X-Men: Apocalypse (Marvel, 2016)
This action movie needs some background: There are a LOT of people with super powers in this movie. OK. Let’s go.
Like every movie about modern times, Apocalypse begins centuries ago. In ancient Egypt, our future villain is worshiped as an Egyptian god, and he’s old. During an opening scene worthy of The Ten Commandments, there’s a big parade as our bad guy goes to a special pyramid to be transferred to a younger man’s body.
Due to circumstances beyond his control (spoiler: he’s not really a god, he’s a mutant) our villain, who ends up being called Apocalypse, is buried under rock for thousands of years.
Fast forward to the 1980s, when our story takes place, and mutants have proliferated. They’re everywhere, but mostly in hiding from nervous humans. Our mutant heroes are mostly centered at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Children. That’s right; our X-Men are mostly high-schoolers and young adults. It turns out this age group has more powers, like drawing big box office receipts, than older mutants.
You can guess what happens. Apocalypse, buried in Egypt, wakes up and decides to take over the world. He goes after a few other handpicked mutants and increases their powers. They’ll be his four horsemen of the Apocalypse, get it? (Never mind the theology.) One of them is a former X-Man villain, Magneto.
Everything about the X-Men is complicated, and Magneto is no exception. Humans have destroyed his family, and he’s ready for revenge. (I believe this is the third time this has happened.)
So our good mutants, many still learning to control their powers, including how get a date, finally put their complicated lives in the background and go to battle to save the world.
How can a movie with such a worn-out comic book plot be any good? As usual, it’s all in the details. First of all, it’s a comic book, stupid! And you won’t forget that, with backstories galore and geek fulfillment everywhere, from special effects to nerdy heroes and glamorous heroines to cool humor. And cool hairstyles.
But to me, the star of the show was the villain, Apocalypse. Played by Oscar Isaac, he looks like he was drawn by comic great Jack Kirby himself. Since he thinks he’s a god, he can use corny comic dialogue and it just sounds perfect. (“Come, my child. Learn how much power is within you. Rule with me.”) Then there’s Quicksilver, one of our good guys, so fast that he can practically make time stand still, saving tons of people during explosions, while he stops to have a soda.
Watching the X-Men is like being young again, except now you’re a muscular cool mutant with your own unique powers. And the thing about the mostly young male audience I was in, they were really into it, practically swooning whenever a secret identity or new hairdo was about to be revealed.
For the regular moviegoers, there are enough twists and turns and family drama and romantic subplots to keep you from worrying about following everything. Just pick a mutant, any mutant, and enjoy them. Because these are really likeable characters. They’re all hip and young and have that energy and optimism to win you over. Even if they have mostly blue skin. You just know they’ll overcome any obstacle and save the world. Somehow.
X-Men Apocalypse is rated a strong PG-13, for persistent violence, including blood, spattered blood, screaming, dying soldiers, decapitation, and death by magnetism. Please don’t bring any small kids, or older kids that don’t have a history of relentless video game experience. And stay for the after credits bonus scene. Enjoy!