While X-Men: Apocalypse won't be out until May 27 in the US, early reviews are already pouring in — and they're not all convinced. The fourth X-Men movie by Bryan Singer sees Professor Xavier's mutants join powers to fight Apocalypse, a powerful god-like being who's recruited four destructive horsemen to destroy the world. Stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult are all returning, joined by popular newcomers such as Sophie Turner and Olivia Munn.
All of that to say that expectations are quite high, especially in a year where six superhero movies are slated for release. But the current rating on Rotten Tomatoes sits at 44%, so what went missing? Here's a roundup of what critics loved, hated and kind of enjoyed.
1. The Good Stuff: The Themes Of X-Men Are There, And The New X-Men Are Great
The two main reasons to be excited for X-Men: Apocalypse seem to be that the movie is honoring the themes of the rest of the X-Men franchise, where mutants have to struggle with the feeling of being outcasts, and that the new X-Men introduced are fantastic.
Screen Daily points out why the movie resonates so well:
The need for family, the struggle to accept oneself, the challenge of letting go of the past: These have been the dominant themes of the X-Men franchise since the original 2000 film, but they’ve rarely resonated as deeply as they do in 'X-Men: Apocalypse.'
According to Vox, the comic book fans with high expectations for the new X-Men introduced on screen don't need to worry.
The new X-people's powers — well, the ones we get to see, anyway — are impressive. Shipp's young Storm might be the first depiction of the character that fans can get excited about. And Turner's Jean Grey and her American accent are successful for the most part. [...] But the real scene stealer is Smit-McPhee's Nightcrawler. There's an innocence and humor about the character and Smit-McPhee's performance that gives this movie life. And Singer shows, as he first did in X2, that he has a real understanding of what makes this character special.
Village Voice also praises the budding X-Men, who suddenly have to go from pupils to real fighters.
These young characters, in part because they've spent childhoods living in shame and in part because they're still often unable to control their abilities, are sometimes torn over whether to use their powers. That lends even the most basic action sequence surprising levels of both suspense and (gasp) humanity.
2. The Bad Stuff: It's A Mess, And The Villain Is Boring
The first problem identified by reviewers is the number of heroes involved: It's a mess. Just like Captain America: Civil War, it's tricky to introduce a plethora of characters with different powers while still giving them each the screen time they deserve, and it seems Apocalypse is depriving some of its best actors of material to work with.
Over at Entertainment Weekly, the confusion reached an all-time high.
Apocalypse feels like a confused, kitchen-sink mess with a half dozen too many characters, a villain who amounts to a big blue nothing, and a narrative that’s so choppy and poorly cut together that it feels like you’re watching a flipbook instead of a movie.
[...] Singer keeps cutting from subplot to subplot and setting to setting with such frequency that he seems hellbent on preventing the audience from getting involved with any one storyline or character.
This issue was also pointed out by The Hollywood Reporter, who makes it sound like it might have been better to have just a little fewer characters involved. Mystique's journey from villain to hero, for example, is a fascinating story arc, but she only gets part of the spotlight.
Mostly it just feels like a bloated if ambitious attempt to shuffle as many mutants and specially gifted characters as possible into a story of a resurrected god ready to take over the world.
The second bone critics have to pick with Apocalypse unfortunately regards the villain. It's a shame, since he's in the title and basically the trigger for the entire plot; plus, he's played by the fabulous Oscar Isaac. If you look at all the terrible things he's done in the comics, you'd think he'd be an excellent villain, but the first viewers were far from impressed.
As Entertainment Weekly explains, it's not necessarily that Apocalypse is badly depicted — it's just that he's boring.
Part of the problem, I think, is how uninteresting Apocalypse is as a foe. With his leathery aqua, reptilian skin and cobra-cowl, he keeps trying to lure various X-Men over to the Dark Side like a broken-record Darth Vader. The guy’s kind of a relentless pest.
Same goes for The Wrap, who suggests "Monotony" as an alternative subtitle.
With 'X-Men: Apocalypse,' however, Singer seems to have acquired a new mutant power of his own: monotony. Whether it’s the lack of an interesting villain, or the fact that the series' time-travel element is forcing these mutants to meet each other (and the audience) all over again for the first time, this latest entry marks a shocking letdown from Singer’s earlier contributions; what once soared now slogs.
3. The Meh: It's Action-Packed, But Not Memorable Or Ground-Breaking
All in all, many reviews admitted that there were some good sides to X-Men: Apocalypse, but that they might not be good enough to compete in the superhero showdown that's been taking over theaters.
Variety also found that the young X-Men were the most exciting, but still they didn't outbalance the chaotic feeling of the movie.
Although the X-Men ensembles are usually large, there are simply too many characters for the action-heavy 'Apocalypse' to properly juggle. It's easy to forget even McAvoy or Fassbender when they're off screen for too long, and the film functions best when it lets the fresh young trio of Sheridan, Turner and Smit-McPhee take center stage.
Coming Soon probably identified the main reason for this average performance: director Bryan Singer's familiarity with the franchise is an asset when it comes to honoring the previous movies and fleshing out the characters, but it's starting to lack fresh ideas.
Singer and his cohorts (many of them also veterans of the series) deliver well-crafted thrills and a notable lack of experimentation, falling back on elements they know will work and amping them up to eleven.
It’s the most comic-booky thing Singer has ever attempted within the series and it shows. 'Apocalypse' is one of the best-looking films of the franchise. At the same time, many of the creative decisions are based on redoing what has worked before — experimentation ends at the color palette — and the overt familiarity soon becomes more hindrance than help.
Obviously, movies such as the recent Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice have proved that a negative consensus in the early reviews does not necessarily amount to unsatisfied fans — so we'll have to wait for the movie to come out to definitely rate X-Men: Apocalypse.