Bryan Singer directed the first two movies based on Marvel Comics’ mutant superhero team the X-Men. Brett Ratner directed the third film, The Last Stand, which is loathed by fans and critics alike. The franchise was then rebooted with Matthew Vaughn’s First Class, and Bryan Singer returned for the second film in this cycle, Days of Future Past, arguably the best of all of the X-Men movies. And now there’s X-Men: Apocalypse, which opens May 27. About a third of the way through Apocalypse, which takes place in 1983, Jean Gray (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Jubilee (Lana Condor) are walking out of Return of the Jedi when they start discussing whether it was better or worse than The Empire Strikes Back. Jean Gray eventually says, “At least we can all agree the third one is always the worst.”
I saw Apocalypse on the Fox Studios lot with a few hundred members of the press and various Fox employees, and there was an audible gasp before the nervous laughter. Maybe Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg don’t see Apocalypse as the third film after the reboot, though it is. Either way, they were begging the question. Apocalypse is easily the worst of the second trilogy and is debatably worse than The Last Stand. Singer and Kinberg’s hubris is galling in light of the ugly nonsense of the film’s plot, themes and production design.
The film begins 10 years after the end of Days of Future Past. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) has become a folk hero to young, rebellious mutants everywhere. Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) has become the head of a school for teenage mutants, who include Jean Gray and Cyclops. Mystique shows up with Nightcrawler and tells Xavier that Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who had gone into hiding, had resurfaced. He had been living in rural Poland, had married and had a daughter, and he was an iron worker who no one knew was the Master of Magnetism. But the locals figured it out and during his arrest they accidentally kill Magneto’s wife and daughter. So Magneto slaughters all of the police officers and sets off to kill some more people.