The most recent installment in the X-Men franchise from Twentieth Century Fox, X-Men Apocalypse, is an entertaining thrill ride from the first shot to the end credits. The writing by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and directing by Bryan Singer (X-Men, X-Men 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past) have really embraced the comics, and the acting brings to life some well-known and new characters.
All the way through the movie the pacing never lets up, yet doesn’t feel rushed. Every scene is engaging and builds wonderfully up to the next plot point. The tone appropriately shifts from terrifying, when the villains are present, to more lighthearted when the young mutants are interacting at Xavier’s school or hanging out together at the movies.
When the mutants do inevitably battle each other, you can feel the stakes of the entire world in danger, as well as the personal goals of the characters. In the fight scenes, the action flows very nicely but also has moments of high intensity. The effects for all the mutant abilities are very well executed and, in true comic book fashion, fans will enjoy seeing them matched against each other.
The movie does a great job at setting up the titular villain, Apocalypse, as a ruthless and menacing godlike mutant that has been re-awakened for the first time since the era of ancient Egypt. The talented Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) makes Apocalypse more than just a stock evil overlord, as you can see him calculating his next move in his eyes. As well, Isaac shows a believable coldness as he unsympathetically and horrifically murders guilty and innocent people.
In the film’s present time, the 1980’s, humans and mutants are living in a silent peace after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past revealed the mutants to the world in this new timeline. Charles Xavier, played once again by the charming James McAvoy (Wanted), is closer to his mission in the comics by helping gifted mutant youngsters embrace and control their power. He also still has the bright optimism that one day mutants and humans can live alongside each other in true equality. Xavier’s optimism is put to the test when Apocalypse begins gathering mutant outcasts to be his “Four Horsemen” of the end of the world, which only the X-Men can stop.
Joining Apocalypse is Ben Hardy (EastEnders) as Angel, one of the very original X-Men in the comics. Here, Hardy plays an Angel that is emotionally troubled and confrontational.
The X-Men fan favorite Storm, this time played by Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton), who plays her as a sympathetic African street thief that finds a home with Apocalypse. Some might argue that Storm is underutilized in this movie, but there are some great surprises in store for the beloved character.
The stunning Olivia Munn (Iron Man 2) portrays an equally dazzling Psylocke, another popular character from the comics who is finally getting her big screen debut. As with Storm, she might also be a little underutilized. But, Munn is very enthusiastic in this role and really pushes herself into the physicality of the character’s sword fighting and acrobatics.
Finally there is Magneto, once again played by the amazing Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, Assassin’s Creed). As with his previous times playing the character, Fassbender puts all of his emotional being into Magneto for us to behold. Once again, Fassbender makes the audience feel sympathy for this very tragic villain.
Fighting against Apocalypse is Magneto’s former lover Mystique, played again by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) who is trying to blend in with society after being exposed to the world in Days of Future Past. Yet, she is still trying to covertly help fellow mutants in distress and get them to safe havens. Lawrence does her best as an anti-hero that is struggling with her true identity in the world.
Another mutant who is hiding his abilities is Hank McCoy, who again is portrayed by Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road). He is delightfully geeky as the scientist Hank, and a ferocious fighter as Beast.
Returning from his celebrated cameo in Days of Future Past is the delightful Evan Peters (Kick-Ass) as Quicksilver, the secret son of Magneto. Not only does Quicksilver once again steal the show, he becomes an integral part of the plot and is given some much deserved screen time. Evans is very quick-witted in the role, and provides the necessary comic relief.
New X-Men members include the alluring Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) as Jean Grey, a psychic who is struggling with holding back her powerful abilities inside, as well as being accepted by her fellow mutant peers. Turner does a great job externally portraying this internal struggle.
She is also joined by Tye Sheridan (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) as Scott Summers, better known as Cyclops. Sheridan also greatly portrays the character as a regular guy who suddenly has to hold back this new power inside, as well as facing the ridicule of peers frightened by such power.
Kodi Smit-McPhee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) plays Nightcrawler, a fan beloved mutant permanently stuck in the form of a blue devil. Yet, he is anything but that, as Smit-McPhee plays him as someone who is just trying to do good in the world.
X-Men: Apocalypse is based on the 1995-1996 comic book event Age of Apocalypse that took place in the pages of X-Men books such as Astonishing X-Men, Amazing X-Men and Weapon X.
Fans of the X-Men comic books will enjoy that the tone and even the costumes are closer to the comics than ever before. Overall, X-Men: Apocalypse might feel and look the most “comic book” movie out of all the previous entries in the franchise. Whether you’re an avid reader of the comics, or just a fan of the X-Men cinematic universe, this film is an excellent addition to any superhero viewing list this year.