Monday, May 30, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

X-Men: Apocalypse

As if to mirror "The Avengers" franchise as well as the current presidential election, full of distrust and dissent within the two parties, the latest X-Men chapter has arrived helmed once more by Bryan Singer. It is subtitled "Apocalypse."

The film begins compellingly, taking us to ancient Egypt. A figure encased in a golden serpent headpiece is paraded through an avenue of pyramids. A man is placed on a slab to commence some kind of energy transference within the structure. Suffice to say that the serpent headed muscle man is a kind of vampire Goliath that takes power from whichever person he deems suitable. After he is buried and then brought back to life, he wanders the town in search of power.

This man-creature known as En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is a near immortal Mutant, hell-bent on immortality and world domination. Played by this accomplished actor, he has presence. But although Nur does have an arresting emerald complexion he is a near carbon copy of Ultron from last year's Avengers outing. Ultron too, wanted world domination and gave nearly identical reasons for his desire (i.e. humans are weak, inept, and faulty) with the added damning trait that they worship false gods.

 This green ghoul spends his time gathering an army of antiheroes composed of Angel (Ben Hardy) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp) for you guessed it, a showdown of Armageddon proportions with some Mutant muscle milk expended.

The title role of Apocalypse as played by the wonderful actor Isaac does have potential, but sadly the interesting story of what makes him crave, desire and hate in a human fashion is watered down in favor of monstrous testosterone combat scenes. The best parts are at the initial vignettes, showing En Sabah Nur as a vengeful and lost Vader figure cloaked in sadness and shadow along a slate gray desert. He need not say anything; a single look is enough.

The same can be said of Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender.) It is intriguing to see him work in a factory and go home to his family, secreting his powers deep within himself like some toxic plasma. Engaging also is the sight of Auschwitz in the realm of the superhero as it points to that execrable place being origin to a demonic and supernatural influence.

But the narrative all too quickly leaves human interest and history behind in favor of tremendous crunching, crashing and bashing with lasers and tasers added to the hands and eyes as mere accessories. By the time Wolverine makes a cameo, the story runs routine, becoming a Marvel role call of combat, rather than revealing real emotion along with the percussive punching that the past chapters so watchable and entertaining.

Aside from Oscar Isaac's haunting stare, which is considerable, En Sabah Nur could have been incarnated by anyone. Marching around, he is more a faceless Golem than a philosophic ghoul. The rival relationship between Erik and Professor X (James McAvoy) always had juice, yet when the two interact here, they rehash the same speeches of power, loss and responsibility. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) acts just the same, as does Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult.)

Nothing adventurous, nothing gained.

Aside from some fine laser work near the finale with great credit given to the legendary John Dykstra, all is oddly immutable with these iconic Mutants.

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