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X-Men: Apocalypse
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Apocalypse... We've All Been There, The Same Old Trips, Why Should We Care?"
1 stars

Including the various spin-off vehicles featuring the misadventures of that lovable scamp Wolverine, "X-Men: Apocalypse" is the eighth big-screen adventure featuring the enormously successful mutant superheroes from the Marvel comic books series since the release of the first "X-Men" back in 2000. That is an impressive number by anyone standards (meanwhile, I have waiting over three decades for a proper sequel to "Buckaroo Banzai," but never mind) and serves as a testament to the enduring popularity of the franchise. However, even the most dedicated members of its fanbase may find themselves questioning their loyalties after enduring this latest installment, a wheezy and oftentimes barely coherent mess that offers viewers little more than the sight of a bunch of generally good actors standing around in goofball costumes while poorly executed action set-pieces erupt around them.

In a prologue set in Egypt around 3600 BC (judging from the skin color of the denizens we see, I'd say suburban Egypt), the aging mega-mutant villain known as Apocalypse (an unrecognizable Oscar Isaac) is preparing to transfer his soul into the body of another so that he can continue to live forever while utilizing whatever gifts that he can attain from the donors to become even more powerful. Unfortunately, his bag of tricks does not include pyramid sabotage because no sooner has the transfer been made than it all comes crashing down on him like a ton of bricks, literally, killing off his followers and trapping him inside a protective bubble for the next several thousand years. I realize things look bad for him but I have a sneaky suspicion that this Apocalypse nut may turn up again in the story.

Skipping ahead to 1983, we are introduced to teenager Scott Summers (Ty Sheridan) as a tiff with a school bully causes his latent mutant powers to finally emerge in the form of a laser beam emitting from his eyes. Older brother Alex (Lucas Till) knows the drill and takes him off to the school for mutants run by Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), where he makes the acquaintance of such recent arrivals as Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), not to mention elders like Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) and Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who has gone into hiding since the events of the previous film, where she saved the life of President Nixon from an assassination attempt by Magneto (Michael Fassbender) even as she has become a hero to the younger generation of mutants.

Meanwhile (and this is the kind of film where there are a lot of meanwhiles), Apocalypse is finally freed but when he finds that the outside world is not to his liking, he decides that the only thing to do is cleanse the planet by getting rid of every living thing and starting over with him as ruler. As per the prophecies, he needs a quartet of minions to help him live up to his name and so he begins trotting the globe in search of just the right crew. They include African street kid Ororo (Alexandria Shipp), the winged Angel (Ben Hardy) and the badass Psylocke (Olivia Munn). For the fourth, he goes to none other than Magneto, who carved out a quiet life for himself and his wife and young daughter in Poland that has conveniently just gone to hell when an offhand heroic deed on his part proves to have tragic consequences that send him back to the dark side. After an attack leaves many of the top X-Men out of the running, it is up to the new generation, led by a reluctant Raven, to help save humanity from certain destruction.

Of the big superhero franchises out there, the X-Men brand is the one that I have almost always had trouble getting into. My basic problem with nearly all of them (with the notable exception of "Days of Future Past," the sort-of reboot that gave us the younger versions of the characters seen in the original films) is that they are trying to juggle so many characters and so many special powers that they feel if the first two-thirds are so dominated by introducing everyone and explaining what they do that when the final act comes along, there is not time for anything else but showing oddly costumed weirdos pounding the crap out of each other while stuff explodes around them. That problem have never been more evident than in this installment, which is so top-heavy with characters introducing themselves (or re-introducing, as in the case of the CIA stooge played by Rose Byrne who had her memory wiped by Xavier at some point, only to find herself once again in the orbit of mutants) that there are long stretches of time in which the whole film seems to be treading water. You would think that by the eighth installment, the series would know what it is doing, especially with such franchise veterans as director Bryan Singer and and screenwriter Simon Kinberg at the controls. Instead, it feels as though it was made by someone who somehow managed to miss out on all the earlier films and is at a loss as to what to do.

The whole film has a ho-hum "been there, done that" feel to it that is distracting and ultimately disastrous, especially in comparison to something like "Captain America: Civil War," a superhero film that managed to not only deftly juggle a huge cast and numerous super powers but also added fleshed-out characters and interesting ideas and plot developments to the proceedings. All the big dramatic beats that Kinberg offers up this time around are cribbed from previous movies--a teen's traumatic introduction to their powers, the introduction to Professor Xavier's school and its denizens, Quicksilver saving the day with a demonstration of his powers shown in slow motion and set to a pop classic (in this case, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)," the massive attack on the mutants that decimates all but the ones with the star billing and, of course, the inevitable scene where Xavier and Magneto discuss at length whether humans and mutants can or cannot live together or if they are doomed to be at odds with each other for all eternity. As for the big action sequences, they are filled with noise and flashy effects but they are the kind of cinematic empty calories that evaporate so quickly from the mind that you can barely recall seeing them in the first place. Considering the size and scope of the X-Men universe, that the films are still rehashing elements from the earlier entries instead of trying something new is a crushing disappointment. I promise you, a group of kids playing with their X-Men action figures in a sandbox could make up a smarter, funnier and more complex storyline than the one presented here, which mostly comes across like something else that you are likely to stumble across in a sandbox.

One quality that the X-Men films, even the lesser ones, have all shared has been the ability to lure strong groups of actors into making appearances but not even their best efforts at sheer professionalism can quite disguise the almost palpable sense of boredom that they were evidently feeling this time around. Jennifer Lawrence, for example, is one of the most exciting young actresses around but as she goes through her paces as Mystique one more time here, you get the sense that she wishes that she could morph into somebody else and get the hell out of the film before anyone noticed. Fassbender and McAvoy do a little better but these are now roles that they can play in their sleep. As for the newcomers to the series, Oscar Isaac does everything that he possibly can to make Apocalypse into a genuine sort of menace but he is so heavily disguised throughout that he seem just as artificial as the special effects around him. He at least tries, which is more than you can say for Sophie Turner as Jean Grey. Yes, I know, “Game of Thrones” and all that but as good as she is on that show as Sansa Stark, that is how utterly useless she is here and considering the importance that her character maintains in the history of the X-Men saga.

As I have admitted before and will no doubt do so again for as long as they prove to be commercially viable, the “X-Men” franchise is one that I have never particularly warmed to, though when one turns out to be really good, as was the case with “First Class,” I am perfectly willing to embrace it for its content as a film even if I am not entirely sure of what is going on at any given point. “X-Men: Apocalypse,” on the other hand, is little more than an especially extended toy commercial that tries to cover up for its lack of a compelling story with an overstuffed cast roster and endless action scenes that don’t even work as individual bits of eye candy. Even the most loyal fans of the brand—the kind that are willing to cook up some kind of defense for the likes of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the film that previously marked the low point in the franchise—will find it difficult to come away with much of anything positive to say about it beyond the fact that it is slightly better than “Batman Vs. Superman.” Speaking of “The Last Stand,” there is a little dig at that film here in which some of the younger characters go off to see “Return of the Jedi” and when they leave the theater, one of them remarks that “the third one is always the worst.” Ha ha but if I had to pick between that film and “X-Men: Apocalypse” (which is technically the third film in the reboot series after “First Class” and “Days of Future Past”), I would take “Return of the Jedi” in an instant.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=27543&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/26/16 10:12:09
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User Comments

10/03/20 DavidV Beginning of the end for X-Men 2 stars
8/05/16 chad cowgill Quicksilver is great, I want to see more slo-mo scenes with him. 3 stars
6/24/16 mr.mike Not perfect, but a better ending than BvS or Civil War. 4 stars
6/20/16 KingNeutron Totally underrated, strong performance from Fassbender. See it on bigscreen for the effects 4 stars
6/05/16 Aaron Smith Arguably 2nd best of the X franchise. Great film. 5 stars
5/31/16 JR Good film. Much better than "Captain same ol' thing Civil War". 5 stars
5/31/16 Chris Steaming pile of shee. Is there a worse actress than Munn? 1 stars
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  27-May-2016 (PG-13)
  DVD: 04-Oct-2016


  DVD: 04-Oct-2016

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