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Thursday, 10 November 2016

Superhero DVD Of The Week: X-Men - Apocalypse (2016)


I'd given up reading The X-Men comics long before the omnipotent Apocalypse appeared on the scene, so can't comment on how accurate his portrayal is in this film, compared to the source material.

But I can say that X-Men: Apocalypse is a sprawling epic of a superhero movie, full of fan service Easter Eggs and cameos (such as the not-so-secret- now Weapon X sequence that is really more crucial to his own story than that of this film).

Following a very Ancient Aliens opening, with the "first mutant" En Sabah Nur (Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Oscar Isaac) posing as a god in Ancient Egypt (until he is betrayed and trapped in a pyramid, only to be awoken thousands of years later by deluded cultists), the action moves to 1983 and the 'unmasking' of Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who has been in hiding since the events of Days Of Future Past.

This leads to a global manhunt for the 'most wanted' mutant.

Meanwhile Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) reconnects with Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) - who he hasn't seen since First Class, and who is investigating the return of the mythical En Sabah Nur.

Charles and Raven Darkholme aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) are also both - individually - rescuing and recruiting mutants from around the world.

En Sabah Nur and Charles both assemble their own teams (The Four Horsemen and The X-Men), which eventually clash head-to-head in the ruins of an Egyptian city.

And that's pretty much it for plot. There are story digressions, but everything comes back to that simple throughline of conflict between two powerful groups of mutants for the fate of the world. Has there even been a more comic booky movie plot?

For comic book movie fans, especially those of the X-Men franchise, this is a thrillfest from start-to-finish, a love letter to this particular universe in the same vein as Days Of Future Past (i.e. taking an iconic element from the source material and finessing it to a different medium).

Sure, you could argue that En Sabah Nur's matter-shaping ability is so powerful that he really doesn't need his 'Four Horsemen' (Erik, Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Storm (Alexandra Shipp)), but then he wouldn't have been able to show off his ability to crank other mutants' powers up to 11.

You could also point out that 90 per cent of the mutants at Charles' School For The Gifted are little more than exotic set-dressing, but then that's always been a feature of comics, not just The X-Men titles, when a book revolves around a large team or group of powered individuals.

X-Men: Apocalypse also feels like a story arc from an ongoing comic in that not all of the emotional, or story, sub-plots are resolved - such as the relationship between Quicksilver (American Horror Story's Evan Peters) and Magneto, or the powers manifested by Jean Grey (Game Of Thrones' Sophie Turner) in the final act.

But, for me, that only makes this more real, more wonderful, in the world of superhero movies, because it's part of a (hopefully) on-going franchise.

The film's a rollicking romp (albeit it possibly a bit obtuse for those not au fait with the franchise or the source comics), replete with set-piece eye candy and totally gonzo, over-the-top, superpowers, combining into pulpy perfection.

Its flaws only come out of director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg's zealous enthusiasm to share their passion for the characters and the expansive world of The X-Men, by squeezing as much as possible into a two-and-a-half hour movie.

And, yes, there's a post-credits scene.

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