forth between various characters in multiple locations — Poland, Germany, Egypt and the United States. 
    Tasked with setting up introductions for new characters as well as reintroducing audience members to old ones, scenes in the first half of the film are choppy and heavy with exposition, in a perpetual hurry to get to the next CGI-filled spectacle. Additionally, in the middle of the film, a superfluous segment revolving around the bigoted military officer Stryker (Josh Helman) and fan-favorite mutant, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), threatens to derail the pacing of the movie. 
    However, like all good disaster movies, once the sluggish exposition is taken care of, the plot is streamlined into an enjoyable movie about preventing a worldwide catastrophe  — nuclear missiles are launched, entire cities are destroyed and humanity is on the verge of being annihilated. 
    The X-Men franchise has always struggled with developing characters instead of ciphers; unfortunately, Apocalypse is yet another mixed bag. Working with limited screen time and already part of an overcrowded cast, new heroes Cyclops (Tye Sheriden), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), though not deeply complex and layered, are given enough characterization and focus to be worthy of the X-Men moniker. 
    Oscar Isaacs, one of our most charismatic and talented working actors, is completely wasted as the eponymous villain, with plastic prosthetics, extensive makeup and heavy voice modulation hiding his performance. En Sabah Nur may have several verbose speeches up his sleeves, but his character is as one-dimensional as his henchmen.  
    A highlight of the prequels has always been the chemistry and banter between James McAvoy’s Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, but in yet another questionable decision made by the director, their relationship and screen time together is sidelined and reduced. 
    Evan Peters, however, continues to steal the spotlight with his portrayal of Quicksilver, delighting audiences with yet another inventive, slow-motion sequence scored to an era-appropriate song. Peters’ popularity in Days of Future Past has earned him more screen time, a direct stake in the main plot and a serviceable character arc as well.  
    The movie’s action sequences and set pieces are joyous and wonderful as well, whether it’s the violent Wolverine rampage, the joyous and imaginative Quicksilver scenes or the climactic battle between heroes and villains.
    Singer’s latest X-Men movie is sheer fun to watch and is a fine addition to the growing list of superhero movies already out, smoothly transitioning between gravitas and light-hearted humor between various scenes. Apocalypse contains a number of thrilling action sequences, spectacular set pieces, and breathtaking visuals to make up for its many flaws, faults and shortcomings.


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