Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for X-Men: Apocalypse
Perhaps the most comic book-y comic book movie that director Bryan Singer has ever made, X-Men: Apocalypse is in theaters now and has conquered the box office on its opening weekend. Those the reviews have been somewhat mixed, and it may not be the strongest entry in the X-Men movie universe, X-Men: Apocalypse nonetheless boasts some really great and memorable scenes as it chronicles the arrival of ancient mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) in the 20th century, and the X-Men’s efforts to prevent him from “cleansing” the world.
On Apocalypse’s side are his four horsemen: Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy). Team X-Men includes Professor X (James McAvoy), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) – along with CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne). With all those superpowers coming together, things were bound to get a little awesome.
From bombastic displays of mutant abilities to smaller character moments, here’s our rundown of the 15 best scenes of X-Men: Apocalypse.
Death to the False God
Since X-Men: Apocalypse is the first movie in the series to be named after its villain, it only seems right that Apocalypse should get a really big intro. The movie sets the stage for Oscar Isaac’s god-mutant by starting out in Ancient Egypt, showing the final day of his reign as he heads to a great pyramid to transfer his consciousness and powers into a new body. Accompanied by his four horsemen – Death (Monique Ganderton), War (Fraser Aitcheson), Pestilence (Warren Scherer) and Famine (Rochelle Okoye) – Apocalypse travels through a vast crowd of worshippers encased in a heavy costume – perhaps to disguise how frail he has become in his current body’s old age. The betrayal by his soldiers plays out in a fast-paced and violent sequence that shows off the horsemen’s different powers – which include twisting human bodies up like a pretzel, and instantly desiccating them.
X-Men Through the Ages
A long-time staple of the X-Men movies is the opening credits sequence, and X-Men: Apocalypse definitely delivers on this front, using the transition from Ancient Egypt to the 20th century as an opportunity to incorporate flashes of different time periods into the dizzying intro. Sure, it’s a little bit cheesy, but that classic X-Men movie theme never fails to set the mood, and it’s hard not to love an intro sequence that summarizes World War II by flashing up a swastika and then showing it exploding into pieces.
Cyclops’ Bad Bathroom Break
One of the best things about superhero movies is watching characters get their powers for the first time, and X-Men: Apocalypse is no exception. Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops is trying to concentrate in class when he feels his eyes itching and burning – and his reaction leads a nearby jock to accuse him of “winking at my girl.” When Scott dashes to the bathroom for some respite, the jock follows him and begins rattling the door violently – not the best thing to do to a newly emerging mutant, as the bully discovers when Scott unleashes the full power of his optic blasts and smashes both door and jock into the opposite wall. Though the scene ends there, we have to assume that the subsequent trip to the principal’s office was a little awkward.
Mutant Cage Fight
Speculation as to which comic book character would win in a fight is a popular topic among superhero fans, so perhaps it’s no surprise that a more literal version of this has emerged in the grubby underground world of X-Men: Apocalypse‘s 1980s setting. Angel and Nightcrawler, along with numerous other mutants, are captured and forced to fight one another inside an electrified cage while a flamboyant emcee gets the crowd whipped up. It’s brutal and inhumane, but also great entertainment – both for the gathered crowd, and for the movie audience watching. It also demonstrates just how dangerous the usually friendly and mild-mannered Nightcrawler can get when threatened, as his first real attempt to fight back leaves Angel’s wings badly damaged by the wall of the cage.
Nightcrawler’s Visit to Caliban
Easily one of the standout stars of X-Men: Apocalypse is Kodi Smit-McPhee, who manages to perfectly capture the good-natured, goofy and slightly tragic character of Nightcrawler that Alan Cumming first brought to the big screen in X2. Despite obviously having led a difficult life, Kurt still grins happily for his first passport photo, and his personality provides a nice counterweight to the grim seriousness of Mystique and the sly nature of Caliban. Mystique is all set to send Kurt off to live his own life, but when Caliban tells her that Magneto has resurfaced and is on the run from the law, she decides that having a teleporter close by will come in useful. Interestingly the movie doesn’t give any indication that Nightcrawler is Mystique’s son, as is the case in comic book canon, but perhaps that’s something we’ll find out in a future film.
Like Father, Like Daughter
X-Men: Apocalypse contains plenty of nods to previous X-Men movies, most notably Singer’s very first entry in the series, which was released all the way back in 2000. That movie’s opening scene showed a young Magneto being taken with his family to Auschwitz, and unleashing his powers for the first time when rocked by the emotional trauma of seeing his parents taken away. There’s an homage to this scene, especially the imagery of young Erik’s outstretched fingers, when his daughter Nina attempts to save her father from being arrested by Polish police after his true identity is uncovered. The young mutant uses her powers to send the forest birds into a frenzy, but in doing so causes a policeman to fire an arrow, killing both Nina and her mother. It’s a tense sequence that ends in tragedy, and a key character moment for Erik.
Some of Apocalypse’s lieutenants are transformed more radically than others, with Storm getting her hair turned white while Psylocke is simply given a much tighter outfit. Easily the most extreme transformation, however, goes to Angel, who is discovered by the ancient mutant with his original wings burnt and broken in the wake of the cage fight. In a gruesome sequence reminiscent of body horror movies, Apocalypse uses his powers to reshape Angel’s body, with bones bursting out of his back to form the framework of his new metal wings. It’s just the right mix of gross and cool, made even more so by the Metallica song blasting in the background.
“Who the F— Are You?”
Ever since Wolverine told Charles and Erik “Go f— yourself” in his extremely brief X-Men: First Class cameo, Singer has made sure to include the one F-bomb per movie that the MPAA will let him get away with, without pushing the X-Men movies into R-rated territory. There is something a little hilarious about seeing a blue man and his groupies emerge from a purple portal as Magneto prepares to make his factory co-workers feel the anguish of losing his family, so for better or worse his reaction of “Who the f— are you?” helps to lighten the mood a little – even before Apocalypse reduces everyone else in the room to nothing but a few comically grotesque leftover body parts.
Magneto Destroys Auschwitz
In addition to paying homage to X-Men’s opening scene, X-Men: Apocalypse actually takes Magneto back to where everything started. Deciding that there’s no better place to let the mutant first experience the full reach of his powers, Apocalypse teleports his four horsemen to Auschwitz so that Magneto can face his traumatic past. It ends up being quite a dramatic therapy session, as Magneto pulls metal out of the earth itself and uses it to reduce Auschwitz to rubble – the first act of destruction on a path that will eventually lead Magneto to almost rip apart the world itself.
An Old Flame
The CIA would probably be pretty uncomfortable if they knew just how easy it was for a mutant to walk (well, wheel) into Langley and straight into the office of senior agent Moira MacTaggert. After using his powers to casually freeze all of Moira’s coworkers, Charles then engages in an endearingly clumsy catch-up conversation, attempting to disguise the fact that he already knows her very well (since Moira’s memories of him were wiped at the end of X-Men: First Class). A highlight of the conversation is Charles fumbling his words and asking Moira if her son has a husband (he doesn’t).
I See You
As someone who regularly waltzes across the minds of the world using Cerebro, Charles Xavier is pretty used to looking inside other people’s minds. What he’s not so used to is people looking back. When the Professor uses Cerebro to locate Magneto, Apocalypse becomes aware of what’s going on and uses the connection to take control of Charles. It’s a chilling and brilliantly executed moment in which Oscar Isaac goes from gazing around to suddenly spiking the camera with Apocalypse’s glowing white eyes, perfectly capturing the feeling of being a buttefly caught on a pin that Charles no doubt feels.
After the hugely positive reception that X-Men: Days of Future Past‘s “Time in a Bottle” slow-mo scene got, there was no way that Singer wasn’t going to do something similar with Quicksilver’s second outing. X-Men: Apocalypse‘s scene is, predictably, quite a bit bigger; instead of just having to save Professor X, Magneto and Wolverine from a few flying bullets, he has to evacuate an entire school full of mutant kids and teachers in the time it takes for an explosion to blow that school apart. As Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” pulses in the background, Quicksilver dashes around the school, with the camera occasionally getting uncomfortably close to the flapping faces of characters as they are rushed out to a safe distance. He even saves the school pets – some goldfish and a dog – and rescues a girl from what looks like a very bad first kiss. He doesn’t get there in time to rescue Havok from the explosion, but other than that it’s a pretty good effort.
Weapon X is Loose
Singer couldn’t resist including series mainstay Wolverine in X-Men: Apocalypse, and while he’s not in the movie for long, he does a lot of damage (fortunately not to the good guys) in his appearance, rushing down the halls of the Weapon X facility and slaughtering any guard unfortunate enough to get in his way. Featuring some of the bloodier moments of the movie, the scene also works as a tantalizing tease for the next Wolverine solo movie, which is expected to earn an R rating. The final farewell, with Cyclops saying that he hopes they never run into that guy again, is a little bit on-the-nose, but other than that this sequence is a clear highlight of the movie.
Phoenix vs. Apocalypse
How do you defeat a mutant who has been around for thousands of years and amassed a huge amount of power? Not easily, as the X-Men learn when they head out to rescue Professor X from being turned into Apocalypse’s next host. In the end it takes the combined powers of a few different mutants to put an end to this powerful foe, but what finally strips away his defenses (and the rest of him) is Jean Grey unleashing the power of the Phoenix and screaming as she tears him apart – all while standing on thin air, because everything looks cooler when you’re flying.
Not Students Any More
We all love Professor X’s optimism that mankind and mutantkind will one day get along peacefully, but it’s hard not to love him just a little bit more when he shows that he’s ready for the alternative. As Charles tells Erik that he feels “a great swell of pity for the poor soul that comes to my school looking for trouble” – echoing a line from X2 – Mystique assembles the fresh new team of X-Men in the Danger Room as she prepares to turn them from students into warriors – ready to battle threats from humans and mutants alike, starting with some Sentinels that have apparently been kept in storage.
BONUS: Jean Grey Using Cyclops’ Head Like a Turret
This scene apparently ended up on the cutting room floor, but we’re really hoping it will be included on the home video release.
Did you have a favorite moment in X-Men: Apocalypse? Think there’s something we missed? Let us know know in the comments, and don’t forget to check out our review of the movie for a look at both the good and the bad.
X-Men: Apocalypse is now playing in theaters. Wolverine 3 opens in U.S. theaters on March 3rd, 2017, followed by unannounced X-Men films on October 6th, 2017 (possibly Gambit), January 12th, 2018 (possibly Deadpool 2), and July 13th, 2018 (possibly New Mutants). X-Force is also in development.