Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.
When a ‘cure’ that suppresses special abilities is discovered, battle lines are drawn in the mutant community…
Get used to multiples names…
* Heroes returning from previous films include Charles Xavier aka Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Ororo Munroe aka Storm (Halle Berry, in yet another wig), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Marie aka Rogue (Anna Paquin), Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Bobby Drake aka Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and Scott Summers aka Cyclops (James Marsden). Charles and Scott are both killed off, in separate incidents.
* An old ally of Xavier’s – Hank McCoy aka Beast (Kelsey Grammer), a mutant who’s a member of the US cabinet – also gets seconded into the team.
* Now she has drama scenes to play, mutant student Kitty Pryde (aka the girl who can walk through walls) has been recast with Ellen Paige.
* After her sacrifice in the previous film, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is resurrected here… by some pretty vague means. She’s not quite herself any more and hooks up with the bad guys… again, for not very clear reasons. We also see a young Jean in a flashback.
* Dr Moira MacTaggert (Olivia Williams) appears briefly a few times. She’s a scientist who clearly knows Charles from way back.
* The chief bad guy is again Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Ian McKellen), who for unexplained reasons now has an English accent. X2’s John Allerdyce aka Pyro (Aaron Standford) is still at his side, and during the film Magneto also acquires some new mutant hangers-on, including a guy with spikes on his face (played by Miles from Lost), a girl who can move fast, a dude who can replicate himself many times over, and a man who can demolish walls with his head (played by Vinnie Jones… Give me strength). All are pretty thinly written characters.
* Raven Darkhölme aka Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) is also with Magneto to begin with, but after she’s accidentally ‘cured’ of her mutation he coldly abandons her. An odd choice, given how hot she looks with dark hair.
* Characters involved in the ‘cure’ plot include Warren Worthington (Michael Murphy), his son Warren aka Angel (Ben Foster), and a mutant child called Jimmy. None gets much screen time.
* We see the President (Josef Sommer) but he’s a different guy from in X2 so presumably there’s been an election since. One of his entourage is called Trask (played by Bill Duke from Commando and Predator). The latter character is from a famous comic-book run and was being seeded for a potential sequel.
Stan Lee cameo: We spot him early on. He plays a bemused man watering his garden when a young Jean Grey starts causing mayhem. (X-Men comics writer Chris Claremont is in the same scene.)
Crossovers and continuity: There are a few elements that are contradicted or expanded in other movies.
* The opening scene is set ‘twenty years ago’ and sees Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr visiting a teenage Jean Grey in order to recruit her for their school. CGI has been used to make Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen look two decades younger. It comes off as just creepy – it’s like they’re wearing masks of themselves. Charles and Erik are best buds in the 1980s, which doesn’t match with X-Men: First Class where the two men are estranged in 1962.
* The second scene of the film is set ‘ten years ago’ (ie, circa the mid-90s) and features the character of Warren Worthington aka Angel as a child. However, in X-Men: Apocalypse we see him aged about 25 in the early 1980s. (Keeping up?!)
* The *next* sequence sees our heroes in a virtual-reality simulation. It’s a training session and is visually inspired by the comic-book series later used as the basis for 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Additionally, a very different version of this film’s Trask character is in that later movie.
* The first post-credits scene of this series shows Moira MacTaggert seemingly bringing Charles Xavier back from the dead – which explains how he can show up alive and well in 2013’s The Wolverine. However, Moira’s age (she looks to be in her 30s) is contradicted by Rose Byrne playing her in later films set in 1962 and 1983.
Review: Give it its due: this film comes alive during the action sequences, which are exciting and often inventive. However, elsewhere there are lots of problems. A big one is focus. Plots and characters just keep going missing. Our heroes learn about the mutant ‘cure’ but then get distracted by Jean’s resurrection for a really long time. A Rogue/Bobby/Kitty love triangle is set up early on, but then we don’t see the characters again for ages. When not on screen, stories seem to freeze until we get back to them. Another issue is that the two threads of the movie, the cure and Jean’s return, don’t especially affect each other. The resurrection itself is also pretty naff. It requires retconning and clunky, vague explanations – and still doesn’t make much sense. Frankly, it seems to be there purely as lip service to comic-book fans. The cure subplot, meanwhile, is just too on-the-nose. The first two X-Men films had themes and subtexts. This one gives us characters spelling out metaphors and numerous scenes of single-opinion mobs. After the sleek X2 and its character-driven storytelling, this has the air of reverse-engineering a plot once you’ve decided on its action climax. It’s probably significant that the classy Bryan Singer has been replaced as director by Brett ‘Rush Hour’ Ratner. This is shallow and often cheesy hokum.
Five Golden Gate Bridges out of 10