.Review: ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’

The latest installment in the X-Men franchise is more action than substance.

BAD MAGNET: Sometimes reluctantly cooperative, sometimes actively malevolent, Magneto is made into an agent of evil in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse.’

When the undertone about the struggle for gay rights is taken out of the X-Men franchise, nothing seems to be left but the fight scenes, the makeup and the costumes. With its emphasis on boarding school life, it seems X-Men: Apocalypse is trying to assume the vacuum left by the end of the Harry Potter movies.

The nth—excuse me, ninth—film in the series tells of the world’s first mutant, the immortal Apocalypse, known as En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), a hulking blue entity who’s been sleeping the eons away in an art-deco, black-and-gold pyramid buried deep below Cairo. Reborn in 1983, Apocalypse seeks four heralds to help him with his mission to purge the world. They will include the embittered Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who has been hiding from the police, disguised as a Polish steel worker. Magneto’s companions will be the young and mohawked Storm (Alexandra Shipp); the blade-armed Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy).

Professor Xavier (James McAvoy, never more benignly boring as the world’s greatest psychic) rallies the ever-obedient Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), the temporarily well-behaved Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, soldering through a contractually-obligated part) and a variety of other cadets. Newly on the side of the students is the teleporting mutant Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) showing a pious streak—he’s seen praying so often, that no kid in the audience will ask, “He has a fangs and a pointed tail. Is Nightcrawler Satan?”

Visible here is the usual trouble with prequels, especially prequels with four credited writers. It could be advertised as, “Here, after the fact, is an inferior predecessor to something we later perfected.” The mutant mosh pit has its fun side: one is a scene of information-bartering with the Slavic and slimy Caliban (Tomas Lemarquis). Another is Quicksilver (Evan Peters, the least fraught mutant in the movie) running amok to the tune of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” As in Days of Future Past, Peters is a showstopper. And in a movie where the bouts seem mandatory, the matchup of two opponents has some savor. Of all the battles in the movie, this particular conflict seems to have the most tension, because it’s between Apocalypse and Quicksilver—two figures for whom time has no meaning.

X-Men: Apocalypse
PG-13; 144 Min.


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