X-Men: Apocalypse: where does it leave the X-Men universe?

SPOILERS: With X-Men: Apocalypse now in cinemas, we ponder the seeds it sows for the future of Fox’s Marvel-based franchise...

This article contains spoilers for X-Men: Apocalypse.

Although X-Men: Apocalypse’s plot was a lot more streamlined than the time-travel events of Days Of Future Past, the latest mutant-based movie from Fox still requires a fair bit of unpacking. After all, Apocalypse had loads of characters and continent-swapping action.

We pondered where the new movie leaves the X-Men franchise at large, and how it teases potential spin-offs. The spoilers begin after our trusty spoiler squirrel, Daphne…

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Havok is (probably) dead, while Angel may or may not be

By the looks of it, Lucas Till’s Alex Summers/Havok is dead (freeing up time in Mr Till’s schedule for his MacGyver TV reboot which has just been green-lit for a full series). Havok was closest to the blast that destroyed X-Mansion, which occurred shortly after his big hero moment (destroying Cerbero to stop Apocalypse’s attack).

Alex Summers’ death spurred Scott Summers on in his quest to control his powers, become an X-Man and save the world. That seems like fairly clear-cut plotting to us, but, since this is a comic book movie, ways could be found to bring Havok back should the filmmakers ever have reason to.

For example, an explanation like ‘he can absorb energy as well as blasting it out, and therefore managed to protect himself from the blast’ wouldn’t take long to explain in a future movie. For now, though, Havok is dead until proven otherwise. 

The fate of Ben Hardy’s Angel is a bit less obvious. He was last seen burried under some rubble during the final battle, and an unimpressed Apocalypse just left him there. Is he dead? It’s hard to tell, which means he could show up in another movie if the writers can find a good enough reason.

X-Men united

The main X-Men team have rarely looked this strong at the end of a movie. Professor X – now bald – is overseeing things at a quickly rebuilt X-Mansion, and Mystique has decided to stay and teach the youngsters how to fight. Beast is on button-pressing duties in a fully operational Danger Room, and sends out a gaggle of fake Sentinels to test Quicksilver, Nightcrawler, Storm, Cyclops and Jean Grey (who, for now, seems to have her powers in check).

This sets the stage for future movies in a rather obvious way. When X-Men 7 (rumoured to include a trip to outer space) kicks off, there will be a strong X-Men team and a functional School For Gifted Youngsters ready to tackle any new problems. And it’s easy to see where James McAvoy’s Professor X could fit in during The New Mutants (an in-development spin-off from The Fault In Our Stars’ Josh Boone, which is set to introduce another new class of youngsters).

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McAvoy has never looked more like Patrick Stewart, and his version of Charles Xavier is clearly ready to train whomever might show up on his doorstep next. The drug-addled Charles of Days Of Future Past is now a distant memory. Fox is probably trying to sign McAvoy up for as many more movies as possible as we speak. 

The same surely goes for Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique. After going off the rails in Days Of Future Past, here she’s finally found a purpose and a place in the world. If Lawrence is willing to keep returning, Fox would surely be glad to have her.

Michael Fassbender’s Magneto didn’t opt to join the X-Men or to hand himself in as he’d mentioned earlier. After some bantering with Charles at the end, Erik simply wanders off. It feels like his arc is done, given his eventual turn against Apocalypse. Saying that, if Fassbender is willing to do more movies, it’s hard to imagine Fox turning him away.

Nicholas Hoult’s Beast didn’t have a great deal to do in this film, but could plausibly stick around for more films as well. It all depends, rather dully, on how contract negotiations go. After all, the First Class cast only signed up for a trilogy originally.

The newer additions Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp and Kea Wong are bound to be on longer contracts and sure to show up a few more times (assuming that the box office for Apocalypse is good, and Fox keeps making these big budget team movies).

The next villain?

The biggest tease that X-Men: Apocalypse shared of things to come, of course, came at the end of the credits. While bullets were being sucked into hoovers, a smartly-dressed chap walked into the room that Wolverine escaped from and popped a vial of Logan’s blood into a suitcase. A suitcase emblazoned with the words “Essex Corp”, no less.

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This is a nod towards the comic book supervillain Mister Sinister (pictured above), whose human name is Nathaniel Essex. He’s one of the most powerful baddies in X-Men lore, boasting a healing factor, superhuman strength, teleportation, an immunity to pain, telepathy, telekinesis, the power to manipulate molecules, an elongated lifespan, and a genius brain stuffed with scientific knowledge.

Interestingly, Essex became Sinister in the comics by forming an alliance with Apocalypse. Essex was obsessed with mutations after his son died from a birth defect, and Apocalypse gave him his own powerful mutations through a painful transformative process. The movies don’t have to follow this path, of course, but it’s interesting that there’s a connection between the two evildoers in the source material.

It’s unclear exactly which film Mister Sinister will show up in. He could feasibly be the baddie for X-Men 7 (aping the ‘here’s your next big bad’ tease from Days Of Future Past), but the fact he’s picked up Logan’s blood could means that he’ll appear in third Wolverine movie instead. Richard E Grant has already been cast as an unnamed mad scientist in that movie… could he secretly be Sinister?  

And what would Sinister want with Logan’s blood anyway? Is he planning to experiment with Wolvie’s bodily fluids in the hope of creating his own metal warrior? Bryan Singer is already talking about bringing a female Wolverine clone called X-23 into the franchise. She could well debut in the X-Force spin-off movie, and, given the ending of Apocalypse, you’d assume that Essex Corp will be her creators.

There’s even a chance that Mister Sinister could become the Thanos equivalent for Fox’s mutant franchise, gradually being teased over multiple movies before a big final showdown a few years down the line. Only time will tell, but the fact that Fox has more Marvel-inspired movies than ever in production at the moment (The Wolverine 3, X-Men 7, Deadpool 2, Gambit, The New Mutants, X-Force) does mean that they could take a stab at longer-form plotting going forward.

Wolverine runs off

Hugh Jackman’s cameo as Wolverine – complete with the Weapon X technological apparatus from the comics – was a show-stopping moment in X-Men: Apocalypse. Although the movie didn’t explain how he ended up at William Stryker’s Alkali Lake facility (despite the fact that Mystique pulled Logan from the river at the end of Days Of Future Past), it was still immensely fun to see the feral Wolverine go berserk at Stryker’s men and share a moment with Jean, before jogging off into the snow (‘running back to his own franchise’, as my esteemed colleague James Hunt put it).  

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What this means for the future of Wolverine remains to be seen. We know from Days Of Future Past that he ends up at X-Mansion with Patrick Stewart many years down the line, but it’s unclear how he gets there or what he does over the decades of time in between. Hugh Jackman has only signed up for one more movie (the third solo Wolverine flick), so there’s not long left for the franchise to provide these answers.

The Wolverine 3 (as the movie won’t end up being called, of course) is set far in the future, in a dystopian and Western-esque environment. Patrick Stewart will appear alongside Mr Jackman. It’ll take either flashbacks or dialogue exchanges to explain what happened to Logan between the 1980s and this dystopian future. That, or someone will have to convince Jackman to sign up for yet more movies.

Perhaps, fitting the old sci-fi adage that time ‘wants to happen’, is that Logan goes off and lives as a loner after the events of Apocalypse. Maybe he does a little cage fighting, before eventually bumping into Rogue and being drawn into events that lead him to X-Mansion again (just like the original X-Men movie). Once more, though, only time will tell what becomes of Wolverine after Apocalypse. There could be something utterly random and unpredictable on the cards.

Other potential spin-offs

There was lots of wandering off in this film. Logan wasn’t the only one to run away without overtly-expressed motivation. Magneto did the same thing, opting not to stay with Charles. And so did Olivia Munn’s Psylocke, who slinked off during the final showdown between the X-Men and Apocalypse without even saying goodbye to her Four Horsemen chums. Angel didn’t wander off, but was left ambiguously in a pile of rubble. 

To me, all these moments felt like potential jumping-off points for spin-off stories. Based on which characters go down well with the fans, Fox could opt to give any of these free agents their own movie. Fassbender’s Magneto arguably made the biggest impression here, given that Munn and Hardy weren’t given much in the way of dialogue or character development.

But Fassbender, annoyingly for Fox, would probably be the toughest of the three to convince into signing up for another film in this franchise. He has no shortage of work at the moment, and will be hoping that the upcoming Assassin’s Creed film spawns its own sequels.

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In Apocalypse, it feels like the door is left propped open for Magneto, Psylocke and Angel if the right script idea comes along to resume their respective stories. Fox’s slate is fairly packed at the moment, though, so it might be a while before we see any of that happen. 

There was talk of a Mystique spin-off not too long ago, but J-Law’s take on Raven seems fairly embedded in the mainline story of the X-Men by the end of Apocalypse

William Stryker also wandered off, slipping away with a quick “be right back” during the Alkali Lake sequence never to be seen again. He obviously won’t get his own spin-off, but is seems plausible that Stryker will show up again at some point. X-Men 7, maybe? Or X-Force?

What we didn’t see

As ever with these big comic book films, it’s also interesting to think about the things we didn’t see in X-Men: Apocalypse. Although squeezing him in could’ve sparked a lot of online buzz, Deadpool didn’t make any sort of appearance. This makes sense, given that his cinematic origin story from earlier this year was set in the modern day. A young, powerless Wade Wilson was probably watching Voltron and cracking wise during the 1980s-set events of X-Men: Apocalypse

There was also no mention of Gambit, The New Mutants or X-Force. In the age of multiple post-credits-stings, this is something of a surprise. But still, holding back as many details as possible about a movie is no bad thing. It’s quite nice, for now, knowing very little about these films. 

X-Men: Apocalypse, then. It may not be the finest X-Men movie ever, or the best comic book movie of the year, but it did its job in terms of progressing the franchise forward. The core team are united, plenty of characters have wandered off to make space for new blood and/or tee up their own spin-offs, and we’ve got a massive teaser for Mister Sinister to chew on until the next movie hits cinemas…