Cast: James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Channing Tatum & Hugh Jackman
Director: Bryan Singer
In this latest, religion-inflected installment of Marvel’s popular sci-fi fantasy franchise, the Biblical Apocalypse is personified as an ancient entity (played by Oscar Isaac) with character traits that hark to the Zoroastrian Ahriman (Spirit of Evil) in his aim of world domination. See, gentle reader, I am not taken in by the spiel the screenwriters place in his mouth: “I’ve been called many things over many lifetimes: Ra, Krishna, Yahweh. . . . I was there to spark and fan the flame of man’s awakening, to spin the wheel of civilization. “See, what this false god wants in 1983, on emerging from hibernation is, to destroy and remake the world. Assisting him in this evil enterprise are the Four Horsemen, a misguided quartet whose insecurities and character flaws, Apocalypse transforms into lethal weaponry.
Saturated with Judeo-Christian symbolism, the film invokes the Fallen Angel in the personae of several characters, and chiefly in Apocalypse himself whose compelling backstory is revealed in awesome sequences set in Egypt at the beginning of a narrative which channels history and Scripture to flesh out plot and character. So, there is Eric Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Fassbender, magnetic) whose efforts to put his Holocaust experience behind him and make a new life with wife and daughter in post-WW2 Communist occupied Poland are thwarted by colleagues,fearful and wary of his strange powers.He is Marvel’s equivalent of a Belle Dame Sans Merci and reacts in the only way he seems to know best – vengeful killings (small fry in comparison to the Armageddon Apocalypse envisages for the world) Emulating Magneto in lashing out, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who, at this point of the prequel, is the subject of a scientific experiment.
It’s only a cameo.He’s had a whole film to himself, as you know,but will undoubtedly be seen to further advantage in upcoming instalments in the company of such new mutants as Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who just happens to be related to Magneto and doesn’t want Papa to know it. Not yet.
Since there are a myriad shades of grey between black and white,the screenwriters create characters who are conflicted by their choices/question God: Must it always end like this, Magneto cries, looking heavenwards after he has decimated his opponents. Continuing its subversion of popular perceptions of good and evil, the film takes the dark-skinned, horned Night-crawler and places him on the side of the angels, Prof Charles (James McAvoy, solid) xavier’s mutant angels that is. (In the comics, he’s a Catholic ha ha).
Here he is, as in the second installment of X-Men, with a full head of hair, which is lost during the climactic tussle with Apocalypse whose blandishments and gratification of desire are entirely in consonance with the Biblical Satan’s deviousness. Not for nothing is he called the Father of Lies.”I know what you want and I can give it you” he tells a bruised and sulking angel-feathered mutant earlier on.
But what we want may not be what we need. Or desirable. Take the real life example of men who derive pleasure in torture,rape, slavery and murder. But these men are bereft of reason,common sense and ethics; which Magneto, hallelujah is not,as evinced by his heeding of Prof Xavier’s sage reminder:”There is good in you.”
The subtext of X Men- Apocalypse is hope. Hope is infinitely more important than 3D pyrotechnics. And then, there are the themes of courage, friendship and fortitude which illuminate the narrative. And then, there is the magnificent music-scape of soaring violins,trumpets, cellos and choir which is particularly noteworthy during the end credits. Which is why X-Men Apocalypse makes it to MY list of all time favorites.