I've been a fan of the X-Men since the first issue came out in 1963. I was thrilled when the first X-Men movie opened in 2000. The special effects were far from ideal, but that didn't matter. Director Bryan Singer understood why the X-Men resonated with so many people and he did a grand job bringing that to the big screen in the original film and its sequel, X2.

Singer moved on after that and the series suffered a few missteps before righting itself with X-Men: First Class. Singer rejoined the franchise for 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past and now X-Men: Apocalypse.

Days of Future Past was a doozy. Apocalypse ... not so much.

The story begins in 3600 BCE in the Nile Valley. Apocalypse, an old mutant sourpuss, prepares to transfer his soul to the rocking body of another man. Alas, he barely gets acclimated before his pyramid collapses, killing his followers and trapping him for thousands of years. Oscar Issacs plays the pecs-a-poppin' victim turned god-like mega-mutant, but the actor is buried beneath trowels of blue makeup and an underwritten role.

Cut to the 1980s, where the rest of the movie takes place. We meet high school student Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), who decides to change schools after shooting destructive beams from his eyes during an encounter with a bully. He receives support from his big brother Alex/Havok (Lucas Till) as he relocates to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.


Sheridan is a more sympathetic Cyclops than his older successor in the early films (time travel, just accept it). We also meet/re-encounter younger versions of several other favorite characters, including Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a defurred Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and a more expressive Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). James McAvoy returns as Professor X, and Jennifer Lawrence makes what will likely be her last appearance as Raven/Mystique.

Meanwhile in Poland, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) lives a quiet life with his wife and young children until troops show up to try to take the fugitive into custody. Cut to Egypt, where CIA agent Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) accidentally triggers the awakening of Apocalypse. He soon gathers several mutants to serve as his Four Horsepersons: Magneto, Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandre Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn).

RELATED: Ed reviews X-Men: First Class 

Everybody fights everybody. Multicolored ray beams tear through the sky. So many characters, so much spectacle. But somewhere in the middle of all the excess I realized I wasn't having nearly as much fun as I should. The film has its moments, certainly, but too many scenes play like diminished retreads of scenes in previous X-movies.

Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) returns and rescues a great many people using his super speed. The scene is cool, but not as cool as his "Time in a Bottle" scene from Days of Future Past, which was shorter, better edited and funnier.

While Singer and company hurl new mutants at us, I thought about the wasted characters. So many X-Men movies and Storm still doesn't get a decent storyline. She's just one of many. And what about Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique, who looks disengaged?

Meanwhile we watch Professor X yet again go into Cerebro, his gigantic mutant search engine that appears to exist only to be commandeered by others.


X-Men: Apocalypse has too many characters, a boring villain, and not nearly enough personality. It's not a bad movie; it's an ordinary movie. And that's even worse. The X-Men deserve better than ordinary.


Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.

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