The original X-men series has its detractors, but I always found the original two to have plenty of likeable elements despite the changes to the source material. Part three on the other hand ... falls short of the mark. A lot of time people cite Bryan Singer's departure as a reason for this, unfortunately the same excuse cannot be used to explain this latest outing. As a third entry to a pretty loose prequel trilogy, it delivers well below what should have been expected. But why should it not be a winner after the last two? Building on what worked should have been an easy task. However for reasons that are just not clear this really isn't up to scratch, so let's explore what we are left with.
The focus on character is generally the highlight of those movies in this franchise which work, whether it's the older Logan centric releases or the adventures of young Charles and Erik. I was looking forward to some kind of teen adventure that would be centred around newcomers after the X-Mansion is established as a working school. Bringing back Nightcrawler doesn't really fit with continuity, but what the hell, there could be fun seeing him hang out with Jean Grey and Jubilee in the 1980s. But a tight focus on story and personal development isn't what we have here, in a movie which is both overly simplistic and over filled.
Waking from an ancient tomb, Oscar Isaac's titular villain believes himself to be a god - though his powers have been acquired artificially over years by living in a series of mutant bodies. After seeing some TV he decides the planet is full of weaklings and sets out to cause a disaster in which only the strongest will survive. His teleportation and telepathy powers come in handy as his scheme involves recruiting a bunch of henchmen (though he doesn't really need them) and later kidnapping Professor X to send a message to the world powers and destroy their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. It's not a great plot but with the right amount of character development things might have worked. However the big blue guy isn't really that well rounded considering the potential there is, instead his motivations are about as convincing as his make-up job.
Other strands fight for attention rather than fitting into the narrative. The drama of Cyclops and Jean dealing with their mutant powers seems to be detached from the rest of the plot, and a stream of other characters are included apparently just for fan service. Some of it doesn't really fit with what came before or what will be ahead in the timeline of this world, although that may be subject to change if they avoid connecting with the original films. But the puzzling moments remain. There are too many extraneous threads, and while the revenge based Magneto storyline worked in First Class, here it's like an afterthought thrown in just to give him a reason to show up. In fact a lot of the pieces feel tired instead of fresh as flashbacks are used, old dialogue is re-read, and old themes are revisited. It's really choppy in terms of pacing, and it feels as though a good central idea was never developed so a lot of other random parts were attached instead.
The most jarring moments come when recurring villain William Stryker drops in out of nowhere to send the gang on a superfluous adventure that feels like part of another movie. They also have the same Quicksilver effects sequence as last time, only now it's bigger and sillier than before. It's standout moment (again) but it feels more like an expensive music video that doesn't really sync with the overall tone or the plot itself. It's also the sequence that feels like it received the most budget, since a lot of the others are far less convincing. Buildings crumble, pyramids are constructed and mutants do battle, but there's something weirdly cheap about it all as if this is all just another 2012 style disaster movie. There are too many dull swirling particle clouds and energy beams.
Maybe this is all just a result of having too much left over from the last story instead of a really solid idea where new characters could have taken centre stage. Beast and Mystique spend most of the story out of make-up presumably because the actors are too well known, and the newcomers get sidelined with some of them feeling like glorified cameos. In the end it just feels like a bunch of lesser ideas slapped together to for a rickety mess of a plot. We don't need a feature just to show Professor X losing his hair, and we don't need them to blow up Egypt just to have some character drama. It's way too sloppy and they should know better by now.
The big talking animal feature of the year is pretty entertaining. There are a lot of world building jokes as we explore life in a city populated by animals of all kinds who live in different spaces, some built for their size, others for weather conditions. It's funny and visually dynamic with characters that pop and chase sequences that make your eyes spin. The issue for me is that the same level of tact has been applied to too many elements. The social satire and progressive messages that the story delivers have been included with the same amount of subtlety as the scene where public sector workers are all sloths. It's funny because they're slow, get it? Do you get it yet? It's incredibly blunt but it's still funny. But ... the heavy handed ideas about segregation and public crime fears are just incredibly blunt. I almost feel guilty pulling them up on this kind of thing since of course it's a welcome change from animations without depth or value, but it feels too much like a sledgehammer at times when characters just say the message of the movie out loud. In the hands of Pixar maybe this would have been different, perhaps they would have been as sly as a fox instead of a bull in a china shop. In the end there's a lot to enjoy and some viewers will like how direct this all is, but personally they could have done it better.