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"X-MEN: APOCALYPSE"
(2016) (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Superhero Action: A group of good mutants must contend with some bad ones teaming up with a resurrected Egyptian leader, who's also a powerful mutant and wants to cleanse the Earth for a renewal.
PLOT:
It's 1983, ten years after various mutants battled to save Washington, D.C. and various government officials, including the President, and then went their separate ways. Magneto, a.k.a. Erik Lehnsherr (MICHAEL FASSBENDER), is living an assumed life in Poland with his wife and daughter, working as a factory man where no one knows of his powers. Shape-shifter Moira MacTaggert (JENNIFER LAWRENCE), a.k.a. Mystique, is out saving fellow mutants from abuse, including young teleporter Kurt Wagner (KODI SMIT-McPHEE), a.k.a. Nightcrawler, from an electrified cage fight with winged combatant Angel (BEN HARDY). And telepath Charles Xavier (JAMES McAVOY) is once again running his Institute for Gifted Youngsters, where the latest addition is high school mutant Scott Summers (TYE SHERIDAN).

Later to be known as Cyclops, he can't control his laser vision, and his older brother and fellow mutant, Alex (LUCAS TILL), believes Charles and his right-hand mutant, Hank McCoy (NICHOLAS HOULT) -- who can turn into the Beast -- can help him. That isn't lost on Jean Grey (SOPHIE TURNER), another troubled young mutant who has problems controlling her telepathic and telekinetic powers. But they all learn there are bigger problems at play in the world, and that's namely from the resurrection of En Sabah Nur (OSCAR ISAAC), an Egyptian mutant from thousands of years ago who gained near ultimate power by assimilating abilities from other mutants.

Now unleashed and as seen by CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (ROSE BYRNE) -- who once was involved with Charles but had her memories wiped by him -- En Sabah Nur, a.k.a. Apocalypse, desires to wipe the Earth clean and start anew with the survivors, and goes about assembling his latest version of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. First up is Ororo Munroe (ALEXANDRA SHIPP), a young mutant thief who can control the weather and will later become Storm, followed by Elizabeth Braddock (OLIVIA MUNN), a.k.a. Psylocke, who has telepathic and telekinetic abilities. Angel is also brought into the fold, as is Magneto, with Apocalypse enhancing all of their powers.

As those five commence with the cleansing of the Earth, Charles, and the other mutants, including Magneto's son, Peter Maximoff (EVAN PETERS) -- who zips around at high speed as Quicksilver -- prepare to stop them, all while having a brief run-in with a powerful and dangerous mutant experiment now known as Wolverine (HUGH JACKMAN).

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

Kenny Rogers "The Gambler"

You might think such an introduction to a movie review would mean it's about a film where gambling is involved. No dear reader, this time, it's about Hollywood and the fact that sometimes the powers that be don't know when to fold 'em and walk away.

Granted, sometimes the studios and/or filmmakers realize that and stop at a few entries in any given film series or -- gasp -- even after just one. But if that first or subsequent follow-up turns out to be a hit, the allure of money, much like power, becomes irresistible. And thus, some franchises end up run into the ground.

Perhaps sensing that, those behind the "X-Men" movies took an interesting approach a few years back after three films starring the likes of Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and more seemed to be running out of gas. In short, they turned back time and gave us a fresh look at the characters as their younger incarnations, and with new cast members in the familiar parts.

The result was 2011's "X-Men: First Class," followed by the terrific "X-Men: Days of Future Past" that received high marks from yours truly and most other critics and garnered an impressive $750 or so million at the global box office.

With that marking the 5th entry in the series (if you don't count "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" or "Deadpool" that both have connections to the X-Men universe), those in charge really should have stopped there, a point made by the latest follow-up, "X-Men: Apocalypse." To be fair, it's not a horrible or even bad film by any means.

Yet, by following "DoFP," simply recycling story beats, themes and even scenes from past offerings, and featuring a lackluster villain with what turns out to be a lackluster threat to the world (despite literally being the Apocalypse by, well, a character named Apocalypse), the offering feels redundant and unnecessary. And far too long at 144-some minutes.

Taking place a bit of time after the events of "Days of Future Past," the script -- penned by Simon Kinberg -- has Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) leading a secret family life in Poland as a factory worker; Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) going around saving other mutants from abuse, such as the shy teleporter Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from Warren/Angel (Ben Hardy); and Charles/Professor X (James McAvoy) having reopened his institute for mutants with help from his friend and fellow mutant Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult).

A number of "new" mutants are introduced, such as Scott/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) who can't control his laser vision; Ororo/Storm (Alexandra Shipp) who can conjure up the weather to help in her petty street crimes in Cairo; and Elizabeth Braddock/Psylocke (Olivia Munn) who operates nearby. At the same time, Charles' former love (Rose Byrne), having had her memories of them together wiped by him in the past, is investigating something suspicious in Egypt.

And that's none other than the introduction (actually reintroduction, considering the thousands of years of "hibernation") of the film's villain, En Sabah Nur, a.k.a. Apocalypse (reportedly played by Oscar Isaac, but you'd never know -- which is a shame -- due to the makeup and voice alteration). Quickly catching up on everything that's happened over the millennia, he thinks it's time for a good reboot, and thus recruits four of those mutants to become his "horsemen" and help him live up to his name.

Natch, the good mutants decide to join forces once again and do battle and, well, who cares? We've seen it before and we've seen it done better as director Bryan Singer (who also helmed the first two installments in the series) doesn't do anything new, interesting or really much fun with the material.

Even the best moment -- where Evan Peters' Quicksilver zips through Charles' mansion at hyper-speed to save everyone from an explosion, as seen with both sped-up and slowed down footage -- is only a variation of a similar scene from "DoFP" (this time set to Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" as compared to Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle" last time around).

And the film's overall theme -- that those who are different from others (and have been persecuted in various ways) can and should be heroes and accepted by others for who and what they are -- is hammered home once again, with nothing new to add this time around.

Again, it's not even remotely a train wreck. But there's just nothing new here. If you can't ever get enough of these characters, you'll probably have a grand time. If not, you might start humming Kenny's song in hopes that the powers that be realize it's time to fold 'em and walk away. "X-Men: Apocalypse" rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed May 9, 2016 / Posted May 27, 2016


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