For all the talk of evolution that has occurred in the X-Men movie franchise over the 16 years it has been around, it’s rather frustrating that the latest cinematic mutant escapade from director Bryan Singer is not so much the evolutionary equivalent of mankind developing fantastic powers, but rather suddenly forgetting they have opposable thumbs. Coming on the heels of the fresh and funky X-Men: First Class and the thrilling and geektastic X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse is a painfully fatigued step backwards. The X-Men have become slightly X-Meh.
Most of this comes from the fact that despite this being the fifth film he is helming in the franchise, Singer seems to only be capable of telling one X-Men story. So while the extraneous details may be tweaked, at the core of the movie we once again find ourselves glumly pondering on whether there’s good in Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, if James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier will become the wise professor we know or whether Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique can wholly embrace her blue skinned mutation. Admittedly Days of Future Past rehashed some of the same questions from First Class, but Singer’s A-list cast made it work blockbusters, punching far above the material’s weight with an effective 70’s period sheen adding to the appeal. Here though, through wan plotting from Singer and writer/producer Simon Kinberg, not even the always magnificent Fassbender can hide the fact that it’s all getting rather tiresome now. Magnet-oh not again, indeed.
Luckily, the 1980’s set Apocalypse gives us the chance to bring in a changing of the guard as we get introduced to a couple of new “old” faces who will soon be leading this franchise. As the young Scott Summers aka Cyclops, Tye Sheridan is instantly likeable, while Kodi Smit-McPhee is a charming breath of fresh air as the demonic looking, teleporting mutant Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler. Sophie Turner carries most of the dramatic weight of the newcomers as a young Jean Grey, just discovering her powers and her fear of them, and she shoulders the burden affably enough. Global Scene Stealing Champion of 2014 Evan Peters is back as speedster Quicksilver, and once again he is given a show- and time-stopping slow-mo set-piece that easily stands as one of the film’s two biggest highlights (I’ll keep the other a surprise, but just know that it gets violent in all the best ways).