It's 3,600 B.C. In the Nile valley, a god-man of sorts commands the worship of the masses. (He's actually a really powerful mutant, but his supplicants haven't read enough comic books to figure that out.) They're gathered for a ritual that occurs every lifetime or so, one that involves transferring his mutant-powered consciousness from an aging body to a more youthful model. But when a band of resistance fighters disrupts the process, well, the god-man's transferal to a new body will just have to wait. And wait. And wait.
Fast-forward to 1983 (10 years after the mind-bending, time-travelling events in X-Men: Days of Future Past). The world remains wary about mutants, though technically at peace with them. Professor Charles Xavier is recruiting many of these outcasts to his School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester, New York. Telepath Jean Grey's there. So's havoc-raising Alex Summers and his eye-ray-blasting bro, Scott. Once beastly, the now bookishly human Hank McCoy teaches at the school. Other newcomers keep showing up, too, while CIA agent Moira Mactaggert (who's had many of her memories from the last film wiped clean by Xavier) continues to be obsessively fascinated with mutants.
Meanwhile, in East Berlin, Raven (also known as the blue-skinned, clothing-averse shapeshifter Mystique), is determined to help unfortunate mutants there escape the cruel, enslaving, battle-to-the-death conditions in which they often wind up. Mutants such as a the winged Angel and the teleporting Kurt Wagner (or Nightcrawler, as he's known).
Then there's the magnetic maestro Magneto, Erik Lehnsherr, who's trying to live a normal life in Poland with his second wife and their young daughter. Alas, when Erik uses his magnetism to save a co-worker at a steel mill from certain death, well, let's just say not everyone's thrilled to have a mutant revealed in their midst … a discovery that doesn't bode well for Erik's family. To repurpose a certain old saying about a certain gargantuan green guy, "Don't make Magneto angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry."
Now, remember that 5,000-year-old god-man hibernating beneath a pile of rubble under modern-day Cairo? Right. Well, he's about to awaken from his multi-century slumber, this time with a new name: Apocalypse. And what good is Armageddon without the Four Horsemen of destruction?
Magneto's ripe for recruiting, of course. As are several other powerful, disaffected mutants he encounters.
Not that Charles Xavier and his charges are going to be sitting back and doing nothing while Apocalypse prepares to usher in the end of the world. Then again, with Col. William Stryker still hunting mutants almost as zealously as Xavier and Apocalypse are recruiting them to their rival teams, well …
… nobody ever said it's easy being blue (or telepathic or fast or clawed or whatever).
Teamwork, trust and optimism are the foundation of Prof. Xavier's leadership ethos. He doesn't believe a massive conflict between humans and mutants is fated to happen, and he's determined to stave off such an outcome.
Xavier (with aid from Hank McCoy) helps his students come to terms with their powers. When he tells Scott Summers that his abilities are a gift, Summers scoffs, "It doesn't exactly feel like a gift." Xavier replies, "It never does at first." Similarly, Jean Grey is deeply fearful of the mutant energies she feels churning within her. She tells her mentor, "I'm afraid someday I'm going to hurt someone." Xavier replies, "Everyone fears that which they do not understand. You will learn to control your powers." For his part, Hank is more pragmatic than Xavier, saying, "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst."
Erik Lehnsherr loves his wife and daughter, and he seeks to protect them by trying to blend in as a normal person. Their tragic demise leaves him deeply embittered, but Xavier remains convinced that there's still a spark of moral goodness in his longtime friend.
As mentioned, Raven seeks to emancipate mutants in East Berlin who've been captured and forced to fight in gladiatorial-style mortal combat. And there's an "underground railroad" of sorts to help those with special powers get out of Eastern Europe. Of course, all these mutant heroes go to great lengths to rescue and save one another—not to mention the rest of humanity—from harm and death.
Though Apocalypse obviously isn't a god, he's so powerful that he comports himself as one—as the One. He says he was the mythic figure behind the Egyptian god Ra and the Hebrew God Elohim. He claims to have played a role in humankind's creation.
An elaborate opening sequence involves ancient Egyptians worshiping Apocalypse. Several members of his entourage chant what seem to be spells which, when combined with the sun's light, provide the magical/mystical/mutant energy necessary to complete the transference of consciousness from a wasting body to a new one. Apocalypse says he's lived thousands of lifetimes in this manner, and that many of those times he's annihilated humanity at the end of his reign. He sneeringly dubs those who would resist him "false gods."
There's talk that Apocalypse always recruits and empowers four henchmen to aid him in his wicked work. The similarity to Revelation's prediction is evoked by someone quipping that it's like the "four horsemen of the Apocalypse." Another person says, "He got that from the Bible," while someone else counters, "Or the Bible got that from him."
Nightcrawler, conversely, has traditionally been depicted as a devout Catholic, and so it is here as well. He crosses himself and prays several times, asking for God's help and protection. A historical montage in the opening credits includes a picture of Jesus carrying His cross. A military leader says a conflict's positive ending represents "the grace of God," while another leader adds, "I think our prayers were answered." The deaths of Erik's wife and daughter prompt him to go on a violent rampage, after which he rages at God, "Is this what you want from me? Is this what I am?" A passing reference is made to cults.
In her human guise, Raven wears plunging tops that reveal a lot of cleavage. As Mystique, she wears quite a bit … less, revealing her entire chest (albeit covered in blue paint and strategically placed baubles). Another female mutant wears a clingy, revealing outfit. A woman is shown in a thong bikini. Several male characters are shown shirtless.
There's a flashback to Xavier and Moira kissing. Two teen mutants are shown (almost) frozen in time with the boy leaning in for kiss (with his tongue out) and the girl looking at him with a horrified expression on her face.
The mayhem is intense and quite often fatal. Apocalypse sports many destructive powers, but favors using sand to engulf people and, in one instance, decapitate three of them. After an officer unintentionally kills Erik's young daughter and wife with an arrow that pierces both, the magnetism-minded mutant uses a locket to pierce the necks of an entire troop of men, killing all of them instantly. Wolverine is literally feral when he's released, and he uses those claws to hack and slash dozens of security officers—stabbing attacks that are significantly bloodier than the vast majority of superhero melees.
Someone is burned to death, and we see layers of skin melting off to reveal muscle and sinew beneath. Xavier is left battered and bleeding on the floor. Characters are crushed, choked, pummeled, hurled, dropped, electrocuted, stabbed and slashed in various ways throughout multiple combat encounters. Young Scott Summers unleashes his powers on a school bully, who's lucky to come out alive. Things don't go as well for at least one X-Man, who doesn't make it out of the madness alive.
On a more epically apocalyptic scale, Apocalypse manipulates Magneto into unleashing his full power on the earth—and the boss baddie magnifies that power as well—which threatens to destroy virtually everything on the planet. We see an NYC skyscraper collapse, and the Brooklyn Bridge is shaken, stirred and just about wiped out, too. As for Cairo, well, the entire city is pretty much obliterated as Apocalypse sets up "shop" there. Jean Grey has a nightmarish vision of flames engulfing the earth, about which she says, "I saw the end of the world. I could feel all this death."
Scenes in the present and in flashback take place at Auschwitz, and we learn that Erik's Jewish parents were victims of the Holocaust. As Magneto, he unleashes all his emotional rage on the deserted buildings of the concentration camp. Things don't go well for Xavier's elegant mansion, either, which ends up on the receiving end of an explosion that levels it.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word. We hear two or three misuses of God's name, once with "d--n." There are four or five uses of "h---," and one or two instances each of "a--," "a--hole" and "p---."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alone, Angel drinks hard liquor from a bottle that's nearly empty; he can neither fly or walk straight, suggesting he's intoxicated. A man smokes a cigarette.
Other Negative Elements
In a training session, Mystique tells team members, "Forget whatever you think you know," including what they learned in school and "whatever your parents taught you." Someone steals food in an Egyptian market.
Like I said before, it ain't easy being a mutant.
Not only do you have to worry about mastering your unpredictable emerging powers, but there's all that government surveillance, military interference and public suspicion to deal with.
Oh yeah, and then there are the bad mutants, too.
No matter how many of them the hero mutants manage to vanquish (or turn to their righteous cause, in some cases), well, there's always another growly voiced über-nefarioso lurking somewhere, just waiting to be awakened by fate and itching to subjugate (or just flat-out destroy) the whole world.
And so it is in X-Men: Apocalypse.
If all that sounds pretty familiar after seven other core theatrical entries in this franchise … it is. There are few surprises in this very intricate, very violent story. Charles Xavier remains doggedly optimistic regarding peaceful integration between genetically mundane humans and the mutants he's called to shepherd. Erik Lehnsherr continues to alternate between his desire to be a good guy and his darker impulse to unleash a magnetic maelstrom upon those who cross him. Scott Summers falls for Jean Grey. And Jean's enormous powers, it's hinted, may yet become an uncontrollable, death-dealing force. Oh, and of course Col. Stryker unsuccessfully tries to lock 'em all up.
Apocalypse? He's an impervious, unstoppable nasty who the intrepid X-Men nevertheless figure out a way to stop. Again. (And don't tell me you think it's some big spoiler to spill that!) It's all capably helmed by veteran X-Men director Bryan Singer, who assumes chief storytelling duties here for the fourth time.
Do I sound just a tad bored? How could I not be? After multiple reboots of the Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and the X-Men franchises—not to mention the multitude of cities and worlds their movies have increasingly laid waste to, this one being no exception—there's very little here that we haven't already seen and heard before.
Well, maybe not quite so often do we witness the near-blasphemous things Apocalypse says about him supplanting the Almighty. But rote repetition absolutely applies to the bombastic brutality and f-word blast. It's content that panders to a jaded adult audience with little care given for younger fans.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier; Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto; Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique; Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast; Oscar Isaac as En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse; Rose Byrne as Moira Mactaggert; Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver; Josh Helman as Col. William Stryker; Sophie Turner as Jean Grey; Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops; Lucas Till as Alex Summers/Havok; Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler; Ben Hardy as Angel; Alexandra Shipp Ororo Munroe/Storm; Lana Condor as Jubilee; Olivia Munn as Psylocke; Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
20th Century Fox
May 27, 2016
October 4, 2016