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Somewhere in the midst of the computer-generated carnage of "X-Men: Apocalypse," as the valiant mutant students of Prof. Charles Xavier again did battle with the evil mutants arrayed against them, I was struck by a wave of déjà vu.

I thought, "I've been here before." And indeed, I had — two years ago, when "X-Men: Days of Future Past" came out. And before that, with "X-Men: First Class," the first of the current trilogy that shows our mutant leaders, Prof. Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), as young men, not seasoned Shakespearean veterans played by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.

Bryan Singer, who helmed Stewart and McKellen in the first "X-Men" movie and the "X2" sequel, returns to the directing chair for this installment, so maybe the sense of repetition isn't all in my head.

The new movie starts in ancient Egypt, where a sacred rite is being performed to transfer the consciousness of En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), the first mutant, into a young body. But when the guards turn on their masters, En Sabah Nur is buried deep under the pyramids, possibly forever.

Or until 1983, when En Sabah Nur, aka Apocalypse, is unearthed. Apocalypse sets about his plans to destroy Earth's civilization and replace it with one he creates, with the help of four powerful mutants recruited to his cause: the winged Angel (Ben Hardy), the wind-whipping Storm (Alexandra Shipp), the hard-hitting Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and the metal-mangling Magneto (Fassbender again) — who is feeling murderous after his last attempt at a normal life ended tragically.

Who will stop Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen? Why, Prof. Xavier and crew, of course. Xavier enlists a reluctant Raven, aka the shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), to gather Xavier's strongest students — including the laser-eyed Scott Summers, alias Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and the telepathic Jean Gray ("Game of Thrones' " Sophie Turner) — to head off the end of the world.

Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg, who wrote "Days of Future Past," recycles many of the themes we've seen before. Once again, the plot pivots on a battle for the soul of Magneto, and to a lesser extent Raven, as Xavier pleads with his old colleague not to give in to hate. Also, as before, the funniest scene goes to the super-fast Quicksilver (Evan Peters), zipping along while the rest of the world is in slow motion. And there's a gratuitous cameo by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

The most prominent new element here is Isaac, easily the most dynamic actor working today (with roles ranging from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" to "Ex Machina" to "A Most Violent Year" to "Inside Llewyn Davis"). Unfortunately, Isaac is lost inside a mass of prosthetic makeup, a weighty costume and an underdeveloped character. As a result, he's about as mobile as a lawn gnome, but not nearly as terrifying.

Still, there are some small pleasures in "X-Men: Apocalypse." Lawrence, who endures Mystique's blue body paint as little as possible, is front and center here, reminding us what movie-star charisma is all about. Rose Byrne makes a welcome return as CIA agent Moira MacTaggart, seemingly defying age (it's been 21 years, in the story, since we saw her last). And McAvoy and Fassbender bring some welcome gravity to the story, even an eerily familiar one.

Twitter: @moviecricket —


'X-Men: Apocalypse'

The mutants face a new threat, and old plot complications, in this lackluster installment of Marvel's other franchise.

Where • Theaters everywhere.

When • Opens Friday, May 27.

Rating • PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images.

Running time • 144 minutes.