The weakest X-movie yet threatens the series’ future

Film by Jorge Ignacio Castillo


X-Men: Apocalypse
Opens May 26
2 out of 5

The X-Men franchise works best if you don’t think about it too much. Continuity is a disaster and the characters are maddeningly inconsistent, none more than Mystique. Outside vast amounts of blue paint, Jennifer Lawrence’s and Rebecca Romijn’s characterizations have nothing in common.

In spite of rapidly accumulating plot holes (many thanks to new X-movie stalwart, Deadpool), the Bryan Singer/Simon Kinberg combo has been reluctant to concoct a full reboot, probably because people keep on buying tickets and Singer continues to snatch box office victories from the jaws of defeat.

Not this time.

X-Men: Apocalypse suggests the saga has finally run out of steam. The plot retreads old storylines and has the gall to openly criticize The Last Stand when this chapter is arguably worse.

Set in the 80s, this episode revolves around the first mutant, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who has resurfaced after centuries buried in sand. Annoyed and disappointed his kind is not the planet’s dominant species, he recruits four equally resentful mutants — Magneto among them — and plans to take control. Apocalypse’s abilities are somewhat murky, but he seems to be telepathic and has the power to control molecular density (every other superpower has been used I guess?)

To magnify his power, Apocalypse sets his sights on Cerebro, Professor X’s brain-boosting mutant-finder. Soon, only a handful of inexperienced kids — Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Quicksilver and a very sullen Cyclops — stand between the power-hungry demigod and his objective.

If the plot summary seems rather flimsy it’s because the film doesn’t particularly care about telling a cohesive story. After spending a fair amount of time putting the teams together, X-Men: Apocalypse moves from set piece to set piece, none of them memorable. In fact, Quicksilver’s brilliant introduction in Days of Future Past is refurbished and stretched, to half the impact. The CGI feels particularly fake and the emotional punches ring hollow (somebody thought it would be a good idea to give Magneto another reason to dislike mankind. What, losing his parents in a concentration camp just didn’t cut it anymore?).

There’s nothing in this film to indicate Bryan Singer once directed the contemporary masterpiece The Usual Suspects. That said, writer/producer Simon Kinberg is a worse offender. While Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe explores new narratives and scenarios, Kinberg is stuck doing the same thing and audiences are noticing. X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t as horrid as Fantastic Four (co-written by Kinberg), but come on, it should easily be far superior.

The headlining trio — Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence — is watchable although Lawrence seems to be running the clock here. Oscar Isaac, so reliable in everything else, is wasted under heavy makeup and gear. The actor is unrecognizable and his expressions barely noticeable thanks to all the prosthetics glued to his face. He’s like a boring Voldemort. Of the newcomers, only Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In) as Nightcrawler registers, and he’s the one who gets the least screen time. The less said about Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, the better.

Heading towards the last Wolverine movie next year, no superhero saga would benefit more from a reboot than the X-Men. The continuity holes are just too big, the best stories have already been used (some of them poorly) and most of the staple actors have outgrown the franchise.

Also needed: A real scriptwriter.