X-Men: Apocalypse is the boldest, most audacious entry in this series to date, descending into places of despair, tragedy and chaos the likes of which are often spellbinding. Even if all of it doesn’t work, enough of it did to keep me engaged, everything building to a powerful conclusion of sacrifice and courage that speak to the larger themes at play nicely.
To their credit, the filmmakers match the tone of Collins’ book more or less all the way through (save for a subtle – yet important – change during the closing seconds), attempting to craft a war-torn parable that has more in common with Platoon or Apocalypse Now than it does to Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Ant-Man proves to be one of the more enjoyable entries in Marvel’s so-called Cinematic Universe (MCU). Unlike Avengers: Age of Ultron, the script by Rudd, Wright, Adam McKay (The Other Guys) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) is beautifully self-contained, rarely utilized to set up coming events that are going to transpire inside Thor: Ragnarok or Avengers: Infinity War – Part I. It runs less than two hours, tells its own origin story and, while acknowledging the bigger comic book world it is a part of, isn’t beholden to it.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I is still skillfully made and Jennifer Lawrence is as good as ever as the young woman who must transform herself into a hero whether she wants to or not. Unlike the first two, though, this one feels far more engineered by a corporate committee than either of its predecessors did, diluting the emotional impact of all that’s transpiring for Katniss and her followers in the process.
Guardians of the Galaxy takes the Marvel brand into new territories and does so with grandly entertaining brio, and even if all facets aren’t quite perfect they’re still strong enough to make this sci-fi adventure worthwhile.
X-Men: Days of Future Past manages to take such a convoluted scenario and present it in ways that are easy to process and even more fun to digest. It treats its audience with intelligence and respect but doesn’t skimp on action pyrotechnics.
That’s what The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does best, waste inherent potential. It’s got a great actor as the main character; does almost nothing with him. Has a wonderful actress as the female lead; gives her embarrassingly little to do. Casts two great stars – one up and coming, the other a bona fide Oscar-winner – as the bad guys; gives them precious little of substance to do.
Thing is, Lawrence doesn’t allow herself to go over the top into cartoonish histrionics, holding her own in every scene no matter what’s going on or who it is she’s sharing the frame with. The last image is all about her, the film closing on a fantastic transformative sight that showcases all who Katniss has been with all she is about to be become.
It’s great, filled with superb set pieces and moments, not the least of which is a dynamic attack on the Stark mansion that had the majority of the preview audience sitting on the edge of their seats holding their breath, and I can’t say I was ever bored by anything that was going on. At the same time, there is an almost television-like efficiency that can grow stale, nothing ever popping out or calling attention to itself in a way I could ever say was entirely memorable.