By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The latest installment in the blockbuster X-Men franchise follows a string of thrillers that has included among its offerings X-Men (2000), X-2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men: First Class (2011), and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).

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Some of them have X-ceeded our expectations and some have not. Some have made us X-static and some have not.

The best of them have been intriguing, involving, and visually arresting adventures about mutant superheroes with astonishing otherworldly powers who are, metaphorically speaking, second-class citizens.

But, although X-Men: Apocalypse is no disaster of an X-cursion, it’s still the weakest link in this particular chain of globetrotting fantasies, offering splendid special effects that, frankly, are more then we need.

 

(2 stars out of 4)

(2 stars out of 4)

 

Like its predecessors, X-Men: Apocalypse makes a spectacle of itself. But it doesn’t quite live up to the thus-far standards of the franchise.

And the nearly-2-1/2-hour running time isn’t justified by the minimalistic plot.

Most of it is set in 1983 as it continues the time-altering conclusion of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Oscar Isaac, buried under a mountain of makeup, plays ancient mutant Apocalypse, who ruled over Egypt as the first and most powerful mutant. He is the power-hungry villain who is awakened after thousands of years, rises up from his pyramid tomb, and recruits his Four Horsemen – Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, Alexandra Shipp’s Storm, Olivia Munn’s Psylocke, and Ben Hardy’s Angel – to assist him in basically (ho hum: here we go again) wiping out humanity and starting over.

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The X-Men, including James McAvoy’s Charles and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, must somehow enlist the next generation of mutants to help them stop Apocalypse.

So we’re introduced to younger versions of established mutants, enrolled in the new class at the School for Gifted Youngsters, including Tye Sheridan as Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Sophie Turner as Jean Gray, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler.

This is the fourth X-Men outing for director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns, Apt Pupil, Valkyrie), who also directed X-Men, X-2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

But his X-Men: Apocalypse falls short of its predecessors because Singer seems so enamored of the high-powered special effects that he allows the film to devolve into a one-dimensional, self-indulgent action extravaganza: there are battles galore and every one of them is too long, with the actors essentially serving as props and not allowed to breathe, let along act.

Look closely at the faces of Fassbender and Lawrence, and see if you can’t tell that they know they’re slumming, artistically speaking. McAvoy does a better job of hiding it.

In addition, Singer has been done no favors by Simon Kinberg’s lackluster screenplay with its very tired end-of-the-world scenario where the stakes are too high and both layers and wit are in terribly short supply.

On top of that, the menagerie of mutants is over-populated for one film: it’s just too crowded and therefore too superficial.

So we’ll awaken 2 stars out of 4 for X-Men: Apocalypse. Its infraction: too much action X-tinguishes our satisfaction.

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