X-Men: Apocalypse: what should we expect?

An ancient mutant will attack the 1980s in 2016's new X-Men movie, X-Men: Apocalypse. Here's our look ahead...

We updated this article on 13th October 2015, working in the official synopsis. 

If the double-bill disappointment of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine couldn’t kill the X-Men franchise, nothing can. Now that X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days Of Future Past have got the series back on track, there’s no stopping Fox’s mutant movies.

Standalone adventures for Deadpool, Gambit and (again) Wolverine are all underway, and there’s even talk of a TV series and slowed-down-a-bit rumours of an X-Force movie.

However, there’s one upcoming X-film that promises a bigger scale, a more dastardly villain and the biggest collection of dodgy haircuts than any of the rest. That film would be X-Men: Apocalypse.

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This one’s the next team-based instalment, and it will focus on the recast protagonists introduced in First Class, picking up after their adventure in Days Of Future Past.

As well as your usual James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence action, you’ll also get an even newer, even younger collection of mutants joining the gang.

Together, they’ll encounter the ancient Apocalypse, the most massive menace the franchise has ever produced, and a villain so intimidating that he even managed to get his name in the title. Take that, Magneto!

Without further ado, here’s our primer on what to expect from the movie…

X-Men Apocalypse villain: Big bad

If you stayed until the post-credits tease on Days Of Future Past, you will have already nabbed a glimpse at Apocalypse. Dude was levitating pyramids. You couldn’t have missed him.

This chap has been lifted straight from the pages of the comics. His given name is En Sabah Nur (translation: The First One), and he’s one of the most powerful mutants ever. He’s immortal and ancient – he’s been hanging around for about 5000 years.

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En Sabah Nur was likely the first person to be born with the X-gene. His grey skin and blue lips resulted in his people abandoning him as an infant. A survival-focused group called The Sandstormers picked him up, and would protect him until a time-traveller by the name of Kang the Conqueror came looking for him, posing as a Pharaoh. Knowing who En Sabah Nur would become, Kang tried to kill him by sending his associate General Ozymandias after him. He failed.

Vowing revenge on Ozymandias (who killed the only people that had ever shown the first mutant compassion), En Sabah Nur went looking for the General in the Pharoah’s city. There, he began romancing Ozymandias’ sister, who then rejected him upon getting a good look at his face.

This was the final straw, and En Sabah Nur’s subsequent rage caused his mutant powers to fully emerge. From that point on, he never aged. He’s also got superhuman strength, the ability to manipulate molecules and energy, and some mad computer skills that he gained by merging with some Celestial technology. He didn’t stay weedy for long. In fact, he bulked up significantly on his journey to supervillainy…

Apocalypse has terrorised the X-Men on a regular basis throughout comic book history. His early years saw him travel between civilisations convincing them that he is a god. Encouraging destructive tendencies, he would often command an army to enact dastardly schemes in his stead. Sometimes he gets bored and pops himself in suspended animation until something more interesting happens.

In the film, “upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants.” Indeed, he’s long been known to experiment on mutants and turn them evil when necessary, recruiting them to be his ‘Horsemen’ (there are normally four, natch). Notably, he turned the X-Man Angel into his lackey Death via some cyborg-y meddling. It looks like we’ll be seeing a version of this arc in the film, due to this metallic promotional picture…

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Ben Hardy of Eastenders will play Angel (or Death, or Archangel) in the film, and he’ll be doing the bidding of Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse.

Judging by this next piece of set photography, we assume that the new Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and the telekinetic/telepathic/precognitive mutant Psylocke (Olivia Munn) will also be on his side…

Michael Fassbender’s Magneto will be joining Storm, Angel and Psylocke on the side of the big bad, it was confirmed recently by the official synopsis. Together, these five will “cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which [Apocalypse] will reign.”

X-Men Apocalypse: Concluding the ‘mini trilogy’

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Another thing that X-Men: Apocalypse has to do is manage the arcs of the First Class crew. This being their third film together in this timeline, you’d expect issues to really come to a head between Professor X, Magneto, Mystique and Beast.

Producer Simon Kinberg reiterated this recently, telling the press that the movie “feels like the culmination of the four main characters really – McAvoy, Fassbender, Nic Hoult and Jen[nifer Lawrence]. And it’s a bigger movie in both physical scale and I would say emotional stakes too because it is the culmination of this mini trilogy of stories.”

So where does that point us? Well, the battle over Raven/Mystique’s conscience has been the central emotional arc for the First Class crew so far. Although Rebecca Romijn portrayed Mystique as a fairly standard villainess in the original X-Men movies, J-Law’s version is far entrenched in the grey area between good and evil, and the recast segment of the series has tried to foster a sense that she could end up on either side of the hero/villain fence.

Of course, she began as a buddy to James McAvoy’s Professor Charles Xavier, who took pity on her after she broke into his mansion. She met Nicholas Hoult’s Hank McCoy when Charles and his new buddy Erik recruited him for to their team. Hank was developing a mutant suppressant that could hide his physical deformities, and make him look more ‘normal.’ She gave him a sample of her blood, which he believed could help. They also snogged.

However, Michael Fassbender’s Erik/Magneto proved an unsurprisingly bad influence, and she soon sided with the metal manipulator based on their mutual belief that humans would never fully accept mutants. No longer thinking about hiding, she adopted the mantra ‘mutant and proud.’ Together, after helping Charles avert the Cuban Missile Crisis, they formed the Brotherhood of Mutants.

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This shook Charles and Hank, who became reclusive self-imposed outcasts by the time that Wolverine headed back in time to meet them in Days Of Future Past. Meanwhile, Mystique was up to mischief, posing as a military general and plotting to kill Sentinel inventor and mutant hater Bolivar Trask. Trying to avert a timeline where Trask uses Mystique’s DNA to create unstoppably adaptable Sentinels, Erik shoots her.

Things don’t go much better between Charles and Mystique in Days Of Future Past – he repeatedly tries to order her about, and invades her brain using Cerebro to try and stop her new plan – to kill President Nixon. In the end, she makes the decision to show mercy herself, believing that the gesture may foster peace between mutants and boring old regular humans. At the end of the movie, Mystique is disguised as military experimenter William Stryker, and is picking the younger Wolverine out of the Potomac River.

So, where next for Mystique? Well, originally predicted that she’d be pulled between Magneto (with his new buddy Apocalypse) – as they enact their evil scheme – and Charles (with his old buddy Hank), as they try to stop them.

In the official synopsis, though, it was suggested that Raven would be firmly on the side of the goodies, even taking more of a leadership role. She’ll “lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction” with “the help of Professor X.” 

We’d still expect more moral grey areas, and possibly one or two more kisses, though. 

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There is still a question mark over Wolverine, though.

Hugh Jackman’s involvement in the film – which has already finished shooting – remains unconfirmed. Was Mystique disguised as Stryker to save Wolverine from torture at his hands, or was she up to something more sinister? That one’s impossible to call, unfortunately.

One thing we do know – Charles will go bald in this movie, presumably tying up his transition from hip young intellectual to the X-Men’s iconic leader. Rose Byrne is returning as CIA agent Moira MacTaggert, who helped Charles out in First Class but was conspicuous by her absence in Days Of Future Past. Her memory has been wiped, so it’ll be interesting to see how she interacts with Charles and co.

Speaking of government employees, perhaps Beast could quit the team and join the government (whom he works for in the original X-Men films) during X-Men: Apocalypse. Equally, though, he could embrace his mutancy and stick with Charles. It depends on whether this new generation is intended to match up with the original cast, or whether Bryan Singer will use the rebooted timeline to have some fun and throw out established arcs.

On the evil side, you can bet that Magneto’s ties to Apocalypse will see him embrace full-on villainy even further. Having lobbed a ruddy stadium in Days Of Future Past, we can’t assume he’ll get much redemption this time. We have been wrong before, though.

X-Men Apocalypse: Cast and new generation

Whichever way the First Class crew turn out, we’ll be getting a new generation of mutants during X-Men: Apocalypse, in the shape of another injection of young talent to the franchise.

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Seeing as the First Class alumni are hardly short of work, the cynic in all of us may think that his move has been made to ensure the future of the X-franchise in the plausible event of McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence and/or Hoult refusing to sign on for more superhero antics.

Cynicism aside, we’ll be seeing some iconic mutants return to the franchise, which is hardly a bad thing. Game Of Thrones’ Sansa Stark actress Sophie Turner will take on the role of Jean Grey. The ‘dark side’ of her performance in Thrones is what landed her the role, apparently. She may not become Phoenix any time soon, but we can assume there’ll be a shade of darkness to her portrayal.

Pictured with Turner above is Lana Condor, who will play Jubilee – a mutant who can put on a hell of a light show, and a favourite to fans of the 1990s X-Men animated series. We assume that those two will be goodies in this one, seeing as the aforementioned newbies Alexandra Shipp (playing Storm) and Ben Hardy (playing Angel) are on the side of Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse.

Kodi Smit-McPhee – who impressed in Slow West, alongside Fassbender – has landed the part of Nightcrawler. He has big shoes to fill after Alan Cumming’s fan-pleasing turn in X-Men 2, but the young actor certainly has the chops to pull of a troubled and intriguing performance.

We’ll also see Mud star Tye Sheridan take on the mantle of Cyclops, who has been described as ‘angry and a bit lost’ at this stage in his life. We’ve already got a glimpse at him in costume, too…

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The inclusion of Cyclops – aka Scott Summers – is an interesting one. Not only do we know of his future romantic involvement with Jean, but we’ve also already seen his brother on screen. Lucas Till played Alex Summers in First Class and Days Of Future Past, and will return for Apocalypse, too. In the comics Cyclops is the older brother, but real-life ages suggest that we’ll see a reversal of that dynamic here (Till is seven years older than Sheridan).

And yes, as you’ll be pleased to know, we’ll also see Evan Peters – the superior cinematic Quicksilver – back in action. He’ll get more to do this time, but will we find out if Magneto is really his dad? We hope so, because this scene was brilliant.

So, to wrap up, there are a lot of strands at play in X-Men: Apocalypse. The main action will see ancient big bad Apocalypse recruiting Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto for his evil plan, that will consist of attempted human extinction (they don’t call him Apocalypse for nothing).

Meanwhile, we’ll surely see more screen time given to the good versus evil the tug-of-war within Mystique, while Charles, Erik and Hank could truly embrace their established roles within X-Men lore.

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A new generation of mutants – and a few other familiar faces – will be inducted into the fold as well. There’s sure to be some teases towards the wider X-Men movie universe, too. You can bet on there being a credits sting, and perhaps even cameos throughout the film. We’ve still not ruled out some kind of role for Wolverine, too. We’ve been told to expect a ‘longer’ running time, so hopefully there will be time to manage all of these strands.

“A kind of conclusion of six X-Men films, yet a potential rebirth of younger, newer characters,” is how Bryan Singer described Apocalypse, much more succinctly than us. Maybe we’ll leave it to him next time.

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