The most long-running superhero franchise in Hollywood continues this weekend with the release of “X-Men: Apocalypse.” Reuniting cast members like Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, while introducing a new batch of young mutants played by Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Tye Sheridan, the ninth installment in the “X-Men” movie series finds the group facing off against the world-destroying first mutant Apocalypse, played by an almost unrecognizable Oscar Isaac. For so than ever in the franchise’s history, anticipation was sky high for this new installment after the previous entry, “X-Men: Days Of Future Past,” became a huge critical success and the highest grossing “X-Men” film worldwide. While critics seem to be divided on the new film, it’s clear that it’s a big step backwards after the highs of “Future Past.”
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Indiewire‘s Senior Film Critic David Ehrlich was somewhat favorable in his B- review, calling the film both “spectacularly goofy and sporadically entertaining.” He continues, “This is Bryan Singer’s fourth X-Men film — the third installment in the second trilogy of summer blockbusters about the first generation of super-powered mutants who have outed themselves to the general population — and it unfolds like he’s pouring all of his excess ambitions for the franchise into his last chance at bat.”
Angelica Jade Bastien of RogerEbert.com was much less kind in her one-star review. “‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ is a confused, bloated mess of a film,” she says. “There are several films crammed into one, all battling for the spotlight, and none of them wholly work; there is really no central storyline or heart to the film. The first hour is almost entirely in service of setting up new players and establishing what the veterans are up to.”
Many critics agree with Bastien that the film’s story is its weakest link, especially since it poses yet another end-of-the-world disaster that by now is incredibly dated. In his review for Variety, Geoff Berkshire writes, “If you’ve seen one cinematic apocalypse, you’ve seen them all. At least that’s the feeling conjured by “X-Men: Apocalypse,” the latest entry in one of the more reliable comic-book franchises around, this time disappointingly succumbing to an exhausting case of been-there-done-that-itis.”
Not even the film’s visual effects are being cited as a saving grace. “One of the most shocking disappointments plaguing ‘Apocalypse’ is how bad and cheap a lot of it looks,” writes Alex Abad-Santos for Vox Culture. “The Apocalypse character aside, there are multiple instances in the movie when Apocalypse’s group of mutants are just standing in a “team pose” that was clearly filmed against a green screen. And some parts of the grand battle are visually predictable and so weightless that the scene becomes stagnant.”
But not everyone is so negative. Vulture‘s David Edelstein calls the film “ensemble superhero moviemaking done right” in what might be the most positive review of the film. “The defense admits that it’s choppy and the effects are variable. But the charge of too many characters and subplots is unusually dull-witted, even for our duller critical wits,” he writes. “Watching ‘Apocalypse,’ you don’t feel as if every character is being set up for his or her own spinoff. They complement one another. They need one another. The overflowing ensemble nature of the enterprise is the whole point.”
“X-Men: Apocalypse” is now playing in theaters nationwide.