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Another Look @ X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

Director Bryan Singer never truly left behind the X-Men film franchise. The filmmaker launched the one of the more successfully received adaptations of a comic book to movie with his 2000 release, which introduced the world to Marvel Comics hottest commodity and turned Hugh Jackman into a star. Jackman would step into the role of the Wolverine, arguably the most poplar member on the group’s roster.

The follow-up films expanded on the universe, though often served to promote Jackman’s Wolverine and tended to revolve on him, although the idea always remained the same: How will the X-Men survive in a world that fears and hates them. By the third installment X-Men: The Last Stand the impression was that although the genre was just establishing itself, the X-Men may have exhausted their relevance. Singer had stepped aside, and Brett Ratner took up the reigns.

Expectations for this installment to properly round out the trilogy terribly fell short, and even as the studio collected on the film’s dismal returns, 20th Century Fox had already begun to think ahead, by looking back and pitched the next X-Men film as a prequel. X-Men: First Class recast most of the franchise’s established characters with fresh new faces, among them including Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, and James McAvoy.

The ploy worked and reignited interest in the mighty Marvel mutants. Bryan Singer would return for the next chapter. X-Men: Days of Future Past would try to accomplish a never-before attempted cinematic feat in bridging the cast of the original trilogy with the First Class “reboot”. The film also re-integrated Jackman as Wolverine to the center of an X-Men story, but on a scale unlike achieved in the previous films.

Inspired by one of the comic book’s most extraordinary storylines, a time travel adventure, Days of Future Past would present its story on two fronts. Singer’s “original” cast was placed in a dangerously dystopian future where mutants are hunted and destroyed. The future X-Men are forced to send Wolverine into the past to interact with the “reboot” cast in an effort to change events that will irrevocably alter the future.

Singer admits that after the events of the last film, the chronology was reset and that the particulars of the original trilogy were basically reset — the timeline was rewritten, inevitably granting the creative team an opportunity to bridge all the films (so far) in the series. Considering the trajectory of the story so far, the filmmakers were already anticipating that the next X-Men would be bigger, stronger, faster!

In the entirety of the X-Men mythology there is no greater menace than En Sabah Nur, Apocalypse. Teased in credit stinger of X-Men: Days of Future Past the ancient Egyptian is heralded as a “god” when he is in fact among the world’s first mutant. For Singer, there was no bigger threat, no other more interesting foe to set upon his team of mutants than this. Within weeks of the release of the fifth X-Men film, 20th Century Fox announced the title of the sixth: X-Men: Apocalypse.

Now released for home viewing X-Men: Apocalypse is proof that the film franchise is moving steadily and setting a pace that is comparable to the line of the recent Avengers movies, the sixth film and Singer’s fourth is in a class all of its own. Mixing elements of the “reboot” and establishing itself as a prequel Singer’s own 2000 effort, X-Men: Apocalypse is interesting and inventive. Benefiting from moving one of the more obscure villains from cannon front and center.

In this installment there is the benefit of jumping right into the story. The characters are already well established, and revisiting them given the five previous films with a fresh eye is extremely present. These are rightly the early days of the X-Men. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is still getting his school together; the team of superheroes that emerge as students haven’t yet been forged into a fighting force.

With the timeline having experienced a reset, Singer has recreated the events leading to the origin of the “original” X-Men. It’s a roster that is similar to the team seen in affect in the 2000 film. In this film, Scott Summer (Tye Sheridan) is introduced to the school by his “older” brother Alex (Lucas Till) who plays the mutant Havok in the “reboot” films. There Scott, meets Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and the two will become the future Cyclops and Marvel Girl of the original X-Men.

The X-Men’s other leader Storm (Alexandra Shipp) is also present, but as a young mutant aligns herself with the enemy and stands at Apocalypse’s (played by Oscar Isaac) side as one of this horseman. Storm is not alone, as another original X-Men, the winged Angel (Ben Hardy) is also on the side of the devil. It isn’t long before Charles and his team find themselves on a trajectory to stopping Apocalypse from causing Armageddon!

With Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner now in the role of Jean Grey, Singer finally gives the character its greatest moment and elegantly reveals the “Phoenix Force” inherent in Grey that marks her perhaps the most powerful mutant among them. When Professor X is on the ropes in final conflict against Apocalypse, Jean comes to the rescue unleashing her full power. In the first trilogy, the “Phoenix Force” is touched up, but fans felt that Ratner’s take was sophomoric at best.

Phoenix fans…we’ve been vindicated!

With X-Men: Apocalypse now out of the way, perhaps the best is still ahead for the X-Men Franchise. Now that the “original” team has been assembled, fans are hopeful that somehow the X-Men will be integrated into the vast expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe and that these characters and their mission, to protect a world that scorns them because of what they are! The next step would be have them cross paths with their Avengers counterparts or compete for the top of the food chain perhaps in an episode we’d like to call Avengers v X-Men.

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