Review of “X-Men: Apocalypse”: Action scenes look impressive, but the franchise used to be more fun. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
OK, let’s get this straight: The new “X-Men” movie is the sixth in the franchise, not counting origin stories/spinoffs, and the third in the current younger-generation trilogy. It takes place mostly, though not entirely, in the 1980s, where the events of the earlier “X-Men” movies are taught in school, as a handy way of catching audiences up. And, once again, some ghastly mutant is hellbent on destroying the world: This time, it’s Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who at least has an informative X-name.
In other words, things are getting a little stale in the X-world, and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” while a perfectly competent superhero installment, doesn’t do much to stir up excitement. How many times can the mutants save the world? How many times can we hear someone solemnly intone “A gift can be a curse”? How many times do I need to point out that 3D action movies are blurry and dark and probably better in 2D? (Can someone please appoint a mutant — surely there’s someone in this universe who can fix the special effects in Hollywood movies by breathing hard or something — to look into this problem?)
The strength of this franchise has long been its impressive acting roster — think, in the early films, of the absolutely electric faceoffs between Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart — and the current cast has some good moments: Michael Fassbender’s moody Magneto, James McAvoy’s idealistic Xavier, Evan Peters’ quick-witted Quicksilver. And a favorite from the earlier trilogy pops by for a funny cameo. (“That’s the last we’ll see of that guy,” someone deadpans. Maybe.)
Movie Review ★★½
‘X-Men: Apocalypse,’ with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Evan Peters, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee. Directed by Bryan Singer, from a screenplay by Simon Kinberg. 147 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images. Several theaters.
But the population has gotten so crowded, all but the most ardent fans of the comic might find themselves wishing for explanatory footnotes on the characters. And Simon Kinberg’s screenplay tends to overexplain things — which is why the film checks in at a bloated two and a half hours. “It will end with some kind of … apocalypse,” says Rose Byrne’s Moira McTaggert, dramatically, of the havoc being wreaked. “The end of the world,” chimes in Xavier, helpfully.
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The action, aside from the cloudy 3D, looks impressive (particularly the destruction of the Sydney Opera House), and “X-Men: Apocalypse” moves along tidily, but you watch thinking that all this used to be a lot more fun. It’s not clear what’s happening next for the X-universe; early versions of “Apocalypse” screened for press did not include a post-credits bonus scene, though I hear there might be one in the released version (somebody tell me!). Perhaps the franchise is due for a well-deserved rest.