After scoring a huge critical and box office success with X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bryan Singer’s triumphant return to the franchise, 20th Century Fox wisely brought the director back for X-Men: Apocalypse.
However, in a move that induces head scratching, Fox cut the budget for the current installment, while padding the cast and upping the action quotient. Actually, this is the studio that screwed up The Fantastic Four, so maybe the shortchanging of a reliable franchise isn’t all that surprising.
There are portions of the movie that are sloppier than the usual Singer offerings, and quite a few moments have cut rate looking CGI. The movie alternates from looking great to looking super bad.
The flaws eventually pile up, and while there are some nice, enjoyable stretches, it’s a bit of a mess in the end despite powerful work from Michael Fassbender as Magneto and new-to-the-franchise Oscar Isaac as the menacing villain, Apocalypse.
Before the opening credits (which look like shit) roll, we get a quick backstory on Apocalypse. En Sabah Nur (Isaac), an ancient Egyptian, morphs with some sort of ancient mystical being, thus becoming the world’s first mutant, or something like that. He’s then buried under a crushed pyramid for centuries. Cue opening cheapie looking credits.
Cut to the 1980’s, 10 years after the events of Future Past. A bunch of random people stand around in the pyramid ruins chanting, and En Sabah Nur awakens as Apocalypse, a blue monster that looks like a cross between Jeff Bridges in Tron and the Emperor from Star Wars. Even though he’s buried under a bunch of makeup and voice modulation, Isaac makes his every moment on screen count. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun.
The same goes for Fassbender, whose Erik Lehnsherr has been masquerading as a mild-mannered factory worker in Poland since the events in Washington, D.C., happily married with a daughter. Erik is loving life, but when Apocalypse awakens, he causes an earthquake that jars something loose at the factory. Erik stops an object from falling on a friend, thus blowing his cover, and starting a succession of events that make Erik ripe for another run at being the evil Magneto.
Apocalypse builds an army of four, like the four horsemen, including Magneto, Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn). They jet all over the earth in some sort of energy bubble like Bill and Ted in their phone booth, eventually winding up at Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) school. Xavier has a power Apocalypse craves, and this leads to all sorts of wham-bam, chaotic showdowns involving crumbling buildings and telekinetic battles.
With all of this going on, Singer tries to make time for a backstory involving Cyclops (Ty Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) while upping the screen time for Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters). And, oh yeah, there’s an upstart actress that goes by the name of Jennifer Lawrence in there too, doing her Mystique shtick.
There’s another memorable sequence involving Quicksilver (this time set to a Eurhythmics song), and the guy with knives shooting out of his knuckles makes a big, if somewhat forced and unnecessary, cameo. Singer tries to do too much, and the movie wears out its welcome with its 144 minute running time.
The weakest of the new entries would be Turner as Jean Grey. The Game of Thrones actress is simply outmatched by the talent around her, and fails to make Jean Grey somebody compelling. She’s just kind of pouty and grouchy. Lawrence is fine as Mystique, but her storyline feels a bit tacked on.
Had the movie spent a little more time with Magneto and cut back on some of the characters, X-Men: Apocalypse could’ve been another worthy entry to the franchise thanks to Isaac. It’s ultimately a near miss, and the worst movie in a franchise that hadn’t delivered a bad film yet (Yes, I was okay with the third one).
Whatever happens next, it might be time for Singer to take an X-Men sabbatical.