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X-Men On The Brink

X-Men On The Brink

This screen series based on the colorful Marvel characters
has proved to be both durable and flexible: having enjoyed a great run in its
initial phase, it spun off two Wolverine
vehicles for Hugh Jackman and then rewound the timeline to create a series of
prequels, beginning with the excellent X-Men:
First Class.
Director and co-writer Bryan Singer, who launched X-Men in 2000 has steered this latest
installment, X-Men: Apocalypse and delivered
another winner. (He’s even planted a not-so-subtle in-joke about the first
entry he didn’t direct in the
series.)

         Essentially,
the screenplay (credited to series veteran Simon Kinberg, from a story by him,
Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris) follows one major through-line: the
world’s first and most powerful mutant, Apocalypse, has awoken after thousands
of years. Seeing the world as it is, beset by war and strife, he decides that
it must be destroyed in order to be reborn—with him as its unquestioned leader.
Although he is unrecognizable under layers of makeup and costuming, this
commanding character is played by Oscar Isaac, who in his few short years
onscreen has proved to be a rare talent—and something of a chameleon

         Aside from
him, you need a scorecard to keep tabs on who’s who and who’s new: we’ve
acclimated to the idea that James McAvoy is Professor Charles Xavier and
Michael Fassbender is Erik Lensherr (aka Magneto), the roles created by Patrick
Stewart and Ian McKellen. We’ve also seen Jennifer Lawrence take over the role
of Raven/Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast, and Lucas Till as Alex
Summers/Havok.

Evan Peters, as Peter
Maximoff/Quicksilver all but stole X-Men:
Days of Future Past
in 2014. We met Rose Byrne as CIA Agent Moira McTaggart
five years ago in X-Men: First Class.
But Tye Sheridan is new to the series, inheriting the role of Alex Summers’ kid
brother Kurt/Nightcrawler, and other newcomers include Ben Hardy as Angel,
Angela Shipp as Ororo Monroe/Storm, Lana Condor as Jubilee, and Olivia Munn as
Psylocke, among others. 

Whether new or not, the characters’
motivations are crystal-clear and the story unfolds without the clutter one
might expect with so many people involved. The action scenes are staged on a
grand scale, appropriate to the power of the film’s god-like villain, and the
visual effects are spectacular. As usual, Bryan Singer’s longtime editor and
producing partner John Ottman also provides the muscular music score.

My only quibble with the picture is
its length. When I’m caught up in a movie I become unaware of time, but if I
start to feel antsy I know it’s beginning to wear out its welcome. X-Men: Apocalypse is first-rate (first
class?) all the way, but I can’t help believing that it would be even better if
it told its story more compactly. That’s a relatively small complaint when
weighed against the movie’s many assets. 

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