By BRIAN BOHNERT
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
With one cinematic apocalypse after another, Earth just can’t seem to catch a break in 2016.
And by the same token, neither can movie goers.
The ninth film in an exceedingly-tired franchise, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is yet another blockbuster featuring a gaggle of super friends taking on a world-destroying villain whose plan for global domination just doesn’t seem to make much sense.
In fact, it’s the third such film this year.
It’s also the third superhero flick released this year to feature its heroes facing off against other heroes — behind “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Captain America: Civil War.”
The sequel to Bryan Singer’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” picks up 10 years after its predecessor. Following a brief prologue set in ancient Egypt introducing the titular baddie En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), we’re transported to 1983 where Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is the head of a school for mutants.
A cast of new, young recruits like Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Jubilee (Lana Condor) offers a fresh perspective on growing up. Each of the students are simply kids trying to be kids, while also trying to adjust to their superhuman abilities.
Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) continues to struggle coping with her “hero” moniker and Xavier’s broody former partner Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has given up his metal-bending ways for a new life as a husband and father in a remote section of Poland.
With human-mutant relations appearing to be on good footing, all seems well with the world. That is, until the world’s first mutant awakens after thousands of years and reignites his plan to cleanse Earth of its “false gods.”
What follows is a paint-by-numbers second act that sees a manipulative Apocalypse recruit his new “four horsemen” — consisting of Magneto, Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Angel (Ben Hardy) — so they can rid the Earth of the human race.
On the other side of the battlefield is Professor X and his X-Men — Mystique, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters).
As in “Days of Future Past,” Peters’ zany Quicksilver is again given one of the most fun and visually beautiful sequences in the trilogy with a slow-motion set piece.
After an explosion rocks Xavier’s mansion, Quicksilver rushes in and rescues everyone inside, including a slobbery bulldog and a tiny goldfish. What makes the sequence even more humorous is it’s set to the tune of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by The Eurythmics.
While Xavier’s school is far from the only thing that explodes in “Apocalypse,” the film’s plot does not.
On the page of a comic book, Apocalypse himself is a complex, unstoppable force with nearly insurmountable powers. On screen, he’s a one-dimensional plot device who is far less terifying than he should be.
His plan is generic and follows the same model as every villain in nearly every superhero film of the last decade.
As Lex Luthor was in “Batman v Superman,” Apocalypse is a place filler needed only as a means to unite the X-Men in an elaborate third-act throwdown.
It’s not that Singer and writer Simon Kinberg do not know how to treat the characters of the X-Men universe; they’ve been doing it for years.
It does, however, appear the roster of those characters may have gotten too big for them to utilize without diluting the script.
For all the nifty sword training Olivia Munn did to prepare for her role as Psylocke, her character wasn’t given much to do other than fight for five minutes and look angry for 10 more. Storm, who played a vital role in the early X-Men films, is arguably given less time on screen to work her weather-wielding magic.
Those who have followed the X-Men film saga from its humble beginnings in 2000 will likely leave the theater slightly more satisfied than the casual fan.
But buyer beware, the more “Apocalypse” reminds you of the previous films, the more you’ll want to leave the theater and head to the video store.
Verdict: 2.5 stars