By Bradley Griffith
We are now back in the groove with summer blockbusters. The latest entry in the superhero annals is “X-Men: Apocalypse,” and, unlike many other superhero franchises, the X-Men franchise has managed to keep its movies new and fresh. The filmmakers have done so with the addition of new characters and new actors playing beloved characters in their youth.
“Apocalypse” begins in 3600 BC in ancient Egypt. A mutant believed to be the first and most powerful mutant the world has ever seen is entombed in the base of a pyramid during a ceremony that was intended to make him invincible. Throughout his many lifetimes when he was growing old and feeble the mutant had transferred his consciousness to another, younger mutant with different powers. Only during this ceremony he was entombed and his four horsemen of the apocalypse that followed him and served as his warriors were killed.
Fast-forward to Cairo in 1983 and Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) is an officer with the CIA investigating a cult who have unearthed the base of the pyramid in a secret dig. Mactaggert inadvertently releases the power of the sun and allows the mutant, now known as Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), to rise from his tomb. Apocalypse immediately begins looking for allies, a new set of four horsemen.
On the other side of the world in New York State, Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) has only recently begun teaching classes at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. He has a vision to educate and train young mutants to be productive members of society, to control their powers, and to live in peace with humans.
Apocalypse finds his four horsemen in Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). When Apocalypse begins to flex his powers, the effects are felt all over the world and lead to the X-Men, led by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), teaming up with Mactaggert to find and destroy Apocalypse.
“Apocalypse” is high on action and mutant warfare. The movie is basically one action scene leading into another action scene. New mutants are introduced as the movie progresses and they blend seamlessly with old favorites such as Professor X, Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Magneto.
What is lacking in the movie is a serious or complicated plot. The entire plot can be summed up as follows: the good guys must band together to defeat a seemingly unbeatable foe before he destroys the world. If that story sounds familiar it’s because that plot has been involved in countless movies, superhero and otherwise.
While “Apocalypse” doesn’t rely on the story to make the movie succeed, it excels when it comes to the relationships between the main characters and some of the best superhero battles to ever grace the silver screen, not to mention nearly perfect special effects. Evan Peters as Quicksilver once again delivers the best scene of the movie as he attempts to save others from a blast in what is slow motion to him but light speed to everyone else.
An interesting aspect to fans of the X-Men franchise is the various loyalties and alliances among mutants in the film. If you have watched the entire series starting with “X-Men” in 2000, many of the alliances in “Apocalypse” will be curious, to say the least. “Apocalypse” also marks the initial meeting of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). There’s even one particularly memorable scene where Hugh Jackman appears briefly as Wolverine.
After the release of “X-Men; Days of Future Past,” all X-Men movies are rated on a sliding scale. “Apocalypse” is not as good as “Days of Future Past,” but very few movies are that good. “Apocalypse” does stand as one of the best movies of the year, better than its main competition, “Captain America: Civil War.”
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action, and destruction, brief strong language, and some suggestive images.