Just to refresh: X-Men: Apocalypse is the flashback part of the X-Men franchise, following 2011’s First Class and 2014’s Days of Future Past, when the mutants are younger — and in the case of Jennifer Lawrence’s blue-tinted, shapeshifting Mystique, hotter. James McEvoy plays the earlier version of Patrick Stewart’s Professor X and Michael Fassbender is in for Ian McKellen’s Magneto. But the question remains: Do your side with Professor X who wants to live in peace with humans or with Magneto who most of the time wants to blow us all away?
While you ponder that, let me ask: Do you still care? Director Bryan Singer, who started the whole thing in high style with 2000’s X-Men, returns for a fourth time. Singer shows a lot of energy, but he and screenwriter Simon Kinberg (Fantastic Four, yuck) let the movie get way overcrowded. Besides the above-mentioned returnees, including Beast (Nicholas Hoult), who’s teaching at the professor’s school, there’s the students. Say hello to Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Jean Grey (Game of Thrones‘ Sophie Turner), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan).
And just when we’re getting into watching the kids try to control their powers, come other arrivals. On the dark side, there’s Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), and the admittedly cool Psylocke (Oliva Munn). There’s even a cameo from Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) because, well, Wolfie is kind of the franchise mascot. And CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is back, this time with amnesia. Enough already. Singer throws so much at us that nothing sticks. I was almost rooting for Trump to impose a quota.
The saving grace is Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the villain named in the film’s title. Isaac is such a focused, centered actor that he eradicates the FX noise around him. A prologue reveals the rebirth of Apocalypse in ancient Egypt. The baddie is now intent on kidnapping Professor X so he can absorb his powers and mindfuck the planet. Even covered in makeup and headgear, Isaac — like Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises — shows what a virtuoso actor can do with his hands metaphorically tied behind his back. He’s the life of the party.