The X-Men are back on the big screen for a sequel (or is it a prequel?) featuring a whole slew of characters with dual identities, giving these actors resume credits such as “Scott Summers/Cyclops,” “Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver” and of course “En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse.” I tried to avoid any real spoilers, but as always, reviews are always best when you’ve already seen the movie and can add your commentary.
X-Men: Apocalypse is set in 1983, some 10 years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (the fantastic Michael Fassbender), is living in Poland under an assumed name, laboring as an iron-worker (can you imagine a better blue collar job for Magneto?) and coming home each night to his loving wife and adoring daughter. For this tortured soul, it’s as close to paradise as he’ll ever come — as long as nobody finds out who he really is and what he did in Washington 10 years ago. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I tell you that Erik does not spend the entire movie reading bedtime stories to his little girl. I was impressed with the powerful and even realistic tone of this story line. It could have made for a fine film all its own.
I was surprised to find out that Oscar Isaac played Apocalypse, a man whom some believe to be the first mutant, he was so covered in makeup, prosthesis, and tubing that he was completely unrecognizable. Apocalypse awakens from the slumber of many thousand years and is shocked to find that weak, normal people have managed to assume control of the world through government, technology, and weapons. This is appalling to him and he vows to destroy the world and rule over the survivors as he rebuilds it in his twisted image.
Meanwhile, back at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Professor Charles Xavier (The talented James McAvoy) mentors two familiar young mutants. Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), has yet to learn how to control the deadly beams that shoot from his eyes, and the telepathic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner from “Game of Thrones”) draws whispered stares from other students because they are frightened of her unbridaled abilities. Sparks are definitely flying between these two.
There are so many more characters that received excellent treatment. The introduction of Psylocke (played by every fanboy’s dream, Olivia Munn), and the return of the Blue X-Man Group featuring young KurtWagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Raven/Mystique (played by every other fanboy’s dream, Jennifer Lawrence), and Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Alexandra Shipp’s first turn in the iconic role of Ororo Munroe/Storm was solid, although in my opinion you average weather reporter could do better than Halle Berry.
This isn’t the best X-Men film of the franchise, but it’s a visual spectacle, brimming with great performances. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, with characters making self-referential jokes about the third movie in a series always being the worst as they walk out of a theater having just seen Return of the Jedi. And they fully embrace the 80’s setting with TAB soda, Rubik’s Cubes, Ms. Pac-Man Arcade games, and a great in school cameo by my favorite Breakfast Clubber Ally Sheedy. Plus, it can’t hurt that it contains perhaps my favorite scene of any movie this year. As an explosion rocks Xavier’s school, Quicksilver (My new favorite young actor, Evan Peters) uses his mind bending speed to save dozens of students, all to the tune of and unforgettable Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by the Eurythmics. That one scene is worth the ticket price and is as entertaining as anything I’ve seen at the movies in a long time.
The timing isn’t the best for X-Men: Apocalypse, coming so closely after the recent releases of Deadpool, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. Even the hardcore geeks who like to get their Comic-Con on might be feeling a little superhero fatigue right about now. However, with an estimated haul of $8.2 million from Thursday night previews alone, perhaps the hunger has not completely been quenched. That’s a solid start and compares nicely to the $8.1 million X-Men: Days of Future Past launched with in 2014 before opening with $90.8 million over the three-day and $110.5 million for the 2014. (BoxOfficeMojo.com). Whether or not you consider yourself a comic book adaptation fan, you owe it to yourself to see Quicksilver do his thing. How long until Fox coughs up his rights and we get to see him cross over to become an Avenger? Sweet Dreams indeed.