'X-Men: Apocalypse' Review: A Hollow, By-The-Numbers Sequel That's Also Thoroughly Entertaining

As the third film in the most recent trilogy in the X-Men franchise, it's pretty bold to have a joke in X-Men: Apocalypse that mentions the third film in a trilogy is usually the worst. The line is meant to take a shot at the almost universally hated X-Men: The Last Stand, and while X-Men: Apocalypse is nowhere near as bad as Brett Ratner's film from 2006, it's not without some shortcomings of its own.

X-Men: Apocalypse has a simple, hollow story, spinning a wheel that also treads water. However, it also does a great job of bringing the young versions of familiar X-Men into this modified timeline and delivers some thoroughly entertaining action. In short, X-Men: Apocalypse feels like an extended episode of X-Men: The Animated Series, for better and worse.

Read our full X-Men Apocalypse review after the jump.

Perhaps the weakest part of X-Men: Apocalypse is how the title villain (Oscar Isaac) is portrayed and "evolves" throughout the film. We're introduced to the character in a prologue that feels like it belongs in The Mummy franchise or a Gods of Egypt deleted scene and his make-up feels incomplete, almost like a Dick Tracy villain. Sure, the Four Horseman during this period in time display cool powers. But just like the quartet of mutants recruited later in the movie, they're all for spectacle.

Apocalypse enters the modern world and can't stand for mutants answering to a government that is run by people less powerful than he is. So he decides to destroy the world and build a better one. It's an old standby for plenty of villains, and it lacks any real meaning because there's nothing about Apocalypse worth latching onto other than the fact that he's one of the most powerful mutants to ever live.

Despite the fact that Apocalypse has no substance or sensible motivation, the threat he poses unfolds in an extremely entertaining way. He may spend too much time rounding up Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy), but once he starts wreaking havoc on the world, that's when things start to get just plain fun.

The trailers for X-Men: Apocalypse have portrayed the film as superhero destruction porn, and that's completely accurate. This is the most on-screen destruction that has been seen in the X-Men franchise, and it's on a scale that would make Zack Snyder blush. Entire cities are torn apart, and if this was the Marvel universe there would have to be Global Accords to make the X-Men responsible for the amount of death and demolition on display.

x-men apocalypse trailer breakdown

However, for some reason this lack of regard for human life almost didn't matter to me, if only because humanity has shown itself to be pretty despicable with its treatment of mutants during this time. What has always made the X-Men great is how they're willing to help humanity, even those who would mistreat them. So this ignorance of the death toll would normally be something upsetting, but I just found myself enjoying the X-Men taking on Apocalypse and the Four Horsemen and didn't care about the consequences of any of their actions as far as the real world is concerned.

In this sense, X-Men: Apocalypse feels like X-Men: The Animated Series with a villain of the week mentality that allows the X-Men to show off their powers and progress as characters ever so slightly. After all, each of the movies in this new trilogy has seen 10 years pass in between them and these characters haven't learned much, so why should they now? I've come to accept that the X-Men franchise is much more about comic book action and superpowers than characters with substance.

Each X-Men movie allows for a couple of characters to have meaningful character moments and evolution, and this time Michael Fassbender gets a little bit of that with regards to how he's spent his life since the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Otherwise, the rest of the characters just go through the motions that you expect them to for the sake of surface level drama. This is a comic book soap opera, especially with all the connections made (Magneto is Quicksilver's father, etc.), and it's just a blast to watch.

Olivia Munn Psylocke

With all this in mind, perhaps the biggest problem I had with X-Men: Apocalypse was that the Four Horsemen aren't effectively used. For all the training we heard Olivia Munn was doing to play Psylocke, you've seen her best moments in the trailers and clips. She's wasted here and left open for more in sequels. Angel is the most pointless character though, and he doesn't even seem worthy of being one of Apocalypse's followers. Gambit should have been introduced here instead.

But it's the way the X-Men come together in the end to defeat Apocalypse and his minions, complete with heavy hints at what's to come in the sequel thanks to Jean Grey's display of power, that makes this a joy to watch. It's more mindless than most X-Men movies, but it also doesn't pretend to be something it's not.

X-Men: Apocalypse is far from the best X-Men movie with plenty of problems and weaknesses, but it's also leaps and bounds better than the worst thanks to its summer blockbuster elements. At the very least, if the action isn't enough for you, it offers a great place for the new team of X-Men to start.James McAvoy becomes the Professor X we all know and love, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is discovering more about her powers, Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) is falling for her, Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) gets his rightful place on team, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) finally gets to realize the dream she and Charles had of forming the X-Men, and Quicksilver (who gets the best scene in the movie, with the exception of maybe Wolverine's breakout) will be around to allow Evan Peters to steal more scenes in the future. It lets the next generation of young mutants step up and do all the heavy lifting.

At this point though, I think it's time for Bryan Singer to hand the reins to the X-Men franchise over to a character that won't just tread water with these characters. We're at a point that audiences know them well enough they can start diving in to the deeper, more uncharted areas of the X-Men universe, and having a director who can deliver more than just colorful, flashy action would be nice as the series continues. Still, X-Men: Apocalypse is an entertaining way to pass the time until that hopefully happens.

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