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Familiarity Breeds Contempt

From 20th Century Fox, the studio that brought you Wolverine & the X-MenHugh Jackman & the X-Men Too; That One X-Men Movie Everyone and Their Mother Hated; Hugh Jackman & The Shitty Wolverine Origin Story That Fucked Up Deadpool So We Had to Reboot It Again; The Better, Darker Wolverine Movie; The Reboot X-Men Movie Where Logan Told James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender to Fuck Off; Wolverine Goes Back In Time To Save the Future; Ryan Reynolds: The Second Coming of Hugh Jackman When He Hangs Up the Claws; and this year's Academy Award-winning feature, Fucked By a Bear: Leo DiCaprio Wants an Oscar Really, Really Bad, comes this summer's anticipated superhero team...X-Men: The Greatest Hits! Yeah, there's some new stuff with some blue guy named Apocalypse who wants to destroy the world because the script says so, but who wants new stuff when we can rehash all the best bits from around the course of the half-dozen or so movies from the franchise! You remember the ongoing conflict between frenemies Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Eric Lehnsherr (Magneto), right? Well, it's been reignited when he joins the blue guy and kidnaps his friend at the mansion for nefarious purposes! And despite the fact we have new mutants that don't do much in this installment like that one Asian mutant in X-Men: The Animated Series and Olivia Munn in a skin-tight outfit, wielding a ninja sword; we're bringing back the tried and true original gang, like a young Cyclops, a young Storm, Jennifer Lawrence, the blue furball who used to date Jennifer Lawrence, and Sansa Stark! And we all know how much Quicksilver was became both a fan favorite in the last movie and more liked that the other movie with Quicksilver in it (suck it, Joss Whedon!), so he's back doing the same thing he did in the last movie where he comes in and saves everyone whilst being very funny! Who needs to see character development or the filmmakers trying to bring cohesion to this confusing timeline of X-Men features when we can show cool special effects and neat fight scenes where the youngin's can show off their powers! That's why you paid us millions of dollars over the course of nine movies - to see Hugh Jackman and his comrades tear shit up!

Okay, okay, I think you get the point, but let me expand a bit further on why X-Men: Apocalypse is the weakest entry in the X-Men canon: First - the timeline just feels disjointed and confusing at this point. When Fox and longtime X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner decided to hit the reboot button on the series with First Class, Charles, Raven, Eric and the rest were well in their early 20's in 1962 where they helped save the world from Sebastian Shaw's plot of getting the U.S. and the USSR engaged in a nuclear war. By the time Apocalypse takes place, it's 1983 - a full 21 years since the events of the reboot, yet all the actors look like they've only aged about 5 to 6 years from then until now. You'd think McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult and Lawrence would at least begin to look like their counterparts in the original X-Men series in terms of appearance, but they don't. It's a jarring thing to see how much the characters look almost the same from the first movie, up until this new one. And speaking of disjointed, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sherridan) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) follow Col. William Stryker as he kidnaps the remaining members of the X-Men to his research facility in Alkali Lake, where they encounter the generation of the Weapon X program.....Wolverine?! I'm sorry, but how in the blazes of hell did he wind up back in the clutches of Stryker?!?!?! The last scene in Days of Future Past had Logan fished out of the Potomac River by Mystique who was impersonating the military man himself, thus sparing him from going through the Weapon X program! And yes, this plot point is a.) never explained, and b.) mostly pointless. In fact, you could have cut out this whole section with Stryker and Wolverine, and instead how Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) train up the new generation of soon-to-be X-Men as they get ready for their showdown with En Sabah Nur (Oscar Issac, decked out in waaaaaaay too much prosthetics and makeup) and the Four Hoursemen - Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Psylock (Olivia Munn), Archangel (Ben Hardy) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp). But nope - gotta have Wolverine in there to get us fanboys jizzing in our pants for the next solo adventure starring Hugh Jackman! It's an effective scene, for sure, but it really doesn't make sense for that whole section to be in the film, except to ret-con a plot point that will be expanded in future installments.

You may have noticed another problem with this movie I've mentioned in my satire: It's basically director Bryan Singer rehashing the same conflicts and fun moments from previous installments of the franchise and throwing them into Apocalypse, which only highlights just how stale this series is becoming. Yes, it's fun to see Quicksilver (once again, Evan Peters runs away with the movie) zoom into the face of certain death and save his fellow mutants, but this time, it felt like I was watching a You Tube clip of the same action scene in Days of Future Past. The Charles-Erik conflict that's been the driving force in damn-near all of the X-Men movies returns yet again as Xavier learns of his old friend's tragic loss of his wife and child as he was living a quiet life in Poland and ends up as the last of the Four Horsemen. Honestly, it's the best part of the whole movie because for the first time in the series, you really begin to empathize with Lehnsherr - his tragic upbringing, his rage and hatred at how he's been abused by the world, and when he finally finds a small measure of peace and tries to implement what Xavier has been trying to teach him, that peace is taken from him under circumstances that were beyond his control. It's a juicy role that Fassbender completely nails, and he winds up giving the best performance in the film. But as I said earlier, it's basically Xavier's squad verses Magneto trying to cleanse the earth for the benefit of mutants everywhere. Like his plain in the first X-Men movie. And where he screws over Xavier in X2. And when he tries to kill a mutant who can suppress other mutant powers in The Last Stand. And when he tries to nuke both the U.S. and Soviet warships near the end of First Class. And when he tries to kill Nixon with the Sentinals in Days of Future Past. Lather, rinse and repeat.

At one point, Jean, Scott and Nightcrawler are at the cinema watching Return of the Jedi, where the all remark that the third movie is always the worst one. It's meant to be a a jab at Brett Ratner's dreadful X-Men: The Last Stand, but said jab feels both unwarranted and hypocritical, given that X-Men: Apocalypse is easily the worst film since that 2006 misfire and 2009's atrocious Wolverine-centric origins story. Oh, and when it comes to threequels, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Captain America: Civil War, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King would love to tell you that you have no idea what you're talking about.

** stars out of ****


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