“X-Men: Days of Future Past” was a film that, upon first viewing, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it, only because it was a film with far too much to take in in one sitting. Upon a re-watch, it became clear that “X-Men: Days of Future Past” was Bryan Singer’s magnum opus to the “X-Men” series. Seeing that, it’s quite understandable that no matter how it did, his follow-up, “X-Men: Apocalypse,” would fail to captivate audiences as much as its predecessor, which seems to be happening. Is it fair to be disappointed in a film in its entirety simply due to its predecessor’s glory? Not particularly. Granted, most reviews so far seem to be raise valid points, but “X-Men: Apocalypse” must be taken with a grain of salt in its reception and balancing its fair and unfair points.

“X-Men: Apocalypse,” while an obvious step-down, is a graceful one at that.

Setting itself 10 years after “X-Men: Days of Future Past” in 1983, “X-Men: Apocalypse” starts with an introduction to the titular character, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), an Egyptian mutant, popularly known as the first mutant, as well as the most powerful. After being awoken in 1983, he recruits four followers, Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to help him wreak havoc upon the world. When Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) catches wind of Magneto’s involvement, she returns to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) to recruit the mutants, including the younger versions of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) to help battle Apocalypse to prevent the end of the world.

It’s easy to be put off by how much is going on in “X-Men: Apocalypse” all at once, because there are quite a few spinning cogs in this giant machine, but when the film gets down to it, it finds its stride combining everything into the grand finale. But because of this, it takes a long time for the film to pick up to its full excitement. At 144 minutes, it’s the longest film in the “X-Men” series, and it sometimes feels that way. While it’s far from a drag, the film doesn’t rush along, it goes exactly at the pace that normal time feels like, which is a very rare occurrence in film, when things typically seem to go one way or the other.

Meanwhile, every performance in the film is fantastic, which comes as no surprise, seeing as every film since “X-Men: First Class” have featured wonderful performances. McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult and Lawrence all continue to do great work, but it’s Turner’s turn as Jean Grey that shines above all in the film. While Sheridan and McPhee are also great, Turner’s tortured demeanor shines the most among the new recruits, and even above that of the returning cast.

On the other hand, while Isaac does good work as Apocalypse, I did feel like a little bit was left to the imagination in the showing of his true power. Near the beginning of the film, Apocalypse’s power is completely shown, being able to inflict seemingly endless pain upon all those he comes across, but when the time comes to face off with the X-Men, it seems as if these powers were laid only to waste as he completely forgets to use these powers. Of course, the X-Men can’t truly lose to the titular villain, yet it only seemed to make this fascinating villain being laid to waste.

Despite these criticisms, I did in fact, very much enjoy “X-Men: Apocalypse.” I found the action to be exciting and found myself engaged in the endeavors of the protagonists and anti-heroes of the film. The way in which Singer goes about building the film to its giant conclusion is incredibly fascinating and seeing characters often seen as good characters (Storm, primarily) in villain roles is quite interesting and adds a new layer of development to these characters previously developed by other actors.

I also found the relationships in the film to be very compelling, especially with that between Xavier, Magneto and Mystique. Though, some smaller relationships are also detailed upon very nicely, primarily with that of Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Magneto, who’s unknown father/son relationship is touched upon quite nicely, especially in the final act of the film. Much like the previous installment, Quicksilver’s showcase of his abilities to save others is the best scene in the entire film, with Singer’s direction at the forefront here.

Singer, despite any missteps, still has his groove in differentiating the “X-Men” series visually from every other superhero film series, most importantly from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Singer’s almost dreamlike aesthetic to the film creates a much more visceral visual experience than any other blockbuster series.

In the end, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is a solid installment in the “X-Men” series, albeit far from the best one. The cast does great work once again, with newcomer Turner stealing the show from the big boys. Singer still seems to have a nice grasp on the series, which is no small feat, considering its genesis was 16 years ago. Time seems to working in its series’ favor, but there needs to be a closer refinement in some aspects of the film to make sure that it doesn’t take over and spoil the pot à la “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men: Origins – Wolverine.” It has its flaws, but “X-Men: Apocalypse” is as graceful of a step down from former glory as you can get.

3.5/5

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Josh Helman.
Runtime: 144 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images.
Also available in RealD 3D.

Twentieth Century Fox presents, in association with Marvel Entertainment, a Bad Hat Harry/Kinberg Genre/Hutch Parker/Donners’ Company production, a Bryan Singer film, “X-Men: Apocalypse”

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Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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