Despite being a comic book fan for a great deal of my childhood, I started to get superhero fatigue at the movies. That is, until the Captain America: Civil War press screening, which restored a much-needed burst of excitement in the genre. It has been a couple years since the last installment of the X-Men franchise, which was actually quite solid. The trailers for the third entry looked rather promising, especially in regards to some of the casting decisions. Unfortunately, the final results are relatively underwhelming, with only a few elements making the film feel particularly engaging.
When the world's first mutant, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaacs), is awoken, the world must face one of its biggest threats yet. He plans on creating an army of mutant soldiers with the agenda of overthrowing the human race and creating a new world with him as its ruler. Now, the X-Men must form after the events in X-Men: Days of Future Past that fractured the team in order to stop his world-threatening scheme.
Apocalypse is certainly a fun villain from the Marvel Universe that has always managed to feel threatening. He's merciless and incredibly powerful, making the battles feel much more intense. However, X-Men: Apocalypse spends almost its entire running time setting up a plot that doesn't need setting up. The audience understands the stakes quickly, yet Simon Kinberg's screenplay repeatedly spoon feeds every tiny plot element; sometimes driving home an already introduced notion. This results in the first two acts feeling bloated, which certainly diminishes much of the film's potential tension. Most of its two and and a half hour running time is spent with Apocalypse recruiting "four horsemen" that feel more like cameos than actual inclusions into the plot.
Once we finally move past the introductions, we're able to have some fun. Most of this is, once again, thanks to Quicksilver. However, he gets a bigger part in this entry. This is the second time that Fox has proven that their portrayal of Quicksilver is much better than that in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. He's an exciting inclusion, delivering some of the most fun that the feature has to offer in his humorous slow-motion sequences. If it weren't for Quicksilver, my rating would have been knocked down half a star. However, Kinberg's screenplay attempts to provide him with a dramatic sub-plot, which feels a bit too on-the-nose. Nevertheless, X-Men: Apocalypse certainly gets better as it moves along, but it still isn't quite enough.
The climax fits the formula of every Marvel film out there, although it isn't nearly enough of a pay-off for all of the patience required to make it through the first two hours. There's an attempt to make emotionally engaging sub-plots involving Cyclops, Storm, and Nightcrawler, although director Bryan Singer seems unable to meaningfully portray any of their stories in a substantial way. This all builds towards a final battle sequence that undermines much of what some of these heroes can do. While they're fighting the might of Apocalypse, these scenes are far too short-lived. Jean Grey action sequences have been absent from the silver screen for quite sometime, making them a welcome addition to this new trilogy. These moments are a lot of fun, although they're extremely sparring in a film that seems to be pulled in numerous directions.
The two previous films in the trilogy heavily utilized the talent of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence as Professor Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique, respectively. They managed to pull a great deal of emotion out of material where it wouldn't have been there otherwise. However, they're heavily underutilized in order to make way for a new group of actors to be introduced, which severely hurt the film. Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, and Kodi Smit-McPhee take over most of the plot as Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler. The performances are decent all around, although the dramatic elements are noticeably absent. Nevertheless, Evan Peters remains to be just as charming as Quicksilver as we all remember. Perhaps the biggest strength of the new additions is Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, who executes the villain's body language and delivery to near perfection.
Given the film's blockbuster status, X-Men: Apocalypse looks quite good. The costume design and a majority of the CG work truly immerse the audience in a world of mutants trying to stop a villain bent on destroying the world. However, there are some special effects that could have used a bit more touching up. This primarily includes some of Apocalypse's abilities, although the final battle sequence looks great, even despite its incredibly short duration. Even so, this isn't worth paying extra for the 3D, as it's very much an afterthought. If you're going to see this on the big screen, it would likely be a better experience in 2D.
If you're looking for 2016's best superhero film thus far, you won't find that here. That title would go to Captain America: Civil War, which is already in theaters. Despite some relatively strong hype, the X-Men franchise has finally hit its decline. The first two films of the new trilogy were quite strong, although the same can't be said here. The Quicksilver scenes and the final battle are incredibly entertaining, but two sequences aren't enough to redeem two hours of unnecessary set-up with little pay-off. Bryan Singer has brought a lot to this franchise, although it just might be time for him to take a step back and let another director take a swing at it. X-Men: Apocalypse is a mediocre delivery on two feature films that promised so much more. Rent it.