Jennifer Lawrence

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016, Bryan Singer)

X-Men: Apocalypse runs over two hours, which is surprising because–while the movie does plod along–I didn’t realize it plodded along for quite so long. I guess the first act is more successful in hindsight than while it plays out.

This entry takes place, pointlessly, in the early 1980s. Oscar Isaac is the blue mutant Mummy, back from the dead to take over the world. He enlists four people to help him. One of those people is Michael Fassbender. He’s got a wife and kid since the last movie. Seeing Fassbender’s retired mutant terrorist now a doting dad somewhere in the Soviet Bloc is kind of neat. Fassbender’s exhausted this time around. Playing second fiddle to Isaac, most of Fassbender’s eventual performance consists of reaction shots. At least during the first act, he gets something to do.

But I got sidetracked. I wanted to count the characters. We’re up to seven. Yes, seven. Bad guys and people related to the bad guys. Isaac’s other lackeys get even less to do than Fassbender, though Alexandra Shipp does get a couple scenes to act in. She’s good. Olivia Munn has maybe two scenes with acting and she seems like she’s good. Shipp at least gets an arc, Munn doesn’t. Ben Hardy’s the other lackey. He’s awful. Luckily, he has even less to do than Munn.

But there are also a lot of good guys. Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult are all back. Each is good in parts, none of them has a good part in the script, none of them has a character arc. Evan Peters is back, Rose Byrne is back. Byrne has nothing to do. But she manages. Peters has a bunch; he’s great. Kodi Smit-McPhee is another new addition. He’s actually great, which is a surprise in this film. Other new additions Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan are both bad, with Sheridan being infinitely worse than Turner. And she’s still pretty dang bad.

Great photography from Newton Thomas Sigel. Tired music from John Ottman. Tired direction from Singer. Apocalypse doesn’t really have a story for Isaac outside lame world domination, so screenwriter Simon Kinberg and Singer just pack it with characters.

See, I forgot. I was supposed to be counting. It’s something like fifteen characters. It’s way too many. If the acting were better, they might carry it, but it’s not. And even though Turner and Sheridan, as good guys, get more to do than Munn and Shipp, it’s not character stuff.

X-Men: Apocalypse is a lame, by the numbers superhero event picture. Fassbender looks painfully contractually obligated to participate, with McAvoy and Lawrence hiding it a little better. Hoult is the most enthusiastic and, when one gets bored watching the film, he does imply seeing these characters together should be special. It isn’t, but what if it were?

Oh, and Isaac. He’s actually good. His part is terribly written, terribly directed, with dumb audio effects in post, but he’s scary as an immortal, evil smurf.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bryan Singer; screenplay by Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Singer, Kinberg, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by Michael Louis Hill and John Ottman; music by Ottman; production designer, Grant Major; produced by Kinberg, Singer and Lauren Shuler Donner; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring James McAvoy (Professor Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven / Mystique), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy / Beast), Oscar Isaac (En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse), Rose Byrne (Moira Mactaggert), Evan Peters (Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver), Josh Helman (Col. William Stryker), Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), Tye Sheridan (Scott Summers / Cyclops), Lucas Till (Alex Summers / Havok), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler), Ben Hardy (Angel), Alexandra Shipp (Ororo Munroe / Storm), Lana Condor (Jubilee), Olivia Munn (Psylocke) and Hugh Jackman (Man in Cage).


X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014, Bryan Singer)

There's a fair amount of mess in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but it’s often good mess. It’s also intentional mess because it’s a time travel picture. If you remember any of the previous X-Men movies, lots doesn't make any sense. But it also doesn't matter–director Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg rely heavily on a viewer's shaky memory of the franchise.

Future has a good pace and some good sequences. Not a lot of them, unfortunately; the big finale is a disappointment, for example, with Singer trying to emphasize a personal story there. Only that personal story hasn't really been important to the rest of the movie because it's all been about the end of the world.

All of the stuff in the apocalyptic future is goofy. There's a lot of murky CG and unmemorable supporting cast in busy fight scenes. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart look somewhat lost in the confusion.

The acting quality varies. Hugh Jackman has fun, before the script demotes him. James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult are both good. Evan Peters gets the best sequence, Michael Fassbender gets the worst. Fassbender gets the shortchanged throughout the picture. While he’s really underused, he does get a couple excellent scenes. Big villain Peter Dinklage is awesome. Jennifer Lawrence is mediocre. Everyone in the future except Ellen Page is bad. Like I said, it's just too goofy.

Good photography from Newton Thomas Sigel, bad music from John Ottman.

Though any ambition beyond franchise revitalization is disingenuous, the film definitely entertains. Sometimes distinctively.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Bryan Singer; screenplay by Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Jane Goldman, Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by John Ottman; music by Ottman; production designer, John Myhre; produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Singer, Kinberg and Hutch Parker; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Hugh Jackman (Logan / Wolverine), James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven / Mystique), Halle Berry (Storm), Nicholas Hoult (Hank / Beast), Anna Paquin (Rogue), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Peter Dinklage (Dr. Bolivar Trask), Shawn Ashmore (Bobby / Iceman), Omar Sy (Bishop), Evan Peters (Peter / Quicksilver), Josh Helman (Maj. Bill Stryker), Daniel Cudmore (Colossus), Fan Bingbing (Blink), Adan Canto (Sunspot), Booboo Stewart (Warpath) with Ian McKellen (Magneto) and Patrick Stewart (Professor X).


X-Men: First Class (2011, Matthew Vaughn)

When the best thing in a 132-minute movie is a thirty-second cameo… it’s not a good sign.

X-Men: First Class is self-important dreck. The four credited screenwriters do a bad job with everything except the one-liners; they do some of those quite well.

There are a lot of goofy sixties details. Bad guy Kevin Bacon has a submarine he travels around in like a Bond villain, but Vaughn doesn’t know how to direct it like a flashy Technicolor picture. His direction’s adequate, nothing more.

Except his direction of actors. It’s terrible. Zoë Kravitz, January Jones, Caleb Landry Jones and Lucas Till are all atrocious, though their roles are small. Well, except January Jones, she’s exceptionally bad in her somewhat larger part.

But Jennifer Lawrence has a big role and, while she’s not as bad as the rest, she’s too weak to carry it. Nicholas Hoult is pretty good.

Still, the acting’s not all bad. Bacon’s having a great time. The two leads are mostly good. Michael Fassbender gives a great performance for a lot of the film, but then awkwardly adopts a Welsh accent in the last few scenes. James McAvoy’s sturdy, but never anything more.

Poor Rose Byrne (a mildly competent screenwriter would’ve known to tell the story from her perspective) is wasted.

The endless character actor stunt casting gets old fast, though it’s nice to see them working.

Henry Jackman’s music might be worse than anything else in First Class. Even January Jones.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Matthew Vaughn; screenplay by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Vaughn, based on a story by Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer; director of photography, John Mathieson; edited by Eddie Hamilton and Lee Smith; music by Henry Jackman; production designer, Chris Seagers; produced by Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner and Singer; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr), Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw), Rose Byrne (Moira MacTaggert), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven), January Jones (Emma Frost), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy), Lucas Till (Alex Summers), Zoë Kravitz (Angel Salvadore), Caleb Landry Jones (Sean Cassidy), Edi Gathegi (Armando Muñoz), Álex González (Janos Quested), Jason Flemyng (Azazel), with Oliver Platt (Man In Black Suit) and Hugh Jackman (Man In Bar).


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