(USA) Action. Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac. 145 minutes. Category IIA. Opened May 15. It’s hard to believe, but the first “X-Men” movie was released in July 2000—almost 16 years ago. Since then we’ve had the original trilogy, two Wolverine movies, the phenomenally successfully Deadpool—and a second trilogy, which comes to an end with “X-Men: Apocalypse.” But should the “X-Men” world end with “Apocalypse”?
Here’s the setup: Teenager Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) is finding puberty harder than most, as it seems to have manifested via the medium of red energy beams exploding from his eyes. He’s taken to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, where Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) balances being debonair with pastoral duties for a school of 100 kids going through mutant puberty—especially Jean Grey
(Sophie Turner, aka Sansa from “Game of Thrones”), who might be a still more powerful telepath than Xavier himself.
Meanwhile, Raven Darkholme aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) has become a globe-trotting vigilante mutant savior, traveling the world to free mutants held in captivity.
Meanwhile (part 2), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) seems to have finally found happiness in Poland, where he lives in hiding with his wife and young daughter… until it all goes wrong and he’s consumed with the need for vengeance.
Meanwhile (part 3), A group of cultists have unearthed the resting place of En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse (a hammy Oscar Issac), the world’s first mutant, who is able to transfer his consciousness between bodies to ensure his immortality. Apocalypse wakes up from centuries of sleep and decides that he’s got to make the world a better place—by destroying it, naturally.
That’s just the beginning, and the above summary glosses over at least other six characters who get a chunk of attention. With so much work being put into setting up or developing its characters, this film’s superpower isn’t a tight runtime.
Still, “Apocalypse” delivers on its bangs and thrills.
Action and effects are strong and the film is uniformly wellacted, despite the occasional clunky line. But it’s a little too reliant on what’s gone before. The standout scene in previous movie “Days of Future Past” was when speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters) plugged himself into an iPod and super-speeded all over a room while time seemed to stand still. Director Bryan Singer has obviously decided that you can’t get too much of a good thing, and so the slow-mo sequence returns in “Apocalypse,” with a better soundtrack too. It’s great fun, but there’s nothing very original about it.
Still, that’s forgivable: You’d be hard-pressed to find a studio that wouldn’t want to recreate the money shot. The main problem with “Apocalypse” lies in its character arcs. It’s the inevitable risk you run with so many characters: It’s hard to develop them all equally, and in this movie they unwisely skimp on Fassbender’s Magneto.
This trilogy has shone thanks to McAvoy and Fassbender, who have worked to build the unique relationship of their characters and their opposing philosophies. Magneto’s arc in this movie starts strong but it fizzles by the final act, leading to an unconvincing resolution. A good Magneto is essential to a good “X-Men” flick, and that’s this movie’s apocalypse. You’d think that 16 years on, they’d have worked that out.