Starring Michael Fassbender. Rated 14A
When it comes to comic-book clichés, there’s nothing mustier than the idea of an ancient Egyptian curse. X-Men: Apocalypse makes a lot of expensive noise while attempting to put a new spin on the concept. What do we get for all the fuss? A deep-voiced villain (Oscar Isaac) who’s a cranky—and clanky—cross between King Tut and Darth Vader.
Dubbed Apocalypse, our vaguely asthmatic bad guy is reborn out of an Egyptian tomb to wreak havoc on the 1980s. Those of us who recall some of the hairstyles back then might wish him luck. But the X-Men have other plans. While Apocalypse is assembling a team of evildoers to take over the world, including Michael Fassbender’s disenchanted Magneto, the good guys are getting their act together as well.
Director Bryan Singer rounds up the usual suspects, along with a few fresh takes on some less familiar characters. The crowded cast is overstocked with talent. Unfortunately, Jennifer Lawrence virtually sleepwalks through her return as Raven. But James McAvoy, who provides a characteristically sympathetic anchor as professor Charles Xavier, does a lot to keep things grounded as the story gradually surrenders to the obligatory onslaught of special effects.
Some of the more familiar characters are getting a little stale, but there are a few winners in the mix. As Nightcrawler, who combines the powers of a mystically evolved superhero with the look of a mutant bug, Kodi Smit-McPhee provides a subtle touch of comic relief. As the evil Psylocke, Olivia Munn cracks a mean laser whip.
Unfortunately, in close to two-and-a-half hours, Singer spends far too much time setting up the excruciatingly slow premise. While extravagant, the CGI borders on the predictable, and the 3-D effects are less than memorable. Unlike, say, X-Men: First Class, this one doesn’t have nearly enough charm to compensate for the bloated story line.