3-9 June 2016 #811

X-Men: Apocalypse

Even the skilled hands of Bryan Singer cannot really inject that hard-to-pin-down bit of fun into a plot that any child can guess at.
Sophia Pande

As the ninth film in a long-running and fairly even franchise, it is already apparent from the title that the writers who conceived the story for this instalment knew they were skating on thin ice. After all, the last film “X-Men: The Days of Future Past” (2014) also dealt with a near-apocalyptic scenario –but then again, which film in the genre these days doesn’t?

So, yet again, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is about a baddie who wants to destroy the world. This time it is a 2,500-year-old mutant called En Sabah Nur (played by an unfortunately disguised Oscar Isaac) who was buried by his followers in an attempt to quell his unscrupulous, nihilistic powers inan opening scene that is fairly jaw-dropping but alas, also perhaps the best in the entire film.

You will have to be fairly current with your knowledge of what is happening in the X-Men universe to follow this film’s nuances (of which there are way too few). In a nutshell, after “The Days of Future Past”, when Magneto (Michael Fassbender) made headlines by trying to assassinate the American president so that he could take over the world and give mutants a fair chance, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has retreated back to his Arcadian mansion to teach and counsel his “gifted” pupils. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is nowhere to be seen, and Jean Grey (played by Sophie Turner of “Game of Thrones” mega-fame) has just begun to try to master her formidable powers under the careful watch of Xavier.

There are always a few important characters, even with such a vast, yummy, ensemble cast (the gorgeous Rose Byrne reprises her role as CIA agent Moira MacTaggert; I rest my case), that keep us hooked to these films, and in this case, it is the charisma of McAvoy,Fassbender, and Jackman (who has one short but significant scene) that continues to rivet us with their good looks and easy camaraderie.

Unfortunately, the one-dimensional aspect of the bad guys, and repeated lapses of Magneto, despite his troubled past (Auschwitz survivor, separated from parents, tortured) begin to pall, and this viewer at least, despite Fassbender’s dark, tortured handsomeness, is a bit fed up of his latest antics that are another indicator of the writers casting about for substance within an overdone cliché that is only just saved by a few laughs, our love of certain characters, and the introduction of some new, promising faces.

Jennifer Lawrence’s sullen reprise as Raven/Mystique is an indicator of how tired the X-Men have become. Even the skilled hands of Bryan Singer (in his third time as franchise director) cannot really inject that hard-to-pin-down bit of fun into a plot that any child can guess at.

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