Reviewer:   Jim "JR" Rutkowski
Directed by:
Bryan Singer
Written by:
Screenplay by Simon Kinberg. Based on a story by Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Length:   144 minutes
Released:   052716
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images
“ overblown monstrosity that loses sight of even its principal characters..."

Comic book movies have reached a point in our culture where a filmmaker like Bryan Singer (directing his fourth X-Men movie) thinks he’s untouchable enough with the material to feature a scene where characters strut through the ruins of Auschwitz in spandex—one character, Psylocke (Olivia Munn) wearing knee-high boots and high-cut swimwear with heaving cleavage—and then reduce the place to rubble without flinching. While the outrage culture of 2016 dictates for us to be offended by this, the more offensive element is that Singer, his crew and the studio thought it was a good idea. And this is no joke, this is a scene from X-Men: Apocalypse, and it becomes symbolic of how misguided the film is.

X-Men: Apocalypse shifts from the tone deafness of the Auschwitz sequence to a scene where Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) stabs his way through a military facility with blood spraying across the walls in an attempt at something ‘adult’. There are then scenes where teenage mutants debate the merits of the Star Wars movies and later, Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) shoots laser beams out of his eyeballs while crushing hard on the telepathic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) like a weak John Hughes movie (there’s even an Ally Sheedy cameo). And it’s all centered on the villain, an ancient mutant played by Oscar Isaac (2015's "Ex Machina") buried under heavy makeup and prosthetics to make him look like a sex toy left in the sun for too long) who is planning a genocide—which explains why they’re piggybacking the Holocaust for lazy pathos—to rebuild a new world. Whatever the hell this movie has done to Oscar Isaac is borderline criminal, as his natural charisma is snuffed out and buried under mounds of latex. In attempting to tackle Apocalypse, Singer bites off much more than he can chew—this is a character whose defining characteristic is omnipotence (until he isn’t, of course). X-Men: Apocalypse even struggles to explain the intention of its phallic villain and it’s most evident when screenwriter, Simon Kinberg (2015's "Fantastic Four"), has characters discussing the dire outcome and one of them says, ‘the apocalypse’, which is followed by another character saying, ‘the end of the world’; surely, just out of frame there is a thesaurus lying open to show a complete lack of faith in an audience when the objective is also in the title of the movie. And that’s what happens for a bulk of X-Men: Apocalypse, everything is stated, and then restated. Even the introduction of younger versions of characters established in the previous X-Men films is labored as this franchise goes around in circles rebooting and retconning every element.

All of this is of zero significance to moving a story forward with desensitizing action sequences where chunks of cities float around in the sky and flimsy characters, designed only to look cool, crash into each other. The only element that jumps out of the nonsense is the doses of body horror. One of the villain’s powers are to meld people with objects and there’s shiver inducing scenes of men being trapped in walls with only their eyeballs and mouths exposed. In another scene, a mutant with large wings made of feathers has them replaced by a metallic set and the process is shown to be agonizing with Singer focusing on bones cracking and flesh tearing from the character’s back. Again, this is at odds with what the rest of the film tonally, but it’s something that works within the context of people coming to terms with their mutant powers having a devastating effect on their bodies and it stands apart from the lethargy of the devastation. To focus on the theme of bodies and identity seems like a no-brainer for an X-Men film in 2016, especially when you consider the wider conversation about gender in our society and the mutants status as a minority in the comic book universe, but Singer and Kinberg can’t even fathom the mutants for this metaphor and would rather turn another building into threatening dust; it sums up the nearsightedness of this endeavor.

Other principles from previous films, such as Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, 2015's "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2") and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) intertwine into the sparse proceedings, which still manage to unfold over a bloated 144 minutes. While there is an enormous cast to account for, the film’s absence of thematic heft or worthwhile character arcs render it an overlong, hollow, and misguided recreation of a superhero movie boilerplate.

There’s no recovering from the sense that “Apocalypse” is simply gliding on rails. The first half especially unfolds with little to no cohesiveness as Singer haphazardly arranges the pieces on the board: here’s Mystique rescuing mutants, here’s Magneto losing the wife and child he’s lived with under an assumed identity for years, here’s Apocalypse teleporting from one place to the next recruiting his horsemen (while—I kid you not—Metallica’s “Four Horsemen” blares during a scene that even Zack Snyder might find a little too on-the-nose).

It’s not that any of this isn’t compelling on paper: I especially like the idea of Mystique becoming sort of a Harriet Tubman for her people, a savior who essentially operates through backchannels and underground railroads to find sanctuaries for troubled mutants. Likewise, Magneto’s already tragic back-story gains another heart-rending layer when his attempt to live off the grid goes south. If there’s any arc worth exploring here, it’s Magneto’s descent into Xavier’s vengeful, spiteful, rival, and yet it’s practically glossed over by Apocalypse’s grander scheme—it’s never quite clear if Magneto is willingly serving him or if En Sabah Nur is coercing him with mind control. Considering Fassbender spends much of the second half just sort of wobbling around in a CGI bubble, causing increasingly boring destruction, it’s hard to tell.

You can’t help but feel as if this film squandered two incredible talents in Lawrence and Fassbender, whose character arcs were carefully crafted in the two previous entries, only to be balled up and tossed into a tedious swirl of disaster porn effects here. I would like to say Fassbender fares better; technically, this is the case since he does deliver some of the more resonant character moments, but there’s still a nagging sense that Magneto is short-changed once he becomes Apocalypse’s pawn.

For all its grandstanding and its ominous title, “Apocalypse” is an inconsequential bore that can’t even bother to find anything for Professor Xavier to do aside from lecherously pining over Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne) and wishing he’d never erased her memories twenty years earlier.

So few of the decisions amount to anything important, including a period setting that’s mostly mined for a gag involving some of the students seeing “Return of the Jedi” and making jokes like 43 year-old men wearing ‘Bazinga!’ t-shirts, that the third movie is always the worst. This not-so-subtle shade thrown in the direction of “X-Men: The Last Stand” might be funny if it weren’t coming from a film that isn’t much better—at least Brett Ratner’s film had the decency to clock in under 105 minutes and deliver a definitive Danger Room sequence. On the other hand, “Apocalypse” is an overblown monstrosity that loses sight of even its principal characters, something that can’t be said for previous films in this franchise.

The hope and optimism surrounding the rebootedFirst Class" feels like a lifetime ago. “X-Men: Apocalypse” does little to disavow you of the notion that “Days of Future Past” should have served as a perfect ending to Singer’s run on this franchise.

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Review © 2016 Alternate Reality, Inc.



"...ranks above the first
X-Men film, but after
numbers 2,
and 3..." (DS)

"...a thrilling, exciting and hugely entertaining work that both fanboys and newbies will enjoy with unequal measure."  (JR)

"... the second best film in the entire “X-Men” series, but one that rivals the best super-hero movies of the past." (JR)