After the first trilogy of X-Men movies (and that standalone Wolverine movie that nobody liked), they launched a new series that went back in time to show the X-Men as children. Now we arrive at “X-Men: Apocalypse,” the third film in the second trilogy (there was another Wolverine in there somewhere too) — and it still feels like they’re setting up for whatever the real story is going to be. STILL. After three of them. All that work, and Michael Fassbender still isn’t Ian McKellen yet. When will he be Ian McKellen?!
Once again directed by Bryan Singer and written by Simon Kinberg, “Apocalypse” is set in 1983, 10 years after the timeline-rebooting events of “Days of Future Past” made the world aware of the existence of mutants. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, still not Patrick Stewart) is running his School for Weirdos in New York state. Shape-shifting Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) brings young teleporting Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) there, and laser-chested Alex Summers (Lucas Till) brings his own little brother, laser-eyed Scott (Tye Sherian), as well. Scott gets a crush on Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), a telepathic/telekinetic girl who has trouble controlling her powers. And Magneto? Incognito, hiding in Poland since the 1973 incident.
So who’s the villain? That’d be Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac, though it could be anyone under the makeup, CGI, and voice modulation), an ancient Egyptian who was the first mutant and has all the mutant powers and is going to destroy the human race. To assist in this (I don’t know why someone with all the mutant powers needs assistance), Apocalypse is recruiting four “horsemen”: winged Angel (Ben Hardy), weather-fondling Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Jean Grey-ish Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and, hopefully, Magneto, if Apocalypse can offer an attractive benefits package.
CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), a pivotal part of “First Class” before her memory was wiped, is back as a potential love interest for Charles. So is Quicksilver (Evan Peters), the super-fast, very funny scene-stealer from “Days of Future Past,” back again to steal more scenes and generally be the best thing about the movie.
The film moseys along well enough for a while, neither creative enough to be engaging nor dull enough to be boring. It has some bright spots, a few laughs, the usual quota of action scenes. But then the climax takes place largely inside someone’s head — a conceptual mess that’s hard to follow, let alone feel invested in — leading to a meager, unsatisfying resolution. It seems to hint that the next film will be the REALLY good one, but who knows? Maybe this will turn into a franchise of nothing but middle entries, forever setting the table and snacking but never sitting down to eat.
C+ (2 hrs., 24 min.; )