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X-Men: Apocalypse

Year: 2016
Production Co: Bad Hat Harry
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Bryan Singer
Producer: Simon Kinberg/Lauren Shuler Donner/Bryan Singer
Writer: Simon Kinberg/Bryan Singer/Michael Dougherty/Dan Harris
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn, Hugh Jackman

It's said an action, adventure or sci-fi movie is only as good as its villain, and that's becoming especially true of the X-Men films. We know the characters (even multiple iterations of them), and all the franchise can really do is throw another despotic madman at them while stirring the pot to turn mutant against mutant all over again.

This time around it's uber-mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac under heavy make-up), who we meet preparing to transfer his monstrous soul into a new body in ancient Egypt before a brave cadre of rebels succeed in interrupting the ceremony and burying him alive.

A few thousand years later and it's the early 80s, ten years on from the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past that saw the gang in action during the Vietnam War. CIA agent Moira McTaggart (Rose Byrne) has unearthed mysterious goings-on in Cairo, the source of a mysterious shock of energy mutants all over the world feel.

It turns out to be Apocalypse, awakened by modern devotees by a mystical ceremony that'll remind you a little of Raiders of the Lost Ark before he goes free. As he wanders the streets of Cairo heavily shrouded, he decides humanity is worshipping false gods and sets about wiping Earth clean of the weak and corrupt.

It turns out he's the progenitor of all mutants, and for reasons that aren't really explained given the scope of his powers, he needs to assemble his own team to help him destroy the world.

The fight is on, one that drags all the X-Men back from the lives they've chosen. For Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), that means rescuing mutants enslaved into fighting for money in seedy gambling clubs in East Berlin. For Magneto (Michael Fassbender), it means enjoying a peaceful live with a wife and child in the countryside of Poland. And for Charles (James McAvoy) it means continuing to find frightened young mutants like Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and helping them accept and control their powers.

When it all builds to its Earth-shattering crescendo, buildings once again toppling and huge arcs of metal streaming through the air like hurricanes, you'll be reminded of how Deadpool one-upped this kind of thing just a few months ago. In an era where a profane, motormouthed superhero just wants to save his girlfriend, another tyrant who wants to destroy the world with an explosion of CGI looks increasingly self-important and ridiculous.

But it's certainly well written and acted, what with several award winners still in the cast. There are also some nice moment of levity like when three of the young students of Charles' school come out of Return of the Jedi and decide that the third movie of a franchise is never any good (a dig at director Brett Ratner's efforts with X-Men: The Last Stand).

There's also lots of fan service, in particular a fun cameo that shows up halfway through as some of the gang bust their teammates out of Colonel William Stryker's (Josh Helman) stronghold. And both director Bryan Singer and the studio know how well received another slow mo rescue sequence featuring Quicksilver (Evan Peters) would play.

At times you'll worry about major characters getting short shrift considering how many there are. It's especially the case with Magneto, who we're used to seeing as a leader but who seems to become one of Apocalypse's stooges all too quickly. But the script does as good a job as it can giving everyone their due, especially given the ever-expanding cast of each subsequent X-Men movie.

And if you want to get philosophical, X-Men: Apocalypse is above all a continuing example of Hollywood's ongoing youth worship. We saw the same thing in Star Wars Episode 7 – The Force Awakens, where it was all about the young cast, one major former character removed from the franchise by being killed off symbolically as well as literally.

You can see the same thing here. Will any of the kids in the audience remember Rebecca Romijn as Mystique, Ian McKellen as Magneto or Halle Berry as Storm – three of the many roles now played by younger, hotter actors?

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