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X-Men Apocalypse reviews: Here's what critics thought

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Alan Markfield

Superman, Batman, and most of the Avengers have had their turn on the big screen in 2016. Now, it’s time to check in with Professor Xavier’s (James McAvoy) motley crew.

X-Men: Apocalypse is the follow-up to 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which marked director Bryan Singer’s return to the X-franchise after sitting out The Last Stand and First Class). This time, the mutants have to face off against Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the first-ever mutant, who awakens from his millennia-long hibernation to tear down society.

Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Quicksilver (Evan Peters) join newcomers Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and Storm (Alexandra Shipp) in the tale set in the height of the Ronald Reagan era. How do all the superheroes jive with the established crew, up against a deity-like villain, in the new battle? According to critics, not super well. EW critic Chris Nashawaty dubbed the movie “a giant step backwards.”

“After the rejuvenated one-two punch of 2011’s First Class and 2014’s Days of Future Past, there was reason to expect better. A lot better,” he writes in his C review. “But Apocalypse feels like a confused, kitchen-sink mess with a half dozen too many characters, a villain who amounts to a big blue nothing, and a narrative that’s so choppy and poorly cut together that it feels like you’re watching a flipbook instead of a movie.”

Other reviews criticized Apocalypse for being too predictable as the villain and complained about the film’s tired plot beats. However, some reviews were more generous: Variety praised its “gloriously cinematic storytelling,” and Mashable called it “a fun movie” that is “filled with big action moments and (often purely visual) fan service​.”

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Read more critics’ early takes below, ahead of Apocalypse‘s May 27 release.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

“… all in all, Apocalypse is a third-tier X-Men movie that arrives at a time when studios and filmmakers who traffic in spandex need to be at the top of their game. We know all of the clichés and all of the tropes too well at this point to settle for place-holding mediocrity. We know the difference between an instant classic and a dog. Apocalypse isn’t quite a dog. But it is a movie with way too much of everything except the things that should matter the most — novelty, creativity, and fun.C

Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Despite the undeniable presence of a huge amount of action, X-Men: Apocalypse is decidedly a case of more is less, especially when compared with the surprising action and more interesting personal interactions (including the temporary subtraction of some characters) in other big Marvel franchises.”

Geoff Berkshire (Variety)

“Director Bryan Singer pioneered the contemporary wave of superhero movies with 2000’s X-Men, and made a welcome return to the series just two years ago with the time-jumping Days of Future Past. Perhaps he should’ve quit while he was ahead. Even though Apocalypse hardly reps the franchise nadir … this is easily the least compelling, surprising and satisfying of Singer’s entries.”

Bilge Ebiri (Village Voice)

“What makes X-Men: Apocalypse so exciting isn’t really any one thing but rather its cohesion, its storytelling verve. Where other recent superhero films have struggled to jam-pack their unwieldy plots with characters and incident and meaning, this film nimbly mixes narrative exuberance and emotional depth, flamboyant displays of power with quietly terrifying exchanges. It zips along, combining the highs and lows of a real comic book — all the feeling, color, and wonder, even some of the dopiness — with gloriously cinematic storytelling.”

Alonso Duralde (The Wrap)

“Where Apocalypse falls apart is with its titular villain: He’s generically evil, setting out essentially to destroy everyone and everything on the planet, a plan that’s not only difficult to take seriously but also gives screenwriter Simon Kinberg (Fantastic Four) no metaphorical meat. Previous X-Men installments used the mutants and their struggles to comment on everything from the civil rights movement to coming-out in the LGBT community, but all we can take from this film is standard-issue superhero battles. Those skirmishes are perfectly fine, granted, but they don’t amount to much since the bad guy is such a blank and since we never feel that Apocalypse is going to succeed; you’ll find more genuine stakes in The Angry Birds Movie.”

Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)

“The film leaves the grieving and anger about collateral damage to this year’s major rival superhero franchise installments Batman v Superman (the bad one) and Captain America: Civil War (the good one). This one’s ‘the OK one.'”

Mike Ryan (Uproxx)

“With everything going on in Captain America: Civil War, I really liked that the world wasn’t at stake. It was refreshing. That’s what I also liked a lot about The Wolverine. We weren’t left staring at demolished CGI cities once again. But with X-Men: Apocalypse, we are back to the world being at stake. (I mean, it is in the title.) By the time it’s over, we are left looking at heaps of CGI destruction. I bet a hundred million people died. But, hey, the good news is Erik Lehnsherr learned a valuable life lesson. And that’s all that really matters in this movie… and in every X-Men movie, really. Magneto is the human equivalent of a ‘One to Grow On’ PSA.”

Adam Rosenberg (Mashable)

“It’s unsurprising, then, that bringing it all together in X-Men: Apocalypse resulted in such a mess. Can the studio even keep track of the running storyline at this point? We in the audience sure can’t. That’s a whole lot of less-than-positive criticism, but make no mistake: This really is a fun movie. It’s filled with big action moments and (often purely visual) fan service. For all there is to point and laugh at, it’s not a waste of time.”

Matt Singer (Screencrush)

“It’s quite possible no actor has benefited less from his involvement in these X-Men prequels than Oscar Isaac. As a general rule of thumb: When you cast one of the most handsome and charismatic actors on the planet, don’t put him beneath 50 pounds of latex and blue paint and have him give a one-dimensional performance of hissing and screaming and arm waving. Completely unrecognizable in his makeup and armor, Isaac never gets a chance to use any of his many gifts as a performer; almost anyone could have played this part.”

Russ Fischer (The Playlist)

“Filmmaker Bryan Singer, who has spent practically a half his career directing X-Men movies, recently said the “grounded and serious” world of his mutant films may not mesh with the irreverent and comic tone of fellow 20th Century Fox mutant Deadpool. That’s unfortunate for him as Singer would do well to take notes from the spirit of Tim Miller’s roguish and streamlined movie, the pleasures of which are largely absent from Singer’s latest bloated and self-serious mutant misadventure.”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 50

Rotten Tomatoes: 40 percent

Rated: PG-13

Length: 143 minutes

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

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