So far, 2016 is proving to be an important year in Hollywood's three major superhero franchises, with the premieres of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse all having significant impacts on their individual universes. In the last few weeks, we've seen the first full-length trailer for Civil War, a new trailer for Batman V Superman, and the first footage from X-Men: Apocalypse, each of which offered hints at these universe-changing installments.
X-Men Apocalypse will be the biggest film in the franchise's history to date and act as a culmination to the stories of the prequel trilogy stars, who will pass the torch of the franchise off to a new generation of mutants. Following the conclusion of the original X-Men trilogy that began in 2000 and ended in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand, 20th Century Fox rebooted the franchise with a prequel series starting in X-Men: First Class. The second prequel film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, created a new timeline, essentially erasing the original trilogy from the continuity and allowing for new versions of mutants that previously appeared.
The first trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse focused primarily on the four main characters of the prequel trilogy: Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy), Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven Darkholme/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Although the trailer introduced each of the the new mutants joining the universe, they were featured less, largely in establishing shots or action sequences, with only a few lines of dialogue. So if the film is meant to usher in the "true birth of the X-Men" as explained by the film's director, Bryan Singer, will we see enough of the new mutants in X-Men: Apocalypse to earn that reveal - and future installments starring the new generation?
The New Mutants
X-Men: Apocalypse will introduce a whole host of new mutants, including younger versions of those that appeared in Fox's original X-Men trilogy like Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Ororo Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Warren Worthington/Angel (Ben Hardy). Also joining the universe are Elizabeth Braddock/Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Jubilation Lee/Jubilee (Lana Condor) - both of whom had cameos in the original X-Men trilogy - as well as the titular villain En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac).
In terms of larger character arcs for these characters, we don't know much about how each of the young mutants will be developed in X-Men: Apocalypse. Sheridan has spoken in the past about the development of Scott from an angry teenager still learning to use his powers into the mutant who becomes a member of the X-Men. It was also confirmed by Singer that Scott will be the brother of Alex Summers/Havok, who first appeared in First Class played by Lucas Till. Additionally, Smit-McPhee has described his incarnation of Nightcrawler as "fun, happy" and a version of the character that hasn’t accepted the violent nature of being a superhero. As for Jean, we know that in X-Men: Apocalypse she will suffer from debilitating visions and, given the similarities in their powers, will be mentored by Professor X.
During Comic-Con International in San Diego this summer it was revealed that Storm, Angel, and Psylocke will be members of Apocalypse's Four Horsemen team, and Angel will make the transformation to Archangel. The trailer has confirmed that Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler will be part of the official X-Men team - with Mystique acting as their leader - but the nature of Jubilee's role in X-Men Apocalypse remains to be seen.
With such an expansive cast and large-scale storyline - as the heroes must prevent Apocalypse from wiping out mankind and establishing a new world order - it's difficult to see how X-Men: Apocalypse will be able to introduce all the young mutants and give them compelling emotional character arcs while also serving to conclude the stories of Magneto, Professor X, Mystique, and Beast. However, if the film is unable to develop these new mutants authentically enough, the feature, and the franchise as a whole, run the risk of hanging their new X-Men team on a group of characters that garner excitement based more on their comic book counterparts than earned character development.
To this end, the first trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse doesn't offer much in the way of reassurances. Although all the new mutants appear in the first footage from the film, only Jean and Cyclops actually have any lines, while the others are simply featured in establishing shots or brief action scenes.
Jean's scene in the trailer does work toward establishing the stakes of the heroes' fight with Apocalypse, and Cyclops' line helps to identify his character as a mutant still hesitant to use his powers. Archangel and Storm's moments of the trailer are some of the more exciting action beats, especially for those fans who are excited for the new incarnations of these characters. But, others like Nightcrawler, Jubilee, and Psylocke are largely underserved in the trailer.
In a recent interview with Empire when Singer spoke about this first teaser, the director revealed an early cut of the trailer didn't have Jubilee in it. He went on to explain that the mutant's role in the overall film isn't very big: “I very specifically put Jubilee in. There was one cut that did not have her in it – her role is not particularly large, but she is a part of the growing new universe.”
Of course, with so many other characters it's to be expected that not every new mutant in X-Men Apocalypse will get as much screen time as Professor X and Magneto or even Jean Grey and Cyclops. However, Singer's comment and the lack of the young mutants in the trailer point toward a problem some viewers had with Days of Future Past: that certain mutants were included largely for the cinematic nature of their powers, not as developed characters.
Days of Future Past featured the mutants Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Sunspot (Adan Canto), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart) as part of the sequences set in the future apocalyptic world - that's eventually overwritten by the actions of Wolverine and those in the past. Given the large ensemble cast in the film, these characters didn’t receive much screen time outside of their action sequences and lacked any real character development or emotional depth.
Since Apocalypse will be the largest X-Men film to date and the trailer fails to focus very much on its new characters, it seems possible that mutants like Jubilee, Nightcrawler, and Psylocke may also lack an emotional depth that will create compelling story arcs. Though it's certainly early days to be making any definitive statements about the characters or how they'll appear in X-Men: Apocalypse, the first trailer doesn't offer much assurance that it will introduce and establish these young mutants as a new and worthy generation of X-Men.
This trailer is only the first footage from X-Men: Apocalypse and it seems likely that Singer and the studio specifically chose to focus on the returning characters since this will be the culmination to their trilogy. There's also an argument to be made that Professor X/McAvoy and Magneto/Fassbender will draw in more viewers than new and unestablished characters. So, while the trailer offers a tease of what can be expected about the final film, it’s not a hard and fast indication of the new mutants having diminished roles in X-Men: Apocalypse.
Singer's choice to specifically include Jubilee in the trailer seems to hint that the newcomers could play much more significant roles in the film than we're led to believe by the footage. Certainly, it already seems as though Jean Grey and Scott Summers will have their own character arcs through coming to terms with their powers and becoming heroes on the X-Men team. As for Storm, if she begins the film as one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen - which will take some character background to establish - the character will need some kind of arc if she is to become a member of the X-Men as well. Additionally, early production art for X-Men: Apocalypse showed Archangel as Angel before he gets his metal wings, which seems to indicate the character’s transition will also be included in the film.
Furthermore, Singer's comments to Empire about the focus of the movie could hint at more depth than is displayed in the trailer: “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.” With the members of this new X-Men team starting out as young mutants who don’t have a handle on their powers or mutants who are disillusioned and working with Apocalypse, that provides a good jumping off point for plenty of emotional depth and character development in order to establish the “true birth of the X-Men.” If the film mines each of these potential storylines for compelling character drama, the younger generation of mutants could prove to hold their own next to the prequel trilogy's core four stars and justify a whole new chapter in the X-Men franchise.
Overall, each installment of the X-Men franchise has been met with some criticism - certain films more than others - but the development of these new young mutants could have far-reaching effects. If Fox plans to continue the franchise with Jean Grey, Cyclops, and the others (even Jubilee) as the stars, they must be established as important characters in X-Men Apocalypse if they’re going to headline a feature of their own. So, although the trailer offers exciting hints at Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm, Archangel, Nightcrawler, Jubilee, and Psylocke, it remains to be seen whether their roles in X-Men Apocalypse will earn their inclusion on the X-Men team - or in future installments of the franchise.
Deadpool opens in theaters February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit sometime in 2017; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; and an unannounced X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.