To the casual fans, she's known simply as Psylocke, one of the Four Horsemen set to terrorize the X-Men in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse. But to the devoted fans of Marvel Comics, she's Betsy Braddock, first and foremost. And for all the fan service and unforgettable mutants that director Bryan Singer has brought to life, one hard truth has still risen to the surface: fans are often safest keeping their expectations to a minimum.
That isn't an indictment of the X-Men series, since the live-action takes on Professor X, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and more recently, Quicksilver, have all earned their place in comic book movie history. But when it comes to the supporting stars, be they fan-favorites like Deadpool, Gambit, or even Storm herself, a single film apparently isn't enough to do an origin story justice.
We've wondered if the trend would continue, and give some of the new mutant stars the short end of the characterization stick in Apocalypse, and Psylocke may be a frontrunner in that department. We got the opportunity to discuss the character's new movie origin, the comic book compromises, and potential future with actress Olivia Munn, and will hopefully give fans some information, if not a verdict on how faithful or successful Psylocke's trip to the big screen will prove.
The Original Psylocke aka Betsy Braddock
Although X-Men fans can recite Psylocke's origin story from memory, the casual fans may need some background. We'll keep it brief, since her history - like most members of Marvel's mutant universe - gets complicated fast. But she begins her comic story as Elizabeth 'Betsy' Braddock, the twin sister to Brian Braddock (Captain Britain). After trying her hand at superheroics like her brother, and even taking up his title for a time, it was only a brush with mind control which woke up Betsy's innate telepathic abilities.
A long period of balancing her psychic abilities with a modeling career and civilian identity followed, eventually seeing Betsy lose her eyes in battle. Cybernetic eyes fixed that problem, and a chain of body-swapping and mind control saw Betsy add telepathic abilities to her skillset. Given the new name 'Psylocke', a future with the X-Men, X-Force, and a signature 'psychic knife' sent her well on the way to becoming a fan-favorite killing machine.
The Movie's Big Changes
Even though Olivia Munn was initially announced to be playing 'Betsy Braddock,' the marketing that soon followed made it clear she would be well on her way to becoming Psylocke by the time she was introduced as a Horseman of Apocalypse. In our time on set, the suspicions that her origin story would be left off-screen were confirmed - but Munn explained that as a fan of the character, it hadn't been forgotten entirely:
"Well, I've loved Psylocke. When I came in... it's funny, I heard Bryan [Singer say] in interviews that I knew more about Psylocke than he did. And to me, that was so strange because I think I felt like everybody [knew about her]!
"I was like, "you know, there is that storyline"… I was really big about staying so true to Psylocke. In fact, I was like, "Um, actually, she's Psylocke because of the alien that took her body. She took on the name Psylocke because that was the alien's name. And she becomes Psylocke after the Apocalypse," but they're like, "Stop talking." Okay, never mind. I mean, I literally wrote a paragraph at the end of [an email], "Do you guys want to fire me now? Am I too nerdy?""
In most cases, an actor or actress' legitimate love for a comic book character can win droves of fans to their side, as opposed to a writer/actor/director with no previous knowledge. That isn't to say that familiarity or affection means the resulting movie or character will actually be better, but it's always nice to know that the role is in appreciative, if not necessarily 'perfect' hands. Munn was quick to show off her dedication to the part in the form of hours upon hours of sword training, but fans will still bristle at the idea that Braddock's origin story is essentially being skipped over.
For her part, Munn seemed aware of the inevitable fan reactions to her missing modeling career, ties to Captain Britain, and - yes - even her British accent:
"There are some things we have to go, "Okay. Well, she was Psylocke after the Apocalypse storyline but here we are." I want to be in the movie so I'm like "that's just something that you can completely ignore." That's the only thing. It's a little bit of timeline there. Then the accent is something that I did think about. It's another thing that was really fun, to be able to learn and have the [dialect] coach with you and learn. It's another skill. I was like, "There's so many British people in the movie," and that accent was like, "...maybe throw it back to America.""