X-Men: Days of Future Past gave the X-Men movie franchise a much-needed soft reboot – one which offers the opportunity to create a new vision for how the modern day X-Men team – including Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm – first came together. In X-Men: Apocalypse we will see a younger version of the X-Men battle a major new threat: the ancient and powerful mutant villain, Apocalypse.
Apocalypse will be portrayed onscreen by Oscar Isaac, who has jumped from supporting roles in films like Robin Hood (2010) and Sucker Punch, to acclaimed indie fare like Drive and Inside Llewyn Davis, to now headlining Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015 and an X-Men movie the very next year. Needless to say, for hardcore geeks Isaac is a figure of much interest right now – and today he’s talking about just what version of Apocalypse we will get in the movie.
Osar Isaac sat down with IGN‘s Roth Cornet to discuss bringing Apocalypse from the comic page to the screen, covering everything from powers, to story, to those four horsemen you may have noticed at the end of DoFP. Watch the interview below, then read on for our breakdown of Isaac’s words.
Culling A Weak World
Fans of X-Men Comics know that En Sabah Nur (aka Apocalypse) has one mantra that rules his existence: The weak must be culled from the strong. Survival of the fittest.
For Apocalypse, this means the strongest mutants battling to ascend to their rightful place as the dominators of civilization, while humans and weaker mutants are eradicated in the process. According to Oscar Isaac, Apocalypse’s dark Darwinian views will have special resonance in the era of the 1980s, in which the film is set:
“On an individual level he’s able to reveal the true power of his Horsemen and what’s true to them. And I think to reveal the weakness – how weak we’ve become. Because this is an ancient entity. So to come to – I think 1983 – and say, ‘How did the world become so weak? How did we allow ourselves to become to weak and to enslave ourselves.’ I think that’s where he’s coming from.”
In the comics, Apocalypse spends eras of time in a stasis chamber, allowing him to survive through centuries until he reawakens – usually at points of great importance or change. The 1980s is an era now defined by the onset of consumer culture and the luxuries that it afforded – luxuries and comforts that Apocalypse would likely frown upon. It’s also a time when mutants of great power – Storm, Jean Grey – are coming into their own, presenting a perfect recruitment opportunity for Apocalypse.
The Four Horsemen
True to his name, Apocalypse keeps four horsemen at his side (along with other servants); typically, these horsemen are mutants that Apocalypse uses his vast knowledge and advanced technology to transform into avatars of War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. In X-Men comics, major characters like Angel and Wolverine have fallen victim to Apocalypse’s “makeover” process and become horsemen – and even when the process is reversed, the lingering effect of Apocalypse’s influence can be corrupting.
Other mutants, however, have not needed to be forcibly coerced into horsemen service – for mutants like tracker/hunter Caliban, Apocalypse was a welcome means of becoming something stronger. According to Oscar Issac, that lure of having mutants realize their potential (even in a destructive way) will be something that X-Men: Apocalypse will deal with:
Without giving anything away, the recruitment of the Four Horsemen is very cool. It’s very interesting the way that he does that. You know the idea of – the way that cult leaders do – they find people that are in need of something and try to fulfill that thing in them – as it relates to every one of the Horseman.”
We already got a look at the Four Horsemen during the post-credit scene of Days of Future Past; however, that was in ancient Egyptian times when En Sabah Nur was a boy. By the 1980s, Apocalypse will probably need new horsemen, and based on director Bryan Singer’s early reveals, Archangel (original X-Man Angel (played by Ben Hardy in the film) transformed to a flying hunter/killer with metallic wings) is definitely in the cards. Fans have been waiting a long time to see the Apocalypse/Archangel saga onscreen.
The Power of Apocalypse
Apocalypse is one X-Men character who has been able to get away with having a convoluted set of mutant abilities – powers that seem to grow more elaborate with each passing decade. Just check out the Wikipedia listing for what this villain can do:
“[Apocalypse] has total control over the molecules of his body, enabling him to alter his form as it suits him, such as allowing his body to become extremely malleable and flexible or change its size, enhance his physical abilities, transform his limbs into weapons, wings, or jets, regenerate from fatal injuries, adapt his body to apparently any disease or hostile environment, and give himself virtually any physical superhuman power The character is also able to project and absorb energy, and has displayed telepathy and telekinesis. Apocalypse is as well capable of technopathy, able to directly interface with the various technologies he has at his disposal. Thanks to the aid of his mutant abilities, special “regeneration” chambers, and changing bodies, Apocalypse has made himself effectively immortal.”
In other words: he’s nearly unstoppable.
So how much of that – the Mr. Fantastic-style body manipulation, Mystique-style shape-shifting, psychic powers, technology – will make it into the film? It’s already been said that both practical effects and CGI will be used to transform Isaac into Apocalypse – but what, specifically will his abilities be? The actor could share this much when asked if that was a big discussion with writer Simon Kinberg and director Bryan Singer:
“Absolutely. And at the same time figuring out what the limits are and how it relates to how he moves and what it costs him. That’s always a fun thing. So to be able to sit with Simon Kinberg and – as a fan – just go through it and be like, ‘Well what about this!?! You know, this is something that he does in the comics and is there a way to incorporate this? Or if he has this power suddenly how do we make that not come out of nowhere?’ So it’s really fun to map that thing out. But yes, the nature of how his powers manifest themselves is to a certain extent quite open to interpretation. Because there are so many and they are so vast.”
A villain with limitless abilities isn’t super interesting – and explaining powers as varied as Apocalypse’s could be downright difficult. In the DoFP post-credits scene, the villain’s younger self is seen manipulating stones telekinetically in order to build the Pyramids, so that seems like a confirmed ability he will have (an interesting counter to young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Prof X’s abilities. Energy absorption and projection would be a good counter to powers wielded by young Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), young Storm (Alexandra Shipp) or Magneto; and come on! Having Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) finally getting tricked/outmaneuvered by a rival shape-shifter would also be pretty fun to watch.
In an older interview, Isaac revealed that body manipulation (like shape-shifting) is pretty much a lock, as far as Apocalypse’s powers go in the film:
“(The costume) hasn’t been figured out yet, but one of his major powers is being able to change all the molecules in his body. So I’ll be changing all the molecules in my body… It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
Given Apocalypse’s long life span, it wouldn’t be hard to simply offer some throwaway explanation that he augmented his original powers with decades of research and advanced technology. In fact, there are no doubt many fans out there hoping that Apocalypse’s “research and development” was perhaps helped along by a brilliant geneticist named Nathaniel Essex, who was transformed by Apocalypse into the near-immortal Mr. Sinister, and manipulates mutant evolution from the shadows.
All in all, it sounds like Isaac, Kinberg and company are really delving into the comic book source material to build their movie version of Apocalypse. We’ll have to wait for the first official images of Isaac as the villain to see what they’ve accomplished.
X-Men: Apocalypse will bring back James McAvoy as Prof. X, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Evan Peters as Quicksilver, Lucas Till as Havok and Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert. Joining the cast are Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, Tye Sheridan as Young Cyclops, Alexandra Shipp as young Storm, Sophie Turner as young Jean Grey, Kodi Smit-McPhee as young Nightcrawler, Lana Condor as Jubilee, Ben Hardy as Angel and Olivia Munn as Psylocke. X-Men Apocalypse is written Simon Kinberg (Days of Future Past, Fantastic Four), Dan Harris (X2) and Michael Dougherty (X2), and is directed by Bryan Singer.
Fantastic Four opens August 7th, 2015, Deadpool on February 12, 2016, X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016, Gambit on October 7 2016, Wolverine 3 (not the official title) on March 3rd, 2017, Fantastic Four 2 on June 9th, 2017, and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13th, 2018.