When the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer released last week we quickly analyzed it to compare the scenes and dialogue to what we knew of the film (see it here). As a teaser, most of the details regarding character motivations were left unclear. But we're going to help rectify that with the help of director Bryan Singer.
Speaking with Empire to breakdown the X-Men: Apocalypse teaser scene by scene, Singer helps clarify some of the shots, what Apocalypse means for the franchise, and the role of the new and returning characters.
A Vision of Apocalypse
In the opening scene of Jean Grey's apocalyptic vision of the future, there's a figure seemingly walking through the X-door to Cerebro. That figure is Jean and not Apocalypse.
“Her hair makes her a little strange looking! But I don’t want to explain why she’s doing what she’s doing…”
When Charles (James McAvoy) responds by saying it's just a dream, the film will feature him speaking in a "less sincere" tone. What we saw was just for the trailer.
Bryan Singer was originally supposed to helm X-Men: The Last Stand which would have adapted the Phoenix Saga from Marvel Comics, where Jean Grey becomes host to the greatest power the planet has ever seen. He passed on the film to direct Superman Returns instead and we all know how that went for both Supes and the X-Men series. By practically erasing the events of the worst X-Men movies with the time-travel Days of Future Past story and reintroducing the original X-Men characters, he gets a second chance at everything. Jean's a big part of the future of the franchise and this next line from him hints at what we can only assume is a reference to the Phoenix:
“It’s all about their potential. Jean has a special connection with Xavier, she has a special connection with the psychic world and she has enormous untapped power that’s growing.”
Art from Bryan Singer's take on Phoenix from X-Men 3. Source: UniversoXmen.
What Does Apocalypse Want?
From the post-credits button at the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past and the brief shot of a pyramid in ancient Egypt, X-Men: Apocalypse will spend at least some time in the past to explain the origin of En Sabah Nur and how he was the first mutant. We learn through exposition that it is this character who was worshiped as Ra, Krishna, Yahweh, among other gods through the millenia. That's what he desires and demands. As for why, and why in the '80s has he awakened to fulfill his god complex, Singer would only say:
“What is a God? Why would someone create and rule over a race simply to be worshipped? It bears no respect or devotion to him – that’s the big giant ego of the old God. All of it lacks symmetry, order and devotion to him. It needs to be culled. It needs to be wiped away and rebuilt again.”
Criticisms of Apocalypse's Design
When the design of Oscar Isaac's Apocalypse costume was first revealed, reaction was mixed. He was too small, some comic book readers complained, his eyes looked too normal, and he was compared to Power Rangers villain Ivan Ooze. When analyzing the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer we speculated that it could be this reaction that made Singer and the studio reduce the amount of screen time Apocalypse gets in the trailer compared to the San Diego Comic-Con footage in July where he was much more prominent. In fact, outside of one shot near the end of the trailer, every other shot of Apocalypse conceals his face, and that was by design according to Singer:
“It forces you to look at not just his face, but his costume, the scale, the strangeness, the inscription, the technology. It makes you want to lean around the corner to get a better look.”
As for the negative feedback to that first official reveal of Apocalypse:
“That was a picture, and there were no visual effects. He’s a very powerful and imposing character and Oscar acts the shit out of it.”
The Summers Family
Despite some questionable timeline issues when it comes to the ages of these characters, Alex "Havok" Summers (Lucas Till) is the brother of Scott "Cyclops" Summers (Tye Sheridan) in X-Men: Apocalypse. They were originally not when the '60s set X-Men: First Class debuted in 2011 and Singer (who produced that flick) said "It wouldn't physically fit for him to be the brother of Cyclops. We take some liberties on that." Of course, the argument can be made that each film is in a slightly different timeline and that may be the only way to make sense of the continuity errors.
Havok was part of a mutant special forces team in Vietnam serving for William Stryker until Mystique set them free in the 1973 set X-Men: Days of Future Past and Singer explains what he's been up to in the decade since:
“Alex has been out in the world. [Charles] decides to go with Alex to see Moira, so Hank can run the school while he’s gone.” The event that’s brought Alex back into Charles’ world? He’s just arrived at Xavier’s school with his younger brother, Scott. “Who’s completely blind, he can’t even see.”
What has Magneto been up to since Charles let him escape a decade earlier after attacking the President? And why would he, as a leader himself, serve Apocalypse?
“He’s found Erik at the most vulnerable place in his life. He’s searching for God. Remember, he was a young Jew in a concentration camp when he first lost his family and now here comes this man who was, is, or claims to be God. The power of persuasion is Apocalypse’s greatest power.”
“He’s one of the most pivotal characters. Fassbender really delivers here in non-traditional comic book style. There are scenes here you will not see in any other comic book movie. I really think Erik goes through one of the most complex journeys in the movie.”
We're wondering how much time of this busy film is spent on him reconnecting with his son Quicksilver or if that will even be revealed.
Mystique's character has seen plenty of screen time in the prequel movies along with a very different character arc to the version played by Rebecca Romijn in the original X-Men trilogy. That's largely due to Jennifer Lawrence being one of the biggest Hollywood stars ever and an Oscar-worthy talent. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, she was working alone to save mutants and to assassinate Trask but she made the heroic decision at the end before recovering Wolverine's body for unknown reasons.
In X-Men: Apocalypse, Mystique returns to help Charles and helps lead the X-Men.
“She works alone. The very last thing she wants to be is in charge of a group of young mutants. But we find everybody at a certain place in the movie and take them to the very opposite of where they started.”
We want to know what she's been up to for the last decade, what brought her back into the fold, and of course, what she did with Wolverine.
Jubilee doesn't have a major role in X-Men: Apocalypse. Sadly, she's never had a major role in any of the X-Men movies despite having appeared in quite a few deleted scenes of the first two X-Men movies from the early 2000s.
There was a version of the Apocalypse script where she wasn't in it at all which explains why we don't see her suited up alongside her fellow students in the field but Singer explains that he wanted Jubilee in this movie because she's a "part of the growing new universe."
The odd-looking mutant Caliban makes a brief appearance in the first X-Men: Apocalypse trailer. In the books he lives among the Morlocks who are mutants hiding underground, away from society. The dark environment hints that this will be the same in the film, as well as Caliban's ability to seek out other mutants. That's why we're thinking Apocalypse is seeking him out - so he can locate and recruit his Four Horsemen.
“Caliban’s bald and has funky eyes. He’s a great character. Really cool.”
Forming The New X-Men
While Singer and producer Simon Kinberg have repeatedly described X-Men: Apocalypse as a conclusion of the X-Men: First Class trilogy, they also say it's the true birth of the X-Men, hence the inclusion and recasting of younger versions of the original team who will eventually be led by Cyclops and Storm.
“This movie is about the formation of the X-Men. How do you get all these characters who are in different places in their lives to become the X-Men? That’s the challenge of the movie.”
“It was important to show that these are kids. There’s no way anybody can get in there but them, and do what needs to be done, and yet they’re kids.”
The Final Battle Against Apocalypse
An interesting shot in the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer features En Sabah Nur block a punch from Charles before growing massive in size and crushing him to the floor of the X-Mansion. This scene could be a psychic battle in the Astral Plane, as we speculated in our trailer analysis, since Apocalypse size-shifting looks strange and Charles isn't in his wheelchair. Bryan Singer would only say:
“The two of them really go at it. The end of the movie becomes an all-out battle with a force that’s very formidable. He’s a hard man to break, Apocalypse. It’s why he thinks he’s God.”
“It’s part of the mythology of Apocalypse’s size, but I couldn’t go full Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man where he’s just Giant Apocalypse, swatting at things. I did something a little interesting in how I addressed the size thing, but I think the audience will get a kick out of it.”
As for the scenes of mass scale destruction at the end of the trailer, Singer explains that it's a worldwide assault (we suspect at the hands of the powered-up Four Horsemen):
“It’s not just New York, it’s all over the world. They’ll be visually different than things you’ve seen in these kinds of destructive movies, like Roland Emmerich’s films or Michael Bay’s. There are large-scale setpieces.”
The End of Core X-Men Movies
The end of the trailer, with the reveal of bald James McAvoy, is actually a tease at the end of the trilogy and the end of the saga that Bryan Singer started with 2000's X-Men movie.
“I wanted to remind the audience that this isn’t just the climax of three movies. It’s the climax of six movies, beginning with X-Men 1.”
And to really connect it to Patrick Stewart's Professor X from the previous films, Singer said the production actually purchased the original chair from a collector. As for what he's looking at in this final scene when he stares into the camera, it's something that'll be revealed:
“He’s not looking at the camera. He’s looking at something else. And that’s in the film. You’ll see it.”
We're hoping it's the full X-Men roster after defeating Apocalypse, all wearing colorful uniforms from the comics, paving he way for the next Bryan Singer X-Men movie reportedly shooting in Montreal for a 2018 release.