Memorial Day Weekend brings a dynamic duo of sequels. One is the ninth installment (if you include ‘Deadpool’ as part of the series) in the only successful non-Disney Marvel franchise, while the other is a follow-up to a six-year-old movie that no one realized was in the works until a trailer suddenly appeared.
Despite reigning supreme over 2016, Disney’s sequel surprisingly isn’t the biggest release of the weekend. Instead, Fox owns that title. Launching on 4,148 screens is ‘X-Men: Apocalypse‘. In 2000, director Bryan Singer kicked off the franchise and returned three years later with the even-better ‘X2’. He then departed while a terrible Brett Ratner sequel and an even-worse spinoff prequel followed. Matthew Vaughn entered the scene in 2011 with a fantastic retooling that left Singer wanting to come back. In 2014, he returned to the series with ‘Days of Future Past’ and absolutely killed it. Unfortunately, although it’s good enough, it’s unfortunately the least of the director’s four ‘X-Men’ movies.
In the fashion of the new young X-Men saga, ‘Apocalypse’ takes place one decade after ‘Days of Future Past’, which was set one decade after ‘First Class’. Although the movie kicks off by introducing us to the villain’s origins tale at the time ancient pyramids in Egypt were built, the majority of the movie is set in the early 1980s. With the God-like mutant Apocalypse (played by an unrecognizable Oscar Isaac) awoken, Xavier, Mystique, Magneto, the rest of the gang and a bunch of new actors playing recognizable characters must band together to save the world. Although fun and overall worthwhile, Singer’s direction feels uninspired. Half of the movie simply plays by the numbers, which leaves only one-half of the movie to genuinely rock and impress. James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters and Rose Byrne return, with newcomers Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Olivia Munn joining their sides.
In 2010, Disney set a new March opening record ($116.1 million) with Tim Burton’s live-action ‘Alice in Wonderland‘. Studios are typically quick to jump on sequels, but it took Disney six years to come around on this one. Producer Tim Burton didn’t return to the director’s chair for ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass‘ – and it’s apparent. Instead, ‘Ali G’, ‘Flight of the Conchords’ and ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ writer/director James Bobin took the helm.
Several years have passed since Alice’s return to Wonderland. Now the captain of her father’s exploration and trade ship, Alice has made the real world her own limitless wonderland. But when she returns home to find that she and her mother are on the brink of losing everything, she’s pulled back into Wonderland. A sad truth to the Mad Hatter’s past has caught up with him and now his life is in danger. Alice must once again do the impossible in order to save him. This time, the impossible includes traveling to the past and finding a way to save the present, all the while outrunning Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) who’s hot on her tracks. Mia Wasikowska returns as Alice, Johnny Depp reprises his role as the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway plays the White Queen in several scenes and Helena Bonham Carter continues as the huge-headed Queen of Hearts. It’s also worth pointing out that ‘Through the Looking Glass’ features Alan Rickman’s final performance – albeit a short few lines of voiced-over dialogue – and a dedication title card at the end.