Combustible Celluloid
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With: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Lucas Till, Josh Helman, Ben Hardy, Lana Condor, Zeljko Ivanek, Ally Sheedy
Written by: Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Directed by: Bryan Singer
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images
Running Time: 144
Date: 05/27/2016

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Vexed 'Men'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Opening Friday in Bay Area theaters, the ninth movie in the franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse, leaves the impression that its makers should have left well enough alone.

Two summers ago, X-Men: Days of Future Past was an exceptional popcorn movie, with a complex, well-told story and action sequences that actually supported that story.

This year's massive hit Deadpool — an official entry, given Deadpool's mutant power and X-Men guest appearances — was an irreverent comedy that poked holes in the fabric of the typical PG-13 rated superhero universe.

Now, X-Men: Apocalypse feels like a step back, more of the same superhero thing we've been seeing three times a summer for the past several years.

A boring, all-powerful bad guy, played by the otherwise charismatic Oscar Issac, buried in makeup, wants to, more or less, take over the world (yawn). But even though he's all-powerful, we still have to wait for him to assemble a super-team of four helpers.

They are: the down-and-out Angel (Ben Hardy), the ninja-like Psylocke (Olivia Munn), a young Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and a tormented Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who suffers a most devastating tragedy as the film begins.

Meanwhile, the good guys brood and argue a lot. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) brings a new student, the blue, German teleporter Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), to Xavier's school.

Beast (Nicholas Hoult) pines for Raven, and Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) gets kidnapped. Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), whose memories were wiped in an early sequel, simply looks confused.

Young students Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) begin to go through some of the drama that already unfolded between James Marsden and Famke Janssen in previous movies.

And Quicksilver (Evan Peters) — not to be confused with Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Quicksilver in the Avengers universe — gets another super-speed sequence that seems like an uninspired re-tread of the incredible scene in Days of Future Past.

That's a great bunch of actors (and there may be at least one more) without much to do. And 144 minutes is a long time to ask an audience to wait around until a final battle, which is then not much different from many other final battles.

Director Bryan Singer — back for his fourth X-Men movie — at least makes everything look and sound great, so it's a step above the grayish, sludgy-looking Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Frankly, it all feels like a confused attempt to keep a money-making franchise alive, steering it into "reboot" territory, yet unable to avoid repeating things.

Perhaps all makers of superhero movies should be forced to learn that old showbiz adage "leave them wanting more." This movie leaves us feeling bleary-eyed and burned out.

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