Back in 2000, X-Men arrived as the first decent superhero movie to have a plural in its title.

Sixteen years later, Apocalypse completes its double trilogy and arrives on on the heels of the latest excursion by Marvel's other comicbook supergang, The Avengers, who have dominated the movie league in the past five years.

But it was the the original X-Men that kicked off a screen era of superhero seriousness and had characters fighting against each other long before this year's run of super-scraps.

Often dark, surreal and with its stories coming with a subtext about tolerance, the films have held up well. Apart from, that is, the first trilogy's dull closing Last Stand - and, well, until the underwhelming Apocalypse.

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It is better, especially in its first half, than that previous trilogy finale. And if you're a fan of the prequel second trilogy, which went back to the 60s with the excellent First Class, and the 70s with the spectacular Days of Future Past, the first half of Apocalypse offers the familiar fun of X-teens having those formative experiences that will turn them into better adult superheroes.

But much of it is awfully familiar. Even if does start out in ancient Egypt, looking and sounding like a sci-fi version of Aida, before shifting to 80s mode. But this isn't quite as inventive a period piece as the franchise was in previous decades.

True, one of the characters is rocking a Michael Jackson Thriller red jacket, 80s Brat Pack star Ally Sheedy has a small role, the Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams gets a major soundtrack role in a pivotal scene and some characters bunk Prof X's school to go see Return of the Jedi - "At least we can agree, the third one's always the worst," says a young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) on her way out, tellingly.


And storywise, this is markedly less mindbending than its predecessors. Apocalypse is the X-name of original mutant En Sabah Nur (an unrecognisable Oscar Isaac), who awakes from a long kip deep beneath Cairo to reclaim his old job as a god on Earth, complete with four horsemen.

Quite why this matter-manipulating teleporting supreme being needs henchpersons is a mystery - it's just his thing.

But his recruitment efforts give the movie time to mark out the battle-lines with Magneto (Michael Fassbender), despite the psychic persuasions of old mate Professor X, signing on to help the big blue guy rid Earth of humankind because he doesn't like what the planet has become .

Elsewhere, Jennifer Lawrence's Raven/Mystique is in Katniss mode; young X-Men, like psychic Jean Grey and laser-visioned Scott Summers/Cyclops, must embrace their powers despite probably still drawing down their student loans at Xavier's mutant college, and a certain hirsute X-Man who didn't make the poster makes an cameo that provides a fan-pleasing chunk of back story.

The new character introductions and the pinballing around various places (Washington, East Berlin, Poland) make the first half entertaining and promising.

But Apocalypse is let down by its own last stand, an ending that does terrible things to Cairo - and presumably its residents - which is slowly buried under terabytes of unremarkable special effects.

The Apocalypse was never meant to be pretty. But it shouldn't be quite this tiresome.

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Cast:

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac

Director:

Bryan Singer

Rating:

M (Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb)

Running time:

144 mins

Verdict:

Not the worst X-Men movie but....