That Quicksilver scene saving the X-mansion kids? That’s really all you need to see… on YouTube.
Many moons ago, the first mutant Poe Dameron… whoops, sorry, make that Apocalypse (Oscar Issac) was inexplicably blindsided by a bunch of slaves he thought were under his thumb who buries him for all time — cue Stargate theme — right up until someone foolishly unearths his tomb in Egypt and provides exactly the right ingredients to bring him back to life. Promptly deciding all humans must be destroyed after watching eighties television — as good of a reason as any — he immediately recruits his Four Horsepersons of the X-pocalypse: Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Psylock (Olivia Munn), and Angel (Ben Hardy) before juicing them up. Opposing the big bad as always is baddie-turned-goodie Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheidan), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Quicksilver (Evan Peters) led by Professor X (James McAvoy). Will Apocalypse destroy the world, or will he spend the entire second act battle-posed with his minions in the high deserts over Cairo monologuing to Professor X?
Director Bryan Singer arguably set the standard for modern superhero films with his take on X-men. Done on a comparatively small budget, the original summer 2000 movie did huge business and made a megastar out of Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. Abandoning the franchise to hack Brett Ratner to make the ill-fated Superman Returns, Singer’s recent X-men: Days of Future Past felt like a warm-up to X-men: Apocalypse. When the first stills started appearing, however, there were immediately feelings of cheap Halloween costumes; the subsequent trailers did too little to make it look much better. Wait, hold everything: Apocalypse himself is being played by Oscar Issac? Seriously, how bad could it possibly be?
Bad… really bad. “Thou shalt NOT be boring!” From long takes standing around getting ready to do something that feels like filler for budgetary shortfalls, all these good actors couldn’t find enough to do — or maybe the good stuff was cut out for more special effects. There are a few notable exceptions. Evan Peters pretty much owns Quicksilver; the scene where he saves the X-mansion kids from an explosion is pure cinematic eye-candy… and the rest of the film looks worse in comparison. No, really. Sophie Turner made a surprisingly decent Jean Grey but was given far too little to do. Every one else is just in auto-mode hampered by a script must have read far better than it filmed. By the time we get to the end of this overlong stand-around, there’s little left to keep us from checking our watch and wondering when the credits will roll — don’t get me started on “mansion-o repair-o” at the end.
Even the Wolverine scene — yes, he’s in there for a blink or two — feels like being thrown a bone. Never mind how much the X-men movies have messed with comics continuity and canon. In fact, this may be why Days of Future Past worked so well: everything was on the line and the future was already frakked. It also provided a nice reset to toss out Ratner’s X-men: The Final Nail in His Coffin and start fresh… but this?
X-men: Apocalypse is for anyone who wants to see lots of special effects and doesn’t care why, but it’s better than Independence Day: Resurgence (what isn’t?) if only for the Quicksilver mansion rescue. Seriously folks: fix this or stop wasting your cast and the audience’s time, because you could always hand mutant-kind back over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe like Sony did with Spider-Man.
1 Skull Recommendation Out of Four