Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In Theatres: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Hollywood writers adapt comics for the sake of the casual, non-comics-reading fan, not the diehard "true believers", as they say at Marvel. Sometimes, they get it right. Sometimes, particularly more often than not, they don't.

"X-Men: Apocalypse", the conclusion of the prequel trilogy, falls into the latter category. Screenwriter Simon Kinberg was also attached to last year's "Fantastic Four" fiasco, but the truth of the matter is, Kinberg writes his characters like he's throwing darts on a velcro board to see what sticks.

Case in point: For anyone who has followed the X-Men since their inception 53 years ago, the founding members were Scott Summers (Cyclops), Jean Grey (Marvel Girl, later Phoenix), Warren Worthington III (Angel), Henry McCoy (Beast), and Bobby Drake (Iceman). Drake is the only one missing from this film, for reasons known only to Kinberg and 20th Century Fox. McCoy, instead of being a student, is a teacher and an assistant to Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). Angel is in an underground fight club when we first see him in the movie, and, as seen in the comics in later years, is recruited by Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) as one of his Horsemen, becoming Archangel. Ah, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

The script also purports that Scott's brother, Alex, aka Havoc, joined the team before he did, instead of the other way around. Given that the history of the franchise in the books has become so twisted and convoluted, maybe it is better that a writer tries to navigate it by revising said history such that it conceivably could make sense.

In that underground club, Angel has disposed of an opponent, which closely resembles a long time X-Men enemy, the Blob, but he's never identified by name. Next up is Nightcrawler, aka Kurt Wagner, a German mutant who has the physical appearance of a demon, but the soul of a saint. In fact, according to research, Wagner actually was ordained a Catholic priest at one point. However, as the fight rages, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, "The Hunger Games") shows up, and gets Kurt out, but Angel is left behind to be picked up by Apocalypse.

As for the villain, En Sabin Nur's origins go back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, which would make him history's first mutant. To me, he's just another demagogue with a god complex out to change the world in his image, kind of like DC's R'as Al Ghul, but far worse. Apocalypse awakens in the year 1983 while CIA agent (?) Moira McTaggert, Xavier's ex-girlfriend, is on a mission in Egypt. He first recruits Psylocke (Olivia Munn), who in the context of this film is an assistant to Caliban, a mutant information broker better known to readers from his days as a Morlock, an underground-dwelling group of mutants introduced in the 80's.

Next is Storm (Alexandra Shipp), a juvenile street thief, but slightly older than she was when she was introduced 41 years ago. In the context of the story, it is Apocalypse, not Xavier, who finds her.

Finally, there is Erik Lensherr, aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Since the events of the last film, Erik has fled to Poland, where he started a new life, got married, and has a daughter, Nina. A random accident, prevented by Erik using his powers, outs him to the government police. After his wife and daughter are killed, Erik lashes out and uses his daughter's pendant like a glorified chakram to kill the officers.

Unfortunately for X-fans, this film, barring another reboot, figures to be the end for Angel & Havok. That's all I can say for right now. The final, climatic battle, after Xavier has been captured and conscripted to do Apocalypse's bidding, is perhaps the easiest way of utilizing the cliche of "saving the best for last".

Trailers include "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" (Friday), this time a more extensive look at the film, "Suicide Squad" (release date moved up to August 5), "Doctor Strange", and the sequel to "Independence Day". Now, scope the trailer for "X-Men: Apocalypse":

Rating: B--.

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