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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner

Written By: Simon Kinberg (also story), Bryan Singer & Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris (story)

Directed By: Bryan Singer

The Shot

X-Men: Apocalypse is a visually oustanding film with an interesting story that fans of the franchise are sure to enjoy, though newcomers may want to pick up a primer first.  With that said, there’s a lot here that’s very familiar, to the point where it’s becoming obvious that this old dog needs to learn some new tricks if it wants to keep going forward.


The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

MONTEREY JACK.

Tasty but familiar.


Pairs Well With...

CHARDONNAY.

The go-to wine for parties that want to be more sophisticated than beer.  Enjoyable but not exactly imaginative.  Oh, look!  They got The Little Penguin!  Again!

“This is what I am.”


The first thing that occurred to me upon discovering that the newest movie in the X-Men franchise was going to be X-Men: Apocalypse was the observatioon that, whether by intention or not, someone had found a way to make lemonade out of the licensing debacle that is the split between the “main” Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Marvel properties licensed to Fox (to wit, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and their relations) before the MCU got its act together.  In the comic book world, the Apocalypse storyline simply did too much damage to overall universe of characters to be allowed to interfere with the meticulously manicured MCU, and so without the studio split, it’s unlikely that it ever would have come to the screen outside of animated form.

And let’s be honest: cool though many aspects of X-Men: Days of Future Past may have been, that movie was a hot mess – whenever the conventional wisdom says that you need to watch the alternate home video cut because it makes more sense than the theatrical version, it’s a pretty big clue pointing to a hot mess, and even then, it still has issues – and the franchise needed a boost if it wanted to stay on the A List.

I’ll start with the good news: X-Men: Apocalypse is in nearly all respects a better, tighter movie than its predecessor.  It’s got a cool story and nifty new highlight characters (hel-lo, Psylocke!), it’s well acted (Oscar Isaac does an awesome job with a role that could so easily have gone wrong) and well shot (even the steroescope is put to good use for once), and it’s a fun ride from start to finish if you’ve seen at least the past few X-Men movies.  I really enjoyed myself in the theatre, and I’m glad to have seen it on the big screen.  If a friend asked me to go again, I would, and I’ll definitely be picking it up on home video.

But.

Cool though the story is and smoothly as it progresses, X-Men: Apocalypse feels a little short, like some undefined chunk of the second act is missing.  It plays well and it makes sense, but after taking a lot of time to make introductions and set the world in motion, the climax just seems to come up awfully fast.  Not quite Quicksilver fast, but still.

And then there’s that other inescapable feeling best summed up by the late Mr. Yogi Berra: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”  Despite the fact the X-Men: Apocalypse is provisionally centered around a unique and literally world-altering villain who provides a significant presence whenever he’s on the screen, it still feels like a lot of the same stuff we’ve been seeing for the past sixteen years now, namely, Magneto grabbing all the the story thunder from any other villains that may be present, followed up with the standard Charles Xavier schtick of “come on, Magneto, we know you could be a good guy if only you’d look deep into your heart and find the strength to heal that hurt little boy inside.”  We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and we’ve gone to the convention to buy the t shirt.  The old dog needs a new trick, and it needs to learn it fast.  If the franchise goes to the Magneto well again in its next go-round, then that next go-round might as well be the last, because one can only wear the same dress so many times before it fall out of season, you know?  Yeah, I liked how it played (again) this time around, but…

Kind of like how I enjoyed the latest installment of the “Quicksilver slow motion music video” – and let’s face it, you can never go wrong with the Eurythmics and “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This” – but it could get gimmicky if they reach for that well a third time.

As for those who may wonder if X-Men: Apocalypse might feel fresher for newly minted audience members… well, yes and no.  Sure, those people won’t have seen the old tricks before, but realistically, a lot of the nuances of these characters (and important details about their backstories) will not make a lot of sense to people who haven’t been primed by prior material… though X-Men: Apocalypse also maintains the fine tradition of being incosistent with any more than one other film in the series, continuitywise.  (That could turn into a paradox really quickly if you spend too much time thinking about it; I suggest just watching the pretty lights and the costumed characters and letting the rest of the chips fall as they may.)

And yet, whatever faults it may have and however old the dog is becoming, X-Men: Apocalypse is still a fun movie, and well worth the time to check out if you’re already into the franchise.  Cool visuals, nifty characters, good acting; I’ll take that kind of popcorn, no matter how familiar it is.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, May, 2016


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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