** stars (out of four)
After multiple sequels and/or reboots, a common problem is introducing new characters while still giving the old ones something to do. Captain America: Civil War expertly sidestepped this problem by clearly making it a Captain America story and relegating the other Avengers (and the new ones) to supporting roles. X-Men: Apocalypse, however, never figures out whose story it’s telling. As a result, Bryan Singer’s latest film feels like an overstuffed, unfocused mess (it runs 145 minutes).
Set in 1983, the film finds mutants living in an uneasy truce with humans. But a cult resurrects the ancient Egyptian En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac, a brilliant actor left with little to do here), a mutant with powers that exceed those of all other mutants. Once again, the X-Men, this time joined by new students Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler (Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, and Kodi Smit-McPhee), must save the day.
Aside from not settling on a lead or a primary story arc, the movie’s other problem is that none of the action set pieces really get the blood pumping. The best one is a retread of the best scene in Days of Future Past (Quicksilver getting to do his slo-mo thing set to a pop tune - in this film, it’s “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics).
The X-Men series has largely been a good one, but Apocalypse will soon be forgotten. If this series continues (and it almost certainly will), hopefully it will find a focus and return to form in its next installment.