By this point in the X-Men series, which includes six full X-Men movies, two Wolverine movies, and, in a way, Deadpool, the filmmakers have earned the right to do whatever they please. Save for a couple of occasions, they have come through with solid-to-great products time and again, and there’s little reason to doubt future movies would be at the same standard.
With director Bryan Singer back at the helm, X-Men: Apocalypse is as entertaining as ever, if perhaps a tad repetitive. The film sees an ancient, seemingly immortal mutant, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), reemerging after being trapped under rubble for a few millennia. Not liking the modern world he finds in 1983, he sets out trying to mold it to his liking with the help of Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and our old friend Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
There to try to stop him are Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his followers at his School for Gifted Youngsters, including Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and newcomers like Jean Gray (Sophie Turner), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee).
Set amid the age of nuclear politics, the film takes the typical X-Men approach of mixing serious topics with popcorn entertainment. Apocalypse’s solution to the “human problem” is abominable, but in a way it’s no worse than what humans have been doing, or threatening to do, to each other since the dawn of man.
The reintroduction of favorite characters like Jean Gray, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler lets the filmmakers play on the memories of past films, but the characters feel stuck in the past, unable to become more than what we already knew them to be. The same goes for Quicksilver, whose big contribution is a virtual repeat of his scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past, complete with a cool musical backdrop. It’s a fun moment, but it makes it feel as if that’s all there is to him.
On a pure entertainment scale, the two-and-a-half-hour film repeatedly delivers, with its action on par with any great superhero movie. But you can’t help but feel as if it’s a lot of noise that doesn’t add up to all that much. There are no major revelations, no alliance shifts, nothing of true import. In the end, we end up in about the same place we started, which is disappointing for a series that is usually progressive.
X-Men: Apocalypse is a solid summer film, but when it’s facing stiff competition from all corners, it needs much more than that to be considered a true success.