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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

“Who are you?” asks Erik Lehnsherr.  Apocalypse replies, “Elohim, Pushan, Ra.  I’ve been called many names over many lifetimes.  I am born of death.  I was there to spark and fan the flame of man’s awakening, to spin the wheel of civilization.  And when the forest would grow rank and needed clearing for new growth, I was there to set it ablaze.”

I was looking forward to the latest installment of the X-Men franchise after having seen such entries as 2011’s X-Men: First Class, 2013’s The Wolverine, 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and this past February’s Deadpool.  Mixed reviews and not-so-positive buzz (at least when compared to Days of Future Past) for the latest entry, X-Men: Apocalypse, made me reconsider whether I should bother seeing it on the big screen.  After a couple of weeks reflecting, I decided to give it a go (after all, I did see 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine on the big screen knowing full well its Rotten Tomatoes score and was forgiving of it, even though I felt it was a good movie, because 20th Century Fox had cut it down in order to increase its number of showings per day).  I recently saw Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse on the big screen at the Cinerama theater in Seattle, Washington.  I enjoyed it overall even though it wasn’t quite as good as First Class and especially Days of Future Past.

2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse follows a powerful, ancient mutant who awakens in 1983 and, disappointed in the current state of the world, decides to reclaim control if it.  He recruits four mutants, enhances their powers, and faces opposition from Professor Charles Xavier and his X-Men.  Singer brought together an excellent cast that included James McAvoy (as Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (as Raven Darkholme/Mystique), Oscar Isaac (as En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse), Nicholas Hoult (as Hank McCoy/Beast), Rose Byrne (as Moira MacTaggert), Evan Peters (as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver), Tye Sheridan (as Scott Summers/Cyclops), Sophie Turner (as Jean Grey), Olivia Munn (as Psylocke), Lucas Till (as Alex Summers/Havok), Kodi Smit-McPhee (as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler), Alexandra Shipp (as Ororo Munroe/Storm), Ben Hardy (as Warren Worthington III/Angel), Josh Helman (as Colonel William Stryker), Hugh Jackman (as Wolverine/Weapon X), Tomas Lemarquis (as Caliban), Lana Condor (as Jubilee), and Ally Sheedy (as Scott’s teacher).  The entire cast gives terrific performances, especially McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, and Isaac.

The screenplay by Simon Kinberg explores the themes of loss and family while concluding character arcs started in First Class, although the background of Apocalypse could have been further elaborated on and his motivations could have been a little stronger.  However, the story succeeds for the most part, especially in its portrayal of Apocalypse as a cult leader.  Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography reflects the dark tone of the film, and Grant Major’s production design is immense (from Auschwitz to pyramids to Stryker’s secret base to the underground fight arena).  Louise Mingenbach’s costume designs adapt some of the costumes from the comics while other new ones are made for the X-Men (Psylocke’s costume was my favorite).  The special effects are incredible, as is Adrien Morot’s makeup design (the work done especially for Apocalypse and Nightcrawler is Oscar-worthy).  John Ottman delivers an excellent, action-packed score that reprises his main X-Men and Xavier themes while creating a new one for Apocalypse.  Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse is a good entry in the X-Men franchise that concludes the trilogy that started with First Class and continued with Days of Future Past (Days of Future Past perhaps set the bar too high for X-Men films; it is admittedly a very tough act to follow).

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