Thursday, May 26, 2016

OG Mutant in Revolt

No end and no beginning....

Those lyrics by Madonna came to mind almost immediately upon leaving the theater, having properly kicked off the summer season – so sowy, Captain America et al., and Batman and Superman! – by catching X-Men: Apocalypse, the threequel to the prequel-sequel-movie-with-the-mequel. Y know (don’t act like you don’t), the second Bryan Singer-directed follow-up to 2011’s X-Men: First Class (the first being X-Men: Days of Future Past, which opened two Memorial Day weekends ago).

But why – why did that particular thought cross my mind?

Because, as the seminal and successful franchise stands, the future participation of new-gen stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence is completely up in the air (all three were contracted for a reboot trilogy), yet that of next-gen X-Men like Sophie Turner (HBO’s Game of Thrones), Mud’s Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Alexandra Shipp (she played Aaliyah for Lifetime), and newcomer Lana Condor – who respectively join the action as young Jean Grey, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Jubilee – is all but assured.

Also, because Simon Kinberg’s screenplay allows for quite the neat resolution to the destructo-drama that Oscar Isaac’s villain of the title brings about – no spoiler, since, after all, his character is named ApocalypseTrust me, folks, to say this doesnt constitute a betrayal. You don’t really believe that the mythical OG mutant the actor portrays – or tries to under a beyond-misguided, if necessary thicket of purple-ish blue make-up and armor like – comes out on top, right?

If you do, I have a bridge I’d like to talk to you about.

While it gets thisclose, the end of the world doesn’t take to be in this one, ’cause of the X-Men – although a heckuva lot of collateral damage is produced. Most of our young heroes live to see the rest of the ’80s (the action picks up in 1983, a decade after the events of the last blockbuster), and all is well on Earth, at least until the post-credits scene gets to rollin and you get to wonderin again).

X-Men Apocalypse has great strengths and greater weaknesses. It wisely gives J. Law’s Mystique a leadership role to sink her teeth into, albeit reluctantly, before she realizes who Apocalypse is or that he has awoken from a millennia-long slumber – a smart move that makes us think of Katniss Everdeen. It effectively introduces a new crop of X-Men that swiftly and somewhat smoothly becomes ready for battle (and good at it, too); Turner, in particular, is a standout. It even throws it back to First Class by giving us more Rose Byrne, whose CIA agent Moira MacTaggert becomes a grounding, welcome sight for sore eyes (an abundance of pop-y-colored visual effects will do that to ya) even if she’s made to repeat clumsy exposition, if memory serves.

Plus, there’s a sharp cameo at the halfway point everyone’s gonna love.

What’s cringe-worthy is how truly indistinctive the bad guy turns out to be – no fault of Isaac, for I am sure it wasn’t his idea to style the peacock, not to mention the character, to within an inch of his immortal life.

Potentially interesting baddies like Olivia Munns Psylocke and Ben Hardy’s Angel are treated like stock, barely uttering any dialogue and clearly in it to win it through sheer CGI-aided athleticism. (Actually, few characters handle the dialogue.)

To say that X-Men: Apocalypse is uneven would be obvious. It’s clear that, overall, this trio of movies has been better, much more thoughtfully conceived; the relationships among McAvoy’s Professor X and Lawrence’s badass shapeshifter and the Fass’s Holocaust-survivor Magneto have been a treat of intricate conflict that have chronicled actual growth. Ditto that this ones just a tad overstuffed.

At least three storylines worthy of expansion compete against one another, what with Mystique out on her own in the world, rescuing oppressed mutants and Magneto trying to assimilate to regular Joe life with tragic results, and, of course, Apocalypse rising and the professor and his gifted pupils setting out to stop him (again, keep your eye on a certain redhead).

And at least one theme could have been further explored: feminism. Given that the powerful women in this are the ones to respect.

At face value, X-Men: Apocalypse is too much and, surprisingly, all fine and dandy. Just take it for what it is and you will enjoy. Fingers crossed, Singer, Kinberg & Co. will learn from their indulgences (Evan Peters is back as Quicksilver) and – paging Ms. Turner – triumphantly deliver the streamlined Jean Grey-centric new entry we all want in a few years.

My Rating **1/2

Photo: 20th Century Fox.

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