Why 'X-Men' series could bounce back from critically panned 'Apocalypse'

'X-Men: Apocalypse,' which is now in theaters, has so far not been well-received by critics. But the 'X-Men' series has come back before from poorly received films, as have other superhero franchises. How did they do it?

Twentieth Century Fox/AP
'X-Men: Apocalypse' stars Tye Sheridan (l.) and Sophie Turner (r.).

The newest film in the "X-Men" franchise, "X-Men: Apocalypse," is now in theaters, but so far it’s received negative reviews from critics.

"Apocalypse" is the newest film starring the current "X-Men" franchise actors, including Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender. Also along for this movie are actors including Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Tye Sheridan, Oscar Isaac, and Alexandra Shipp. 

In the movie series, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014), the previous film, was a particular success with critics and also did very well at the box office. 

Yet the franchise seems to have stumbled with "Apocalypse," which Monitor film critic Peter Rainer gave a C+, writing, "Mutants galore infest 'X-Men: Apocalypse,' but the pile-on quickly become wearying … the storyline, such as it is, would have benefited from major pruning."

Can the "X-Men" series recover critically from this badly received film? 

Future films may also be poorly reviewed, but the "X-Men" series has done it before, as have fellow superhero series such as the "Batman" films and the "Spider-Man" series. How did they do it? 

The X-Men appeared on the big screen in the early 2000s with "X-Men," "X-Men 2," and then "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006). "Stand" was a box office hit but was not well-reviewed.

So the series brought the characters back to basics, eschewing the contemporary setting of the first few films for a 1960s-set prequel that showed how series characters Professor Xavier (Mr. McAvoy), Magneto (Mr. Fassbender), and Mystique (Ms. Lawrence) met. While this movie, "X-Men: First Class," was low-grossing compared to other films in the series, it was better-received critically than "X-Men: The Last Stand" and brought on the actors that then starred in the success "Days of Future Past." 

The "Batman" film series was another set of movies that brought its story back to the beginning to reinvent itself creatively. After the critically panned "Batman and Robin" was released, director Christopher Nolan told the story of how Batman became the superhero we know with the 2005 movie "Batman Begins." The series that sprang from "Begins" became some of the most acclaimed superhero movies ever released, with actor Heath Ledger winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in "The Dark Knight" (2008). 

Bringing a story back to its beginning isn't always the answer, though. After two successful "Spider-Man" films, "Spider-Man 3" (2007) was panned critically, so Sony started again with "The Amazing Spider-Man" (2012). But some critics complained about the new movie rehashing events viewers had already seen in previous films. "It takes an increasingly dull, drawn-out 136 minutes to work through a story that many moviegoers older than 10 may think they’ve seen because they probably did when the first movie burned up the box office," Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote of "Amazing." 

So now the "Spider-Man" series is avoiding the origin story, at least according to Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios president. (Mr. Feige and others at Marvel are co-producing the new "Spider-Man" film, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017), which stars Tom Holland.) 

"In Spider-Man's very specific case, where there have been two retellings of that origin in the last whatever it's been – [13] years – for us, we are going to take it for granted that people know that, and the specifics," Feige told the website Crave Online. "It will not be an origin story."

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