It really takes nerves of steel to get through the new X-Men movie. You’d think the franchise was on solid ground, particularly after the one-two punch of 2011’s First Stand and 2014’s Days of Future Past, but X-Men: Apocalypse is overlong, overpopulated, and often just flat-out boring.

Unlike those two films specifically, which cleverly placed the evolving story of our mutant protagonists against real historical events like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, the new film feels like a formulaic comic-book movie about a crazy villain determined to wipe out the world. That’s especially disheartening given that it’s directed by Bryan Singer, who first set up the X-Men universe on screen, and has helmed some of the best films in the series over the last 16 years.

The bad guy in question here is a blue-dyed walking-talking Egyptian Mummy-like figure, Apocalypse, allegedly the world’s first and most powerful mutant, who has arisen from a centuries-old slumber from under a pyramid. He’s played by the talented Oscar Issac, who is virtually unrecognizable under all that ridiculous prosthetic make-up.

 After the deliciously mind-bending Days of Future Past, in which Singer skillfully blended storylines involving the younger and older versions of key characters like Professor Xavier and Magneto, this new adventure unfolds in the early 1980s, and carries forward the origin story of our super-powered mutants. So Professor Xavier, as played by James McAvoy, is still running his school for ‘gifted youngsters’, where he hopes to create students not soldiers. But that plan quickly goes south when Apocalypse returns, and newbies from the academy are recruited to fight the good fight. These include a young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). We’re also re-introduced to lightning-fast mutant Quicksilver (Evan Peters), whose frozen time sequence was the highlight of the last film and is repeated to lesser effect in this movie.

Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven aka Mystique, is more conflicted than ever about the choices she must make, and Nicholas Hoult’s Beast has been keeping his wild side under check as the caretaker of the Professor’s school. Even Hugh Jackman shows up for a brief – but memorable – cameo as Wolverine.

On the other side, aligned with Apocalypse are his four “horsemen” – a young Storm (Alexandra Shipp), the winged Archangel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and of course Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who turns back to the dark side after a tragic incident involving his family.

A big problem with X-Men: Apocalypse is that there are too many characters, but not enough surprises. The film plays out predictably as a clash between the good and the bad side, but as buildings tumble and world landmarks are flattened, you can’t help feeling like you’ve seen all of this before, and done better.

Apocalypse himself is a boringly one-note villain, and he’s saddled with corny dialogue. The only character who’s even remotely interesting remains Magneto, and Fassbender plays out the emotional conflict so convincingly, he’s a pleasure to watch. The film feels bloated on account of both its length (an exhausting two-and-a-half hours), and its overly ambitious script which crams the story with way too many characters.

The X-Men movies were about more than just their action scenes. They were smart films that always put character and story above spectacle. They even offered commentary on issues that felt recognizable in the real world. Such a shame the architect of this universe appears to have gone the Zack Snyder way. 

I’m going with two out of five for X-Men: Apocalypse.

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