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X-Men: Apocalypse (3D Blu-ray Review)

14 Oct, 2016 By: John Latchem

Box office $155.44 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 3D Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD Blu-ray
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images
Stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn, Evan Peters, Lucas Till.

Let’s get one pesky detail out of the way first. In his Blu-ray commentary shared with co-writer Simon Kinberg, director Bryan Singer denies that the joke about the third movie always being the worst is about the much maligned X-Men: The Last Stand, though you can understand why fans might have thought it was. Instead, Singer insists it was more of a tongue-in-cheek reference about X-Men: Apocalypse, which, despite being the ninth “X-Men” movie (counting Deadpool), follows First Class and Days of Future Past to round out a trilogy dubbed “X-Men: Beginnings” (according to a separate DVD release with that title).

The film has a bit of heavy lifting to do, not only in following the immensely popular Days of Future Past, which was something of a celebration of all the previous films, but in being the first movie to continue the storyline of the altered timeline established by its predecessor’s time travel mechanics.

As such, the film is a bit closer in spirit to First Class, which dealt with the origins of the X-Men, a team of superpowered humans known as mutants. Here, we get younger versions of the core team from Singer’s original “X-Men” movies, and a story that almost brings the narrative full circle back to where it was before the 2000 original, a few details aside.

The twisted nature of the timeline of the “X-Men” movies puts this one in a strange sequel/prequel territory, in that it’s an alternate reality from the earlier films but echoes some of the iconic moments fans will recognize while foreshadowing events we already know and assume will happen again.

One of the more relevant callbacks is a quote from The Once and Future King: “To break forth bloodily, then the past must be obliterated and a new start made. Let us now start fresh without remembrance, rather than live forward and backward at the same time.” If that’s not a reference to how the plot of Days of Future Past rebooted the franchise, then I don’t know what is.

When it comes to looking backward, at least, the filmmakers certainly had some film history on their minds. In the aforementioned commentary segment dealing with trilogy enders, the discussion of the joke amusingly leads to Singer and Kinberg to start reviewing Return of the Jedi, certainly a classic in its own right but often considered a lesser film compared with the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

Similarly, X-Men: Apocalypse is an entertaining entry in the franchise, and a worthy conclusion to the “Beginnings” storylines, but, much like Return of the Jedi, it is definitely the least of the trilogy.

The story follows an ancient but powerful Egyptian mutant waking from a 5,000-year slumber, forcing Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and his latest team of gifted students to oppose him. The setting this time around is 1983, following previous films set in 1962 and 1973.

The film offers a strong family motif, but fails to tighten a few of the plot threads left dangling in the previous two films to a degree that will satisfy hardcore fans. The biggest example is the relationship between Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). She’s his mother in the comics, and this movie was perfectly set up for that reveal as well, but didn’t go anywhere with it.

Ironically, it does push the long-established storyline of Magneto (Michael Fassbender) as Quicksilver’s (Evan Peters) father, a bit of comics history that Marvel Comics retconned away last year to remove any familial connection between them on the page as part of the ongong “feud” between Fox and Marvel Studios over character rights.

Also, the idea of using Apocalypse as the villain looks good on paper, but he is portrayed too inconsistently to present any real menace. Apocalypse (played by Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Oscar Isaac slathered in heavy makeup) recruits four powerful mutants to serve as his minions, but they don’t seem to do much other than stand around waiting to be attacked. The set-up is more interesting than the payoff, as the film begins to coast on the audience’s familiarity with the characters.

The film was shot in native 3D and provides a nice sense of depth. The 3D is put to its best use in a few major visual effects sequences, most notably the main titles, which depict a journey through the history missed by Apocalypse.

The film also benefits from beautiful music composed by John Ottman, possibly the best score of the series.

Fans might consider the film a mixed bag (I’d rank it sixth among the nine franchise entries), but they should be happy with the Blu-ray presentation, which offers a slew of bonus material.

The commentary offers plenty more interesting insights than previously alluded to, especially concerning the challenges of producing a film of this scale. One amusing anecdote involves Singer rating acting intensity according to how it compares with Frank Langella’s Skeletor.

Some of these points re-emerge in “X-Men: Apocalypse Unearthed,” a six-part, hour-long behind the scenes documentary that covers pretty much everything, from casting to costumes, stunts to visual effects, and story challenges, such as how to juggle characters in a battle when one of them might have a power that could end it quickly.

The 8-minute gag reel provides a few good laughs, specially a bit in which Beast goes full Shia LaBeouf in a pep talk to the students.

Also good are the 23 minutes of deleted scenes, including extended footage of some of the kids having an adventure at the mall leading to them exiting the theater after seeing Jedi, which prompted the discussion about third films in the first place.

About the Author: John Latchem

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