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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

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Three’s A Crowd

If three’s the charm in real life, it is more of a curse at the movies. Just think: The Godfather, Star Wars, Spiderman, The Lord of the Rings, Batman, Iron Man, the first X-Men trilogy… the list goes on forever. And now completes the second X-Men trilogy. Crammed to the brim with lesser supers coloring by numbers various anecdotical vignettes, that thing is a panicked attempt at closure as much as it is an exercise in frustration. The patient fan will weather its foolish writing and mediocre CGI; the occasional spectator might feel more than a little bored by the stiff, uncharismatic portrayal of characters much better deployed in Brian Synger’s two original movies, the irony being that he’s back in the director’s seat.

The pre-title sequence brings us back in Egypt, the country where they are quite lousy at anything but building pyramids. Wizard En Sabah Nur is venerated like a God but the heresy successfully aborts his transition from one body to another, a process requiring magic, sun and a very ineffectual crew. One perused comments on the movie deploring that a God was too powerful an antagonist for the X-Men, and one would like to suggest that someone who can be defeated by a few blocks of stone and desert sand is not exactly of divine essence, but whatever. Apocalypse, as he’s fortunately not called during the movie, is buried in limbo until his expected, well, resurgence.

After a weird credit sequence jumping to the end of the 20th century by way of Jesus Christ, Mona Lisa and a subway train, the film proceeds to character exposition, so here we go meeting Nightcrawler (looking as German as the Taj Mahal), Angel, Cyclop, Havoc, Jean Grey, Yadda, Yadda, and Yadda. Most of them gloomily assemble at the Xavier School for Creepy Mutants, then En Sabah Nur is released and apocalypse ensues until he is defeated quite the same way than the first time around, another clue that either Gods have short memory or that the guy is just an old mutant well past his prime.

While most of the movie is puzzling to say the least, some key points of the screenplay are indeed apocalyptic for their awkwardness. Consider the fact that an explosion in Egypt is felt in Poland, that the Auschwitz concentration camp, still in shambles in the 80s when it was already a museum in the 50s, is destroyed by an Egyptian “God” spending half his time debating good and evil when he’s by essence beyond both, or the inept Wolverine cameo. But most of all, try to wrap your head around the fact that En Sabah Nur enables his Four Horsemen (AGAIN?) to defeat him by tuning them like quads; or that Jean Grey, who’s presented by Xavier as having “the most powerful spirit in the galaxy” is played by Sophie Turner (Games of Thrones‘ Sansa). Let’s take a moment to let that sink.

If Miss Turner has proven something with Games of Thrones, it’s her ability to wear ludicrous costumes, and that ability is well used here. But you know you have a problem when she’s written as the most powerful spirit of anything, let alone the galaxy. As most of the new class, she has the charisma of a kitchen appliance. You plug her in, she acts, you hear nothing but a monotone buzzing. Storm is the same but worse. Psylocke, who escapes at the end, better should not be the villain next time because she has the screen presence of a puppet finger.

One quite likes the X-Men, much better actually that the Avengers’ ragtag posse of a smug cyborg, a Nordic God, a Jeckyll & Hyde brute, a vintage Republican soldier and a Russian assassin. Their powers are more focussed and the Professor Xavier / Magneto rivalry adds a layer of character complexity to their story. But alas, not this time. Better watch again the two first movie: if two is company, three’s a crowd.

IMDB page

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