“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” – T.S. Eliot
Let’s begin with this disclaimer. It isn’t June yet and thus far in 2016 we’ve seen three other “superhero” blockbusters. Deadpool, Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War all hit the multiplexes and did well. So maybe we are suffering from superhero fatigue of a sort and not giving the latest X-Men film a fair shake. Or maybe the expectations were too high. It should also be noted that this is the 9th film in the mutant movie franchise since X-Men came out in the year 2000.
The origin of “En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse” (Oscar Issac), the world’s first mutant is explored briefly at the film’s outset. We learn that he has the ability to transfer his consciousness into the body of others. Better still, he acquires whatever mutant powers that his victim possesses as the transference is complete. But just as he moves into his latest body, he is trapped beneath tons of rubble for thousands of years.
Fast forward to the year 1983. Apocalypse awakens. The U.S. remembers the tenth anniversary of how “Mystique” (Jennifer Lawrence) stopped “Magneto” (Michael Fassbender) from killing the president. Magneto remains the world’s most wanted man but he is in hiding in Poland. Apocalypse has always surrounded himself with four followers and Magneto comes to his attention. As does “Angel” (Ben Hardy), “Storm” (Alexandra Shipp) and “Psylocke” (Olivia Munn). Apocalypse enhances the powers of his followers and plans to lay waste to civilization and rule the world and the few who survive.
When news of Magneto’s murder of the policemen who killed his wife and daughter reaches Mystique, she goes to “Professor Xavier” (James McAvoy) at his school for the gifted to enlist his help in finding Magneto to stop him. But in using Cerebro to search for Magneto, Professor Xavier finds Apocalypse who is able to connect through Cerebro and the Professor with every mind on Earth. To break the connection, “Havoc” (Lucas Till) has to destroy Cerebro. This causes an explosion but the arrival of “Quicksilver” (Evan Peters) who uses his incredible speed to save almost everyone from the blast. However Apocalypse and his four followers spirit Professor Xavier away with them.
Just before all this happens, Havok’s brother “Scott” (Tye Sheridan) comes to the school and makes friends with “Jean Grey” (Sophie Turner) and “Kurt” (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and the trio is away from the campus when the explosion takes place. As a result they aren’t captured like the rest of the staff and students are by “Major Stryker” (Josh Helman). The Major orders his men to take Quicksilver, Mystique, “Beast” (Nicholas Hoult) and CIA Agent “Moira McTaggart” (Rose Byrne) to the military facility at Alkali Lake. Jean’s powers enable her and her companions to stow away on the chopper with the captives.
Confused yet? All that’s left for the “good” mutants to do is escape Alkali Lake and stop Magneto from causing cataclysmic destruction on a planetary scale; while Apocalypse intends to transfer his consciousness into Professor Xavier’s body in order to control every mutant on the planet.
The story is complex and a bit convoluted but it works. The effects, as they are anytime Bryan Singer sits in the director’s chair, are spectacular. Buy a big tub of popcorn and enjoy the dazzling display and derring-do on the big screen.