In case you didn’t notice, it’s less than a year until X-Men: Apocalypse will be released. With every day seeming to bring a new tweet or Instagram photo from the set, this increasingly looks less like the end of the X-Men: First Class trilogy and more like an introduction to a whole new X-Men franchise. There are a slew of faces that include both the returning James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult, as well as the newcomers Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, and Alexandra Shipp.
Bryan Singer has confirmed what we have long suspected to be the case: X-Men: Apocalypse is the start of a new era for X-films by stating that this is the genesis of the “true X-Men.”
The implication would be that X-Men: Apocalypse is a bit of a standardbearer for a new generation of mutant based films since it is the Memorial Day release of a 2016 that features two other ostensible X-Men movies: February’s Deadpool and October’s Gambit. With the fresh faces of Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, and Alexandra Shipp taking on the roles of traditional leading X-Men like Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm–noticeably during the same time that Hugh Jackman has made it clear that the untitled Wolverine 3 will be his last appearance as the character–the stage seems set for a new more ambitious, and likely more colorful vision of the X-Men universe.
Here’s what we know so far…
X-Men: Apocalypse Villain
Ironically, the X-Men franchise is perhaps the longest running superhero series without a reboot, but has primarily relied on the same main villain for most of its films: Magneto. And it’s a credit to both Sir Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender that it hasn’t mattered much at all, as both interpretations still constitute one of the genre’s most memorable and iconic foes. Yet, there certainly needs to be room for expansion and change, and the titular Apocalypse offers exactly that.
That spot was filled the week of Thanksgiving 2014 when 20th Century Fox revealed that Oscar Isaac of Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year had been cast for the part of Apocalypse in the upcoming film. Isaac has since confirmed that the character will be realized through a combination of digital and practical/make-up effects. Yet, what exactly does that special effect build to?
As we first detailed in our deconstruction of the Days of Future Past post-credit scene, Apocalypse is one of the very first mutants to ever exist in the extensive X-Men canon. That post-credits stinger implies as much when it flashes back to ancient Egypt, depicting the mutant who would become Apocalypse constructing the pyramids with only his mind. We can also expect much more of such imagery, as Bryan Singer revealed when he posted a fraction of the first page to the X-Men: Days of Future Past script online, hinting at an epic prologue taking place during an ancient Egyptian battle, complete with the flying Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
In many ways, Apocalypse is one of the Type-A comic book villains of such epic and devastating proportions that it causes entire company lines of comic book heroes to team up for a simple K.O.—think Thanos (the perpetually teased but rarely used Marvel Cinematic Universe baddie) or Darkseid.
However, Apocalypse will beat both to the big screen in earnest as a major threat and has his own complex mythology. First introduced in X-Factor #5 in 1986, Apocalypse is a mutant originally named En Sabah Nur. With the power of telekinesis and the ability to reanimate and reconfigure his own molecular structure (essentially making him immortal), En Sabah Nur was a very powerful mutant before he developed a god complex.
From what we saw teased in Days of Future Past, the X-Men: Apocalypse plot will be pulling heavily from “Rise of Apocalypse,” a 1996 miniseries by Terry Kavanagh and Adam Pollina. In that story, En Sabah Nur is an ancient Egyptian who is left out in the middle of the desert to die after he begins demonstrating strange mutations, such as the graying of his skin. He is rescued by another Nomad tribe that instills the young warrior with a pre-Darwin Darwinian extremism about “survival of the fittest.” Soon, En Sabah Nur has developed his aforementioned mutations, which eventually will also include technopathy, not to mention a deity complex.
However, things become dangerous in modern times, because En Sabah Nur soon discovers alien technology (aliens and Egyptian pyramids, get it?) that he spends thousands of years mastering, making him not only invincible, but capable of altering the DNA and psychology of anyone he can capture, causing all to succumb to his will. He essentially wants world domination—removing the moral ambiguity between Xavier and Magneto’s dichotomy (often instilled with an MLK/Malcolm X subtext in modern comics and films)—and to decimate its inhabitants to only the few privileged enough to meet his criteria as “survival fit.”
We suspect this will include turning at least one “good” mutant into a “Horseman of the Apocalypse,” who are mutants made demonic slaves to Apocalypse’s will. And given recent teases by Singer, we can safely assume that Angel will become a Horseman of the Apocalypse, as will the recently teased Caliban. This is all the more troubling since the synopsis confirms that the timeline alteration seen in Days of Future Past will be what awakens Apocalypse.
Speaking of which…
X-Men: Apocalypse Plot
While details remain elusive for the X-Men: Apocalypse story, certain nuggets have slipped out in recent months. First is the vague, but tantalizing synopsis released a few months ago:
Apocalypse takes place a decade after Days of Future Past and is a seamless next step in the story. The altering of time has unleashed a new and uniquely powerful enemy. Charles (James McAvoy), Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) are joined by young Cyclops, Storm, Jean and others as the X-Men must fight their most formidable foe yet – an ancient unrelenting force determined to cause an apocalypse unlike any in human history.
And of course, we know about the prologue set during an ancient Egyptian battle, which will showcase Apocalypse’s power. However, the 1980s setting is also of special consideration.
Over the summer, Simon Kinberg revealed that the X-Men: Apocalypse setting will be in 1983, which brings it to a full a decade after the past events in X-Men: Days of Future Past. And as we unpacked how important 1973 current events turned out to be for that film, it has caused us to speculate on what from 1983’s backdrop the X-writers could mine. Personally, I wonder if space might be a major factor since 1983 marked Dr. Sally Ride becoming the first woman to go into orbit, as well as the year of U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s failed attempt to put missiles and lasers in space as a nuclear deterrent with his “Star Wars” defense program. Imagine if Apocalypse had a hold of such technology?
Whatever the case may be, we know for certain that the X-Men: Apocalypse plot will feature the largest scale of destruction and spectacle yet seen in an X-film.
Singer said in early interviews that it would have more spectacle than what he has worked on in the past, and Kinberg later said that it would be a bigger movie than even X-Men: Days of Future Past. “There’ll be disaster movie imagery, like the title would imply,” says the executive producer.
Whatever the case, we have our own guesses as to what that might mean for the plot. We are almost certain the film will feature Mystique “coming home” to Charles, as he insisted she would throughout the most recent film. However, one thing we also think would be nifty is if they could explain Logan gaining a metal skeleton as not from Stryker, which was thwarted in Days of Future Past’s final scene, but as from Apocalypse. After all, the chance to see Wolverine go berserk as a Horseman of the Apocalypse will never come again.
X-Men: Apocalypse Cast
Despite having the novelty of both the main principals from X-Men: First Class and the X-Men Trilogy both appearing in Days of Future Past, the X-Men: Apocalypse cast seems to be more streamlined. When Singer first confirmed that the new film would be set in the 1980s, it immediately seemed to indicate that it would be primarily focused on the continuing (and contracted) First Class cast members who had carried over to Days of Future Past: namely, James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult as Beast.
Singer and Kinberg confirmed that all four would be coming back as the stars during an interview in April. Kinberg recently doubled down on that in October, stating that he considered X-Men: Apocalypse as the third part of a “First Class Trilogy.”
Says Kinberg, “[Apocalypse] is definitely the close of a trilogy for those First Class characters, which isn’t to say we won’t see them in future movies; hopefully we will, but it’s a completion of an arc for them.”
Additionally, Kinberg seems to have a special interest in the role Mystique will play as an expanded member of X-Men mythology in the timeline that was altered by the end of DoFP. Kinberg expects that we’ll have more scenes of Lawrence’s Mystique with Hoult’s Beast (whose scenes together in the previous movie were cut due to pacing issues), but perhaps more importantly, that they will further explore how she is the “child of both Erik and Charles.” Indeed, much of the tension of the last movie was Charles bringing his one-time little sister back to the side of the angels, if only fleetingly, to change the course of history—and possible her arc that once seemed predestined for villainy.
Also, Days of Future Past’s MVP scene-stealer, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, also returns to the X-Men: Apocalypse cast.
For his part, McAvoy has said that he expects to be bald in the new movie. And this image below seems to indicate he lived up to his dream.
However, the line-up is also going to include mutants we have seen before with new, young faces filling the roles. DoFP surely left an open invitation when time traveling Logan told Xavier to find and unite Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Storm.
We saw as early as March 2014 Singer suggesting that he wanted “familiar characters in a younger time.” However, the names he initially gave in an interview a month later were Gambit and Nightcrawler. We have since confirmed that Gambit will not be in X-Men: Apocalypse, although Channing Tatum has signed on to play the Ragin’ Cajun. Tatum has stated he wants to introduce his version of Remy LeBeau in a standalone film first before a team-up.
Still, younger versions of Cyclops, Jean, and Storm remained a definite with its 1980s backdrop. This was of course confirmed in January 2015 when Bryan Singer announced that Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones) would play Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan (Mud) would play Scott “Cyclops” Summers, and Alexandra Shipp (Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B) would be Storm. Assuming, X-Men: Apocalypse is a hit, this is a decade-long boon to stardom for all three young actors.
While we also are being greeted by a fan favorite character of Nightcrawler again, played by Let Me In’s Kodi Smit-McPhee. Smit-McPhee told us exclusively that he will be playing a more comic book accurate version of Nightcrawler in the upcoming film than has ever been seen on screen before
It appears that Hugh Jackman will at most cameo as Wolverine in the X-Men: Apocalypse cast. Indeed, he has gone from talking about filming both this and Wolverine 3 back-to-back to no longer doing publicity about the picture. However, it seems likely he’ll still cameo since it was broken that he was in Montreal during the production of Apocalypse. Logan as a Horseman of the Apocalypse seems unlikely at this point, especially since Hardy has all but been confirmed now to play Archangel.
Olivia Munn will play Psylocke in the film, and she clearly wants fans to know that she is pushing herself to make Psylocke’s martial arts abilities every bit as threatening as her psi-blades. Thus enter the dojo again for Ms. Munn’s third online video that showcases her fighting skills as Psylocke, the telekinetic mutant who will join the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the latest X-Men film!
Ben Hardy is playing Warren Worthington, known as the Angel. But the concept art that has surfaced indicates that he’s going to become Apocalypse’s horseman, Archangel.
Remarkably indicating changing attitudes on superhero films at 20th Century Fox, X-Men: Apocalypse, a big budget follow-up to X-Men: Days of Future Past, was greenlit with seeds sown by Bryan Singer in December 2013—over half a year out from the aforementioned time traveling X-movie. Singer tweeted that revelation with just the words “#Xmen” and “#Apocalypse.” Official announcement soon followed that the movie would be released on May 27, 2016, almost two years to the day after Days of Future Past’s release.
Singer surprised fans several weeks later with a new photo displaying the X-Men: Apocalypse writing team. While Days of Future Past’s screenplay was solely written by the series’ increasingly important executive producer, Simon Kinberg (from a story also co-authored by X-Men: First Class’ Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman), the X-Men: Apocalypse screenplay also has Singer with a writing credit—as well as Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris. Yep, the two scribes that helped pen Singer’s first X-epic with X2 (as well as Superman Returns) have returned to the genre. Also, for horror geeks, during their absence Dougherty also wrote and directed the once-and-future Halloween cult classic Trick ‘r Treat.
By March 2014, Singer was already talking up the X-Men: Apocalypse plot in addition to Days of Future Past, feeding fans tantalizing morsels like the next film would be set in the 1980s. After some ambiguity, Bryan Singer was officially confirmed as the X-Men: Apocalypse director in September of 2014, clearing the path to X-Men: Apocalypse filming.
X-Men: Apocalypse Release Date
X-Men: Apocalypse arrives on May 27, 2016.
The following images (as well as many others in this piece) come to us courtesy of Entertainment Weekly and Empire.