X-Men: Apocalypse

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X-Men: Apocalypse

Overstuffed with references for superfans, the new X-Men movie forgets to be original or exciting.

There’s a wince-inducing scene in the middle of X-Men: Apocalypse that says just about everything you need to know about this sprawling superheroic mess. It’s 1983, and a group of teenage mutants walk out of a screening of Return of the Jedi, arguing like middle-aged film critics. One comments: "But third movies are always the worst." So that’s a dig at the third X-Men flick (2006’s Brett Ratner-directed X-Men: The Last Stand). It's also a self-aware nod to this movie’s own place as a third prequel and a bitchy reference to another nerdiverse, all in one smirking throwaway line. And if you don’t get all three levels, you may as well get up and leave.

The plot is as old as the Pyramids, quite literally: In ancient Egypt, original mutant and marauding rage-smurf Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is betrayed and buried under a thousand feet of rubble. Millennia later he’s revived (apparently because someone leaves a door open) to wreak havoc on humanity once again. It’s up to Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Professor X (James McAvoy) and a frankly ludicrous number of supporting characters to put an end to his evil scheme.

And that’s really it: There are no surprises or switcheroos here, just a seen-it-before world domination plot carried out by a petulant Pharaoh with a head like a chewed pencil, and resisted by a bunch of interchangeable, Lycra-clad goody-goodies whose names and superpowers you’ll quickly stop trying to keep track of. There are standout performances: Sophie Turner (a.k.a. Game of Thrones' Sansa Stark) works hard as doomed psychic Jean Grey and Michael Fassbender’s bristling Magneto is always a pleasure, even if his character motivation is crass (a visit to Auschwitz is particularly ill-judged).

There are no memorable action scenes—the closest we get is a virtual rerun of the time-freeze sequence from the previous movie. And the script is just nonsense, comprised entirely of sarcastic asides, portentous gobbledygook ("The dawn of a new age will rise!" cries Isaac) and insider references that only the faithful will appreciate. Unless that’s you, it’s best to steer clear.

By: Tom Huddleston

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Release details

Rated: PG-13
Release date: Friday May 27 2016
Duration: 143 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Bryan Singer
Screenwriter: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence
Sophie Turner
Nicholas Hoult
Michael Fassbender
Channing Tatum
James McAvoy
Oscar Isaac
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