Lead actors are just X-meh in ‘Apocalypse’


“X-Men: Apocalypse”

Grade: C

Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. Directed by Bryan Singer.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence, action and destruction throughout, some suggestive material, partial nudity and brief strong language. Check listings for theaters. 2 hours, 27 minutes.

Bottom line: A large and long film that's boringly apocalyptic

The stakes in the boringly apocalyptic “X-Men: Apocalypse” couldn’t be higher. Its long-entombed, ready-to-party mutant god, played by Oscar Isaac is both invincible and immortal, and he wants to control every single mind in every single human on Earth. The world’s nukes are unleashed willy-nilly, though that part works out fine. It’s a “just kidding!” moment of imminent global destruction.

Then the movie levels the entire city of Cairo, leaving (presumably) many millions dead and injured. Well, you can’t worry about everyone all the time. The film leaves the grieving and anger about collateral damage to this year’s major rival superhero franchise installments “Batman v Superman” (the bad one) and “Captain America: Civil War” (the good one).

This one’s “the OK one.”

I can’t recommend much about this latest “X-Men” picture without getting into problematic and somewhat embarrassing territory.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” invests heavily in the moist-eyed emoting going on in the neighborhood of James McAvoy (Professor X, the one with the fancy boarding school for the specially gifted). The storyline requires Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence (the conflicted Magneto and the conflicted Raven, respectively) to try their damndest not to look as bored as they likely are with these roles, better for their income than their craft.

After an ancient Egyptian prologue, we’re plunked down into 1983. Apocalypse comes back to life, looks around, and calls for a cleansing of the planet’s debris and weakness, like a mutant villain version of Travis Bickle. Screenwriter Simon Kinberg lumbers through the conflicts, pitting McAvoy’s man of reason and hope against his old pal Magneto’s darker impulses.

Director Bryan Singer handles the traffic earnestly and well, with a modicum of snark and 1.5 teaspoons of levity. There’s a joke at the expense of the long-ago, far-away third “X-Men” picture, the lousy one directed by Brett Ratner. But this one’s no gem. It’s simply large, and long (two-and-a-half hours, the usual length lately with these products). The dialogue has a metallic, tinny ring (where’s Magneto when you need him?). At one point Rose Byrne’s intelligence agent speculates, in her exquisitely underplayed way, on the intentions of their chief adversary. This surly, pushy Egyptian mutant god routine might well “end in disaster … some kind of … apocalypse.” Pause. Then McAvoy puts on his best Serious Actor face and solemnly adds: “Mmm. The end of the world.” John Dykstra supervised the visual effects, which are relentless and routine. Like I said: I’ve seen worse this year. And better.