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X-Men: Apocalypse (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

X-Men-ApocalypseX-Men (along with Blade) is credited with giving launch to the 2nd wave of comic book superhero movies.  Its also, cleverly, still going along within its own continuity.  Two years ago, Bryan Singer returned to the franchise he gave life with the fun and exciting Days Of Future Past.  That film melded together the original cast with the younger First Class team.  The film both worked as a sequel to First Class and sort of a cap off to the original crew.  That film sort of ended on a clean slate, allowing this universe to cross old territories and new without worry.  They decided to begin with the biggest mutant villain there is, Apocalypse, while re-introducing some of the more popular mutants that had been absent for a few films.

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Film 

After thousands of years, Apocalypse – the world’s first and most powerful mutant – has awakened to find a world led by humans. Intent on cleansing the Earth of mankind, he recruits a group of mutants to create a new world order. In a desperate race to save humanity, Professor X leads the young X-Men in an epic showdown – against an unstoppable enemy – that will determine the fate of the world.

X-Men: Apocalypse sadly shows that Bryan Singer probably should have taken his bow with Days of Future Past and left on a big high.  The keys should have been handed off to some new talent to breath fresh life into the franchise and potentially grab them another entry like First Class.  Instead, his reluctance to adapt to current superhero filmmaking motiffs, script trappings of his own accord and constant regret of having not directed The Last Stand hamper this from being anything above tired or mediocre.  The film features some merits and really wants to take things to the next level, but unfortunately the keys are given to the wrong driver.

While Singer constantly bags upon The Last Stand, X-Men: Apocalypse winds up retreading some of its territory and sharing a lot of the same problems.  The Last Stand, however, isn’t a slog and while it disappointed, it didn’t overstay its welcome and had a swift pace and short runtime.  Apocalypse is a giant bloat and runs probably 20-3o minutes way too long.  Also like The Last Stand it has way more mutants than it really knows what to do with and it really gives the short end of the stick to a lot of its quality characters.  The first hour and five minutes of the film takes forever to get through with an absurd amount of introduction scenes, catching up scenes and story threads that are so obvious in direction that they could have been tightened or cut altogether.  Its not until just after Evan Peters’ Quicksilver is re-introduced to us in his mom’s basement that the film really feels like its actually turning a corner and beginning.

And its not like much of this stuff is incredibly interesting.  In fact, its all stuff that we’ve seen, heard and done before in these movies.  As long as the film is, in 2 hours and 30 minutes it doesn’t break any new ground.  We’re once again given the Professor X and Magneto dynamic/philosophies/arguments and Apocalypse just filling in as a surrogate for it all when Magneto doesn’t speak. The storylines and action are even everything you’ve seen before.  It even will give you flashbacks to stuff you don’t want to like X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Magneto’s story and yelling to the sky).  Even the best stuff, like Quicksilver’s scene (A highlight of the entire film) is neat, but not as exciting as it once was because its no longer fresh and new.  We’ve seen it before.  This plays like a Greatest Hits of the X-Men movies, except they’re all done by a subpar cover band.

There are plenty of new X-Men and new faces playing familiar X-Men.  Unfortunately I cannot tell you much about them as none of them are really given much in the way of development or anything interesting to do.  Nightcrawler probably fares the best of all of them because he’s poppy, funny and has a cool power (Once again, that we saw done to a little better degree in X2: X-Men United).  All of the meat of the material in the film is once again handed to Xavier, Magneto and Mystique to run through their tired quibbles.  One of the most troubles problems with the film is that it stops dead in its tracks to force in a scene with the tried and true Wolverine.  But once again, this is just another berzerker rage, Wolverine runs around screaming and slicing up mercs with his claws.  Except this time he’s doing it in his Weapon X costume.  This part is where Singer seems to make the mistake of thinking this is helping give us more Cyclops, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler action but its actually doing the exact opposite.  With the release of this Blu-ray, we actually get to see massive mistakes the director made in the editing room.  There were a lot of scenes featuring much meatier personal, relationship and development moments with the youngsters and they seem to have been sacked in favor of this.  Its a shame, as there is so much potential with these actors.

As far as other new and returning mutants, there’s not much to be said either.  I’m a big fan of Psylocke and was excited to see Olivia Munn’s comic to screen accurate look in motion in the film, but I’m still waiting for it.  She’s not given a whole lot to do. Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse is pretty forgettable (Or unforgettable if you’re not a fan of his look).  James McAvoy is certainly game and give it his all here.  Jennifer Lawrence looks like she would rather be anywhere than here.  She’s never been particularly strong in the X-Men films, but here she gives the worst performance of her career.  This screenplay and film even caters to try to appease her but she still doesn’t look to give a damn. In big moments, her delivery is incredibly laughable and disappointing.  I thought originally that Michael Fassbender was equally mailing it in, but upon a second viewing here, I definitely got much more from him and he does excel in some bigger moments.

I’ve been pretty hard on this movie and pointed toward more complaints than I have praises.  And well, frankly, there are indeed more of them.  This film may have been my biggest disappointment of the summer. Not the worst film I saw, but a series that I’m very fond of falling very short.  Its overlong, bloated, mediocre, and all stuff you’ve seen done better elsewhere.  The film ends on a more playful, colorful high note of showing these awesome new X-Men uniforms, but honestly, why couldn’t they have been used in the actual story? Those black leather jetsuits are so boring and old hate.  Matthew Vaughn in First Class at least brought some more color, fun and comic-like culture to the series that Singer was so quickly to run away from.  It wasn’t a bother or too much of a factor on the last outing, but here his course correcting and such has gone overboard.  We don’t need to reset to some status quo with this series, we need to break off and start anew, with fresh new blood.  Honestly, I think we should leave this X-Men storyline right here.  Move on.  Take Deadpool and start your next universe there.  Create an X-Force.  Figure out a way to bring Evan Peters’ Quicksilver (The strongest addition of the last two films) over as well as Olivia Munn’s Psylocke (Just to give her a damn chance to shine and do something).  Add Cable (I’m in the Kyle Chandler camp if that’s true) to the already set Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead.  Keep Singer away.  BOOM! There you go.  And if you can, lure Jane Goldman back (SORELY missing from this entry).

Overall, this movie still manages to entertain for the most part.  It has a final act that ramps up the amount of terror striking in an X-Men film, while still managing to feel rather small in scale and nowhere connected to the disasters going on onscreen.  However, its got mutant action with them using their powers together and on one another which is always good spectacle and something neat.  The ultimate problem with the film is that its way too long and feels like something you’ve already seen multiple times before.  There’s really nothing to see here, but if you’re a fan of the X-Men, it is another adventure and its still going, so you have that.  Its just a confirmation that the series needs to be rebooted in some fashion, take a rest and definitely let Bryan Singer bow out in favor of some new blood.

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Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Unlike the film, X-Men: Apocalypse is an absolutely dazzling affair that demonstrates the very best of what 4K UHD has to offer at this time.  This is one to convert people with.  This sharp image features an incredible amount of detail with insanely rich and explosive colors.  What really set this one above in terms of picture was the look and definition of the special effects.  Havoc, Cyclops and Psylocke (among others) all display powers that feature a beam of sorts.  On the Blu-ray (Which has an excellent picture itself) they appear to be a solid color with some white surroundings. 4K UHD shows so so so much more.  There are a lot of different strands of the beam, movements, vibrations and intricacies that become much more apparent on this image.  Its wildly impressive.  And no it doesn’t make any of the effects look cheaper either as some of these UHD titles have done when CG hasn’t been prepared or rendered for 4K.  To go along with this , things just like grass, dirt, damage, debris and even the scribings on a soda can are much more clearer and apparent.  Of all the 4K UHD titles I’ve seen, this is the very best and one that could possibly convince even the biggest skeptic that the jump in formats could be a worthwhile endeavor.

Depth:  The film was released and intended for 3-D when it was shot, but even here in a 2D presentation, its dimensional work is very impressive.  Where the better example come into play are the scenes with green screen background.  Characters don’t have any sense of being attached to them and are very loose and free in their movements from them.  The scene inside Cerebro is a prime example and looks deep and big in its scale.  The end sequence of the film, as well as the pyramid interiors at the star are other good examples of delivery in terms of depth, background definition and well rounded looking actors on the screen.  Movements in the film are very smooth and natural.  All in all, its an impressive 2D image that gives you a lot of flavor and taste of what this thing can be in 3D without being in 3D.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep, rich and enhance the film.  There are scenes in dark corners and depths of the world, like the inside of pyramids, underground cage fights and a seedy place for mutants to get a fresh start.  Each place features excellent shading without the loss of any detail.  Facial details and even hair definition like Psylocke’s show through in this.  The shadow-work and shading on this film look perfect in this mix.  When working with the color, the blacks provide a major asset to the image of X-Men: Apocalypse.  And of course, no crushing was witnessed in this viewing.

Color Reproduction: The colors in this transfer will blow you away.  This is a gorgeous, bold image that vibrantly flaunts itself and get the best out of your television.  Purple is a super strong presence in this film.  Whether its Apocalypse or Psylocke you’re getting some royal charm.  There is a scene where Psylocke busts out her psionic beam at Apocalypse in a darkened room and it looks lovley.  Very flowy and rich.  As mentioned early, any time there is a beam effect it looks great.  Fire is also a strong suit, featuring many flourishes of white, red, yellow and orange coming together for a full, multiblended/tinted effect.  Another wow’ing moment is one where there is a bucket of lava-looking stuff at Magneto’s steelmill factory thing and it just stand out and is a bit of image that you know you’re not getting with any other release.  Gorgeous colors on this one, a reason for home theater junkies to pop this in their collection.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural (or Blue, if that’s your color) and consistent in their look for the duration of the film.  Apocalypse, in close ups of his face, release a glossier, wet looking texture to his skin.  You can see the thick build of make-up on his face.  Mystique and Nightcrawler’s show every little bead or tattoo like marking on their face in crisp fashion.  As far as the more human people, you get a good look at moles, blemishes, lip texture, stubble, pores and even a look at how thin (or maybe its fake) Michael Fassbender’s facial hair is.  All details look great from any distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD default), English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 DTS, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 DTS, German 5.1 DTS, Italian 5.1 DTS,

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, French (Canadian), Spanish (Castilian), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Mandarin (Simple), Mandarin (Traditional)

Dynamics: For all the shortcomings of this film, the technical specs of it prove to be one of the more perfect releases of the year.  This Atmos track is quite the eventful piece.  Its deep and rumbles with all the action and spectacle happening in the movie.  The film features little nick knacks and the track manages to capture even the smallest or most trailing sound.  There are neat moments like Quicksilver’s scene where there is loud music set to a deep constant rumble, but yet you can still here his zips and little brushes and movements with characters.  This healthy blend finds the vocals, effects and music all managing to coexist and find their little creaks and cracks to fit in and pull of an effective performance.  Many distinct mutant sounds, from Storm’s thunder, echoing voices in Jean’s head, shnk’ing of Wolverine’s claws or the blast from Scott Summer’s eyes are all well rounded, full and find variations. All of which are captured perfectly in this Atmos track.

Height: Overhead is put to full use in this track.  I’m not sure I’ve had one of these that has taken advantage so much of overhead sound effects.  Right from the start of the film, with the pyramids crumbling, debris is hit and zipping down from above.  The finale features mass destruction across the globe and its represented here.  Jets and helicopters also breeze overhead.  And that one big trailer reel Psylocke moment where she slice through that car from above is represented here.

Low Frequency Extension: Apocalypse really brings the thunder with the subwoofer action on this one.  It is deep, loud and rumbly.  You’ll be involved in every action scene thanks to its presence.  Many a pyramid, building, bridge and the like come crumbling down in the film and the room shakes and vibrates accordingly.  Even blasts from Psylocke, Havoc and others throw good punches with the LFE.  Music moments, when they show up, slap some solid bass on the mix as well.  The normal explosions, gunfire and connected punches get their due, if not amped up just a hair on this impressive low frequency blend.

Surround Sound Presentation: Movies like this were made to be set in the arena of a theater, surrounding the whole room and its been translated here perfectly.  This film features destruction, action, characters and the like coming from all directions and this mix finds homes for all the sounds an allows them to travel a good 360 degrees around to make their full intentions met.  Side and rear speakers find plenty to do whether its a distinct piece of action, continues a bits travel or just providing environmental ambiance or helping out the score.  This is a full on, impacting presentation.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clear.  Its audible no matter how much or how little destruction is going on onscreen.  McAvoy’s narration is seductive and powerful in this mix with great clarity.  Every little breath, mouth sound or piece of diction is accounted for in the mix.  Echoes and the like also have a good clear motif in this mix.

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Extras 

X-Men: Apocalypse comes with a Blu-ray copy and UltraViolet digital copy of the film.  Aside from the commentary, all bonus materials are found on the Blu-ray disc.

Audio Commentary

  • By Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Deleted/Extended Scenes with Optional Introductions By Bryan Singer (HD, 28:11) – Most of the scenes removed revolved around extras character interactions and developing the younger X-Men (Jean, Scott, Curt, Storm and most importantly Jubilee).  Most disheartening is a mall sequence set to “The Safety Dance” that would have been a showstopper in the movie, really embracing the time period, full of a fun, youthful vibe and totally elevating the experience of a what a young mutant goes through for the first time in an X-Men film. This is much more welcome and much more beneficial to those characters and to the film than the shoehorned Wolverine sequence in the film.

Gag Reel (HD, 8:20) 

Wrap Party Video (HD, 4:46) – Set to “Time in a Bottle” (A familiar call back to Days of Future Past) and some more modern song following, this montage goes through the shoot with plenty of behind the scenes footage.

X-Men: Apocalypse Unearthed (HD, 1:03:58) – This multipart documentary gives a fantastic little insight into the making of this film as well as the mind of Bryan Singer when it comes to his choices for the X-Men films. It features interviews with the cast and other behind the scenes players as well.  However, when it comes to discussion of the future of these films, it goes into some wild generalities, but ultimately sounds and feels like nobody really knows what truly is next or if they’ll be allowed to do what they want to next.  Say what you will about the film, these people really wanted to make something great.

Gallery

  • Concept Art – Characters (Apocalypse, Four Horsemen-3600 BCE, Four Horsemen-1983, X-Men)
  • Unit Photography

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 7:15)

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Summary 

X-Men: Apocalypse was definitely a film that underwhelmed me this summer.  Its still somewhat entertaining, but this particular viewing was ramped up for me.  Its not because the film got any better or softened to it.  No, it was due to this fantastic presentation on 4K UHD Blu-ray.  The picture on this film is breathtaking and the Atmos track gives the ultimate immersive effect to the film.  This video and audio truly gives this film is best footing and best chance to entertain the viewer.  The extras for the film are quite informative, as it contains some of the most appealing deleted scenes I’ve seen on a release in years.  I’d actually encourage Bryan Singer to do an alternate cut of the film, scaling back on the Magneto/Mystique/Apocalypse stuff, scrapping the Wolverine sequence altogether and adding back these development scenes for Jean, Scott, Curt and Jubilee.  It’d would make for a less dour, fun and maybe fresher film that this one was looking to be to begin with.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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