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Front Page - Friday, June 3, 2016

‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ a step back for the series

The Critic's Corner movie review

David Laprad

As I write this, the Rotten Tomatoes score for “X-Men: Apocalypse” is holding fast at 48 percent.

That means half the critics liked it and half didn’t, which is like Gene Siskel giving the film a thumbs up and Roger Ebert giving it a thumbs down back in the day. (I miss those guys.) My thumbs are also at odds, with one pointing up and the other pointing down. You’re probably thinking, “That’s not helpful,” but it’s where I am.

On the one hand (thumb and all), there are a couple of killer set pieces. These are the sequences in an action movie designed to thrill audiences and move the story forward. Those of you who saw “X-Men: Days of Future Past” might remember a sequence in which a character named Quicksilver, who can move so fast everything else seems slow to him, had a hugely entertaining scene in which he broke his father, Magneto, out of prison. Director Brian Singer promised Quicksilver would have another epic scene in “Apocalypse,” and he did not disappoint. It’s such a crowd pleaser, I’d gotten my money’s worth for the entire movie by the time it was over.

Wolverine also has a fun bit in which he puts his adamantium claws to effective use. You do not want to get on this guy’s bad side. (I do wonder where the shinggg comes from when he extracts the blades from his knuckles. Shouldn’t there be a crackkk or a squishhh?)

On the other hand, though, a few key scenes don’t make sense. Toward the end, the villain of “Apocalypse,” a 5,000-year-old Blue Man Group reject called En Sabah Nur, tells Magneto to draw up all of the metal that’s buried around the Earth. He mumbles something about why, then goes about his business of trying to kill Professor Xavier. There are a few shots of famous landmarks being sucked skyward, piece by piece, and sunken ships being raised out of the oceans, and Magneto surrounds himself with a force field made out of bits and pieces of metal, but it’s not clear why he’s doing it or what En Sabah Nur hopes to accomplish with the task.

The same goes for the entire climax of the film. One mutant fires an energy beam out of his chest, another fires lasers out of his eyes, a third stirs up storms, and so on. It looks great, but what was the point?

My biggest issue of the film stems from that question. The last two films had more focus and a tighter structure; “Apocalypse” seems less well thought-out and sure of itself, which is a disappointment after a pair of strong showings.

Perhaps the way the creators of this series jump all over the timeline is the problem. The first three films took place in the present, “First Class” took place in the sixties, “Days of Future Past” was set in the seventies and the distant future, and “Apocalypse” is set in the eighties.  In other words, this series has been all over the timeline, and is trying to get back to where to started – for what that’s worth.

Still, my affection for this cast (James McAvoy of Professor X, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, etc.) has grown with each new prequel, and I enjoyed seeing these actors step into their iconic roles again. It felt like a visit with old friends. Moreover, there are several moments in “Apocalypse” that tie nicely into the other films, such as the first scene between Cyclops, Wolverine, and Jean Gray (who formed the first genre movie love triangle long before “Twilight” made such nauseating entanglements a requirement for any film that might be seen by a teenager). We also get to see how Professor X lost his air – again, for that it’s worth.

“Apocalypse” also has a few good laughs, which I appreciated. The bit in which Cyclops (the guy who shoots lasers out of his eyes) tries on his famous pair of protective glasses for the first time was my favorite.

A friend of mine who once reviewed video games for a living (and who was a phenomenal critic) loved “Apocalypse.” Others have derided it. Like the Tomatometer, I wound up somewhere in the middle. Basically, if you liked the other films, I believe you’ll enjoy certain things about this one. Unfortunately, you’ll also find that its effect on you quickly dissipates. You’re probably still thinking, “That’s not helpful,” but it’s where I am.

Two and a half stars out of four. Rated PG-13 for violence, action and destruction, brief strong language, and some suggestive images.

David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.