All the major comic book adaptations released in 2016 so far have featured revelatory references to 1980s properties: From Deadpool’s fourth-wall-stomping riff on Ferris Bueller to the blink-and-you-miss-it Excalibur shout-out in Batman v. Superman or Civil War’s playful nod to The Empire Strikes Back. X-Men: Apocalypse is no exception, taking some of its teenaged heroes to a mall where they watch (and review) Return of the Jedi. A seemingly throwaway period gag, it traces as illuminating a link as the ones established between Snyder’s film and the faux-Wagnerian hamminess of John Boorman’s reimagining of the Arthurian mythos, or Empire’s complex emotional core and Civil War. Just like Return of the Jedi, X-Men: Apocalypse is a fan-pleasing spectacle that does not live up to a dramatically richer predecessor, trading character-driven action for the flash and bang of special effects extravaganzas. To make things worse, as entertaining conclusions to solidly built trilogies as they are, both movies’ plots fall apart upon minimal examination, compromising the internal logic maintained through the franchise and ultimately leaving the fans with an aftertaste of vacuity and disappointment.
Loosely inspired by the Age of Apocalypse comic book storyline, Bryan Singer’s fourth entry in the mutant franchise picks up a decade after 2014’s Days of Future Past. It’s 1983 and the world has come to a begrudging acceptance of mutants as a quotidian matter, with Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) peacefully running his school, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) settled in a low-profile domestic bliss back in his native Poland, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) still hiding from the notoriety brought to her by the role she played in the events of Days of Future Past. Of course, this frail truce ends when En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), an Egyptian demigod believed to be the first mutant and who laid dormant for centuries, is reawakened. With the fate of humanity in balance, it comes to the X-Men to stop En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse, leading Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique to cross paths once again.
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