Mutants come to the rescue in “X-Men: Apocalypse”
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital copy; 2016; PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief profanity and some suggestive images; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Vudu (4K) YouTube (4K)
Best extra: Commentary with producer/director Bryan Singer and producer/writer Simon Kinberg on both the 4K and Blu-ray discs
DIRECTOR BRYAN SINGER may not admit it, but he's the brainchild of this whole Marvel comic book movie craze.
It started 15 years ago with "X-Men" (2000), in which Singer introduced us to a race of mutants. Wolverine, Prof. Charles Xavier, Magneto, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Mystique and Storm, all born with special powers to create fear and mistrust in humans.
"Apocalypse," the latest in Singer's rejuvenated franchise, follows the highly praised global smash, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014) with its altered timelines, and "X-Men: First Class" (2011), which introduced an alternate cast of mutants as they were in the Cold War era.
"Apocalypse" begins in the 1980s. The world's oldest mutant, buried alive for over 4,000 years in Egypt, has been unearthed and is ready to conquer the world. The talented Oscar Isaac ("Inside Llewyn Davis," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens") plays En Sabah Nur the Apocalypse wearing a multi-layered costume and make-up that took four hours to apply. This god-like mutant can manipulate matter and block psychic power, but his greatest ability is the power of persuasion.
He recruits four mutants to help with his global cleansing, destroying everything to start anew. The first horseman of the apocalypse, Angel, is a cage fighter found in East Berlin and played by British actor Ben Hardy. Sexy telepath-telekinetic Psylocke is played by Olivia Munn; a youthful and more reckless Storm is played by Alexandra Shipp; and Magneto, who has gone off-grid starting a family and working in a Polish steel mill, is again played by the astonishing Michael Fassbender. "All four characters were rejected and marginalized and felt they didn't belong," making them easy targets for Apocalypse, Fassbender says during the 60-minute, six-part making-of documentary, "Apocalypse: Unearthed."
The underlining story is the origin of the X-Men and how teenage students at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters became a unified fighting team. We're introduced to the heartwarming swashbuckler Nightcrawler played by Kodi Smit-McPhee; the outcast within the outcasts, Jean Grey played by Sophie Turner ("Game of Thrones"), and Scott Summers/Cyclops played by 19-year-old Tye Sheridan ("Mud," "Ready Player One"). Producer/writer Simon Kinberg says he wanted a James Dean-like actor who could portray quiet rage.
Although "Apocalypse" received mixed reviews and earned $200 million less worldwide than its predecessor, Singer's two hour-plus adventure looks remarkable on the new 4K-disc format and Blu-ray. Singer and director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel captured the imagery on native 3D stereo, 6K resolution cameras and then mastered it in 4K. It makes all the difference. Sharpness is impeccable, especially in wide shots. Color saturation and deep-deep black levels are eye-popping thanks to 4K HDR encoding. "X-Men: Apocalypse" is right up there with Fox's other 4K wonder, "The Revenant." The 3D disc mastered in 2K was not available for this review.
Audio was also mastered for the optimum eight-channel Dolby Atmos expansive home audio environment, providing more depth and immersion from sound effects to the musical score signaled to the added speakers.
Commentary with Singer and Kinberg engages and informs. They share their excitement over getting '80s teen actress Ally Sheedy ("The Breakfast Club," "WarGames"), to play a high school teacher giving a history lesson on mutants. Kinberg was so star struck, he took his first selfie with a cast member. Then there's Singer's heartbreaking story of having to cut part of Fassbender's performance when Polish police arrive to arrest him carrying bows and arrows instead of guns. A tragic accident ends with all dead including his wife and daughter. The complete sequence is part of 28-minutes of extended and deleted scenes.
The six-part documentary features behind-scene interviews with the cast and crew, and presentations from the FX team, stunts coordinator, costume designer, art director and longtime collaborator, second unit director Brian Smrz.
"X-men: Apocalypse" may not be the ultimate X-Men film according to canon, but its fast-paced action entertains. And what a 4K-eye catcher!
― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer