“Those with the greatest power…protect those without.”

X-Men: Apocalypse

The final X-Men movie I will cover (and really the last one I’ve watched; I’m aware Dark Phoenix came out afterwards and continues the story, but it definitely looks like it is not a fun story, and there are several other Logan/Wolverine movies that also look depressing…superhero movies should have a good dose of fun).  Sophie Turner (equally famous for her portrayal of Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, and is now married to Joe Jonas) joins the cast as Jean Grey, and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Prince John in Russel Crowe’s Robin Hood) is the lead antagonist, En Sabah Nur.

Charles’ voice opens the film, saying that mutants are still searching for guidance.  Their gifts can be a curse and when they are given “the greatest gift of all, powers beyond imagination, they may think they are meant to rule the world.”  We go way back in history, to 3600 BCE and the Nile valley.  There is a ceremony going on in ancient Egypt, the crowd chanting “En Sabah Nur.”  There is to be a transference between an ancient mutant and another mutant.  But the guards betray En Sabah Nur and collapse the pyramid, though a few mutants remain loyal and protect their leader or god.  Now, we’re in 1983 and a high school class in Ohio is learning about mutants being “discovered” at the 1973 Paris Peace Accords.  One of the students is Scott Summers, who discovers his powers that day.

At the same time, in East Berlin, there are cage fights between mutants, with Angel as the reigning champion, now to face Nightcrawler.  Raven is in the audience and knocks out a guard in order to overload the electric fencing, so the mutants can escape.  She takes Nightcrawler and is going to get him set up with a new identity.  Meanwhile, Erik is living fairly peacefully in Poland, with a wife and young daughter.  Nina shows an affinity with animals (and is rather adorable).  Note: he has to live like a human in order to survive, but it’s good to see him happy.

Alex picks his brother up and brings him to Xavier’s school (Charles is already teaching The Once and Future King, like we see in a later/earlier movie…boy, that’s confusing).  They meet a young Jean Grey and Hank is still at the school.  Scott unfortunately destroys Charles’ favorite tree, but the professor is excited to help him nonetheless.  Across the globe, Moira McTaggert is investigating in Egypt and discovers a group chanting “En Sabah Nur” again.  Sunlight touches the capstone of the pyramid and makes its way into the Earth, awakening the ancient mutant.  This causes an earthquake across the world.  In Poland, Erik saves a coworker at the factory, then hopes he wasn’t spotted.  In the mansion, the earthquake is just the precursor to Jean’s terrifying nightmares that Charles attempts to comfort her.  When he puts on Cerebro later, he comes across Moira and the next day, has Alex take him to the CIA to see her.

The group was part of a cult that views mutants as a sign of god and actually believe that the first mutant lived thousands of years prior, in contrast to the popular held belief that mutants only evolved in the twentieth century.  Wherever this god that was raised went, destruction followed, and he always had four key supporters; like the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  The way this god lived so long, before being buried, was by transferring his consciousness from body to body and thus, gaining more powers.  And now this god is out and about in Egypt.  He discovers a young mutant thief, we know to be Storm by her powers.  She leads him back to her hiding spot, where there is a poster of Mystique, her hero.  En Sabah Nur touches her television screen and begins to soak up the world news.  He sees the clip of Magneto at the White House and calls the nuclear weapons and state of the world false gods and idols.  When finished, he declares to young Storm his intent to take over and rule the world as he did in days of old.  He calls it “saving” the world, but really means “cleansing.”  He makes Storm his first follower and her hair turns its’ signature white.

Back in Poland, Erik’s actions were noted and reported to the police; men he viewed as friends.  Erik is trying to run, but has to collect his daughter from the woods, where the police are holding her.  They point-blank ask if he’s Magneto.  All Erik wants is for them to release his daughter; he even offers to come quietly.  But when they’re traded, Nina reaches for her father, like young Erik did decades ago, pleading that she will not let the men take her father away, like his parents were taken.  The animals react to her distress and scare the policemen.  One accidentally released his drawn arrow, instantly killing Nina and her mother.  Erik cradles his babies, then uses Nina’s locket to eliminate the guards.  “Is this what I am!” he shouts to the sky. 

News quickly spreads.  Raven discovers it from her informant and has Nightcrawler/ Kurt Wagner take her back to the mansion.  Charles is still out, so she talks to Hank, while Kurt befriends Scott, Jean, and their friend Jubilee.  The teens escape to visit a mall and see a movie [Return of the Jedi and they have a humorous discussion about movie trilogies].  Hank tries to persuade Raven to stay; start the X-Men like they talked about years ago.  Charles is still hopeful for the world, but Hank is a little more realistic; they should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  Raven just wants to find Erik.  En Sabah Nur and Storm recruit more mutants, gathering Angel, with new wings, and a woman with a laser sword.  Then they come upon Erik at the factory, ready to make the men who betrayed him pay (to which Erik asks the intruders, “who the fuck are you?”  He gets the swear word this film).  En Sabah Nur easily takes care of that, then takes Erik back to Auschwitz to teach him to pull metal directly from the earth.  (Note that he picks mutants who are angry with the world.)

Charles is pleased to see Raven, though disappointed she’s only there to find Erik and to argue the point that Charles should be teaching his students to fight.  Mutants in the outside world still live in fear; they’re not accepted, people just have to be polite to them now.  Charles reaches out with Cerebro to speak to Erik, which En Sabah Nur senses.  He then turns that conversation on Charles and takes him over; “thank you for letting me in.”  He uses Charles to release all the nuclear weapons straight up, and destroy them.  “No more weapons!  No more systems!  No more superpowers!”  [If the music sounds familiar, it is Beethoven’s Allegretto.]  Charles gets ahold of himself long enough to ask Alex to destroy Cerebro; “wreak havoc,” is his order.  Alex does so, but once they have the professor safe, En Sabah Nur and his followers arrive at the mansion.  Alex is still enough of a hot head, he charges the god while Erik pulls Charles to him by his wheelchair; Alex lets loose a blast, but the horsemen escape and the blast creates a chain reaction.

Peter Maximoff has seen the news on Erik and plans to track him down, so he goes the mansion.  Just in time to rescue everyone from the blast (rather hilariously too).  Well, almost everyone.  Scott instantly notes when he arrives, that Alex is missing.  He was closest to the blast and already gone before Peter arrived.  Scott, Jean, and Kurt separate off from the rest of the group, Scott grieving for his brother, when the military arrives.  They blast the mutants unconscious, and Stryker collects Raven, Moira, Hank, and Peter.  The other three follow, intent on rescuing their leaders.  Stryker wants Charles, but no one knows where he is at.  There are barriers in place to prevent the teens from entering, and Peter reveals to Raven that he is Erik’s son.

En Sabah Nur brings his horsemen and Charles to Egypt.  His plan is to wipe the face of the earth and rebuild it as he remembers, ruling as god.  And now, with Charles, he can control every mind on earth.  Charles, of course, tries to reason with Erik, but his old friend is still too hurt, too angry.  En Sabah Nur’s message that Charles passes along is to warn the world of his plan.  That the strongest among you, those with the greatest power, the earth will be yours.  Charles also manages to send a secret message to Jean, letting her know where they are.  And Charles changes the message at the last second, telling those with the greatest power…protect those without.  That is Charles’ message.  And that has always been and will always be Charles Xavier’s message to the world.  (And we love him for it).  En Sabah Nur’s not happy with the change, but his plan is not over yet.

The trio find Wolverine (because that apparently needed rehashed again), who goes on a rampage.  Jean manages to set him free and gives him “Logan.”  And no Scott, that is not the last you’ll see of him.  But they manage to free Hank, Raven, Peter, and Moira.  And find a plane to take to Egypt.  Raven speaks to the teens, telling them about her first mission and tells them that Havok was brave.  Raven doesn’t feel like a hero because she couldn’t save everyone.  But the teens still view her as a hero, so she will lead them.  Their objective is to rescue Charles.  Raven and Peter will try to get Erik.

En Sabah Nur’s final plan is to transfer into Charles; then he gains Charles’ power, but not his morality.  The transference is how Charles loses his hair.  The teens take on the horsemen, and Kurt manages to get inside the pyramid and get Charles out.  But their plane is caught before they can escape, so he has to get everyone out at once.  They hide, Scott and Hank taking on the other horsemen.  Raven tells Erik she’s going to go save her family and gives him the choice (and he recalls moments from First Class).  Peter uses his speed to punch the ancient mutant, until his leg is caught and broken.  Then Raven disguises herself as one of his horsemen to get close and uses the blade to slice him.  But he chokes her.  Storm watches as mutants fight mutants and the god she is following attempts to kill her hero.  Yet, En Sabah Nur and Charles are still connected.  Charles wants to save his sister and uses that connection to distract En Sabah Nur.  In his mind, he gets a few good punches in, until En Sabah Nur grows and beats Charles up.  Erik puts a metal X between En Sabah Nur and his friends.  He will no longer betray them.  Hank and Scott rescue Peter and Raven, then Scott uses his powers in conjunction with Erik’s to take on their opponent.  Charles asks for Jean’s help, telling her to let go.  Unleash her power without fear.  She walks into mid-air and flames erupt, in the shape of a phoenix.  Her powers pull back the ancient mutant’s armor, giving the men an opening.  But he tries to get away.  Until Storm electrocutes him.

Everyone is safe.  Charles gives Moira her memories back; she later has Stryker arrested for kidnapping her.  Peter and Storm decide to stay at the rebuilt mansion, courtesy of Erik and Jean working together.  And Raven has decided to stay to train the new batch of X-Men.  Erik and Charles have a conversation outside the simulation room, Charles now looking like his older counterpart with the bald head.  Charles was right about Erik and he was right about Raven.  There is still hope for the world.  But Erik cautions him, “doesn’t it ever wake you up in the middle of the night?  The feeling that one day they’ll come for you and your children?”  Charles responds: “I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul that comes to my school looking for trouble.”  [I love that this is a call back to the last scene of the first X-Men movie!]

Overall, I prefer the prequel trilogy of the X-men franchise to the original trilogy, but the stories get a little wonky.  Honestly, the time jumps between the three newer films almost get in the way of the characters.  Sure, the ones who were introduced in First Class are still around twenty years later, but realistically, they shouldn’t be the same actors, as much as we love them.  If the studio wants to keep the same actors, great, just don’t show the same person looking the same twenty years later.  Also, while I love that Raven is Charles’ sister and that dynamic, this doesn’t work fully in retrospect: our Mystique could have never poisoned Charles like Mystique did in the first X-Men movie.  I’m sure the executives would explain that with the time travel, the future that was the original X-men films changed…ultimately boiling down to alternate universes in combination with wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff.

Up Next: The two Fantastic Four films with Chris Evans; then I’ll be taking a bit of a break to work on some other writing, mainly the fantasy epic I have intentions of writing.  I figure this is a good place to pause, before jumping into the twenty-or-so Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

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