X-Men: Apocalypse,
directed by Bryan Singer
(20th Century Fox, 2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse is the final chapter of the X-Men trilogy, following X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past. It is the ninth installment in the X-Men film franchise, and, on the whole, a pretty decent chapter in an esteemed superhero series.

En Sabah Nur (Oscar Issac), the first and most powerful mutant, rules ancient Egypt as a god until a rebellious faction manages to entomb him alive beneath the sands for hundreds of years. Fast forward to 1983, when a new and more loyal faction finds a way to release him from his prison. Recruiting several disgruntled, misguided mutants as his followers, En Sabah Nur, now Apocalypse, sets off the reclaim not only his kingdom but the world as well.

There's an awful lot going on in this latest adventure. There's tons of action but also a strong focus on the internal conflict of the characters, which has always been one of the most important aspects of the comics. Simon Kinberg's screenplay is well structured, encompassing an almost mind-boggling amount of detail. The integration between the classic characters and the newcomers is excellent, as are the newer version of some heroes such as Sophie Turner's Jean Grey and Kodi-Smith McPhee's Nightcrawler.

En Sabah Nur is presented as a sort of tragic figure whose character runs a bit deeper than it might seem with such an almighty powerful figure. In fact, the story and the characters are given more relevance than the special effects. Every character's strength and weakness fit into the story quite perfectly. Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) is finally given his screen time, and it's fantastic. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) steals the show left right and center, while Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is actually quite useful for the plot development, not tacked-on as an afterthought.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles Xavier and Magneto, respectively, are equally impressive, turning in strong, emotional performances.

XA accomplishes many things well, but overall its most cinematically historic achievement is to recreate the whole scale of the original comic's epic hero cycle to the screen. Despite a slow-moving plot and an incomplete resolution for a complex villain, there is an ambition here to match the scope of the epic story itself. And when ambition and great storytelling meet and synchronize, the audience wins. It's an appropriate send-off to a standard-setting superhero franchise.

review by
Mary Harvey

20 August 2016

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