You’ve seen X-Men: Apocalypse. So have I (here’s my spoiler-lite review). You’ve got some question. So do I.
Of course, everyone’s mileage tends to vary with big franchise movies. So I should note that I grew up on X-Men: The Animated Series, have seen all of the live-action movies (loved X2 and First Class) and am familiar with the short-lived animated series Wolverine and the X-Men. I have not read any X-Men comic books though. As a result, there are certain parts of Apocalypse which were perfectly understandable to me (hello Jubilee), but others which left me asking, “WTF?” For example:
1. What exactly are Apocalypse’s powers?
Whenever his eyes roll back and go all white he’s mutant god, capable of waging a war against Xavier in his mind while simultaneously holding off Magneto, Beast, Quicksilver, Mystique and Cyclops in the physical world. He can put up force fields around his body, and create cosmic portals to anywhere he so desires. He can manipulate matter, turn humans into piles of dust or meld them with stone, and enhance the powers of any mutant he encounters.
Cool, but how exactly did he become so powerful? I know the comic book answer is super complicated, but in the movie it seems like his original ability is transferring his consciousness to other mutants, absorbing their powers in the process while also maintaining all of his old ones. That sort of makes him the X-Men version of Sylar from Heroes, right?
2. Why hadn’t anyone recognized Magneto in Poland until after he used his powers?
Apocalypse takes place on the 10th anniversary of Magneto’s attempted assassination of President Nixon, and the resulting news coverage is watched by several characters, most crucially Apocalypse and Storm. Is none of that footage making it into Poland? Magneto is only discovered by the police in his small Polish town after he uses his power to save someone. Admittedly, I have no idea what the media situation was like in Poland in the 70s and 80s, but if Magneto was really world enemy #1 after 1973 would he truly be able to go an entire decade without being recognized?
3. Did you recognize Havok?
I sure didn’t. I kept wanting to call Lucas Till “Not-Matt Smith” in this movie. It’s the same actor and character who was one of the original X-Men in First Class and popped up for a “saved by Mystique” cameo in Days of Future Past. However, since it’s been 5 years since Havok was a significant character in any of these movies I had mostly forgotten about him.
4. Why wait until the very end to restore Moira’s memories?
The roofie-kiss is understandably tricky territory for the superhero genre, but at least in First Class you could understand Charles was newly hardened by the Cuba experience. Magneto had been right. The humans did instantly turn on them. Moira meant well and was genuinely trustworthy, but the decision-makers above her weren’t ready to fairly deal with mutants. Charles cutting her off was First Class‘ way of showing he wasn’t quite so naive anymore, and it was specifically framed around his need to keep the location of his school a secret.
By Apocalypse, though, the secret’s out of the bag. Moira even mentions having read all about Charles’ school. Why doesn’t he just restore her memories on the spot? The whole reason for lying to her back in the 1960s has been negated by time. Was he afraid she’d be upset (and rightfully so) and not share all that information about Apocalypse? Keeping up the lie works to give McAvoy a nervous energy and elicits some big laughs, but poor Rose Byrne is stuck flashing “Wow, this is amazing!” facial expressions half the time when she could have been better served with getting a chance to confront Charles.
5. Did those Polish factory workers understand anything Magneto was saying when he was promising to kill all of them?
He promises to kill all of them, and even explains why. He does it entirely in English, though. One of the workers pleads in his native language, “Please don’t do this,” or something to that effect. Did they all understand what Magneto was saying? Or was it just that one guy?
6. Can Quicksilver really lift and toss people like rag dolls while using his super speed?
Unrelated, this cross-promotional commercial featuring most of the new X-Men is better than some of the actual scenes in Apocalypse.
How do you top “Time in a Bottle”? Have Quicksilver save everyone in Xavier’s mansion as it explodes! As was the case in Days of Futures Past, the result is one of the film’s highlights. However, this time they have Quicksilver lifting and tossing at least 20 different characters around like rag dolls. Make cops punch each other and push bullets out of the air, sure, but throw people out of windows like it’s no problem? Is that something we knew he could do?
7. How exactly did Stryker’s helicoptors show up at Xavier’s mansion so fast?
A huge event just went down at the mansion. All of the world’s nukes are in the air. It’s time to move in. I get that. But Stryker’s helicoptors show up on scene within maybe 5 minutes of the nuclear crisis. Hypothetical explanation for the speedy response: Stryker’s so anti-mutant he’s had a nearby team on standbye for years, ready to swoop in at a moment’s notice.
8. How did Wolverine still end up in Stryker’s Weapon X program after being saved by Mystique at the end of Days of Future Past?
Producer-writer Simon Kinberg chose to end Days of Future Past with Mystique pulling Wolverine from the water, apparently saving him from experimentation, because it echoed Mystique’s opening scene liberating mutants who were about to be experimented on by Stryker. It provided the film a nice bit of symmetry, but it also didn’t make any sense. We knew Wolverine would ultimately become Stryker’s Weapon X. That adamantium had to get into his body and on his claws somehow. How was that going to work with Mystique having saved him while pretending to be Stryker?
Um, shut up about that, that’s how. Clearly something went south along the way because the real Stryker is keeping a newly Weapon X version of Wolverine in a cage in the Alkaline Lake research facility in Apocalypse. A lot could have happened in the decade between movies. Maybe Mystique did save him, but Wolverine was caught a couple of years later because, as Legends of Tomorrow‘s Rip Hunter would be put it, time wants to happen.
9. Was there an almost uncomfortable energy between Jean and Wolverine when she calmed him down?
Wolverine’s one moment of humanity in Apocalypse comes when Jean manages to psychically calm him down and restore an absolutely minimal part of his memory. However – and maybe I only thought this because I was actively aware of the nearly three-decade age difference between Sophie Turner and Hugh Jackman – was there an unexpected sexual energy between the two of them in that moment, him barechested and animal-like and her the only one allowed to touch him without getting hurt? He will eventually fall in love with this woman, and she’ll be content to gaze at him longingly before returning back to Scott. Was this Apocalypse moment meant to hint at Jean and Wolverine’s instant connection?
10. What does it mean for the future that Jean went full-on Phoenix?
You knew it was coming. Jean has the oddly red-tinted vision about the end of the world. Everyone in school fears her because she can’t control her powers. During the final battle, she’s the only one who’s clearly still holding back. Jean’s untapped potential was their ace in the hole, and her appearing to go full-on Phoenix decimated Apocalypse. The first time the original trilogy Jean accessed that power on-screen she died, and came back wrong; this Jean is still alive and kicking, training with the rest of the new X-Men. However, has pandora’s box been opened here? And what did Apocalypse mean by “all has been revealed” when witnessing Jean as the Phoenix?
11. Is it odd that Bryan Singer once mocked the notion of comic book-faithful costumes and visuals but now made a clear point with Apocalypse to put everyone into their comic book costumes (or close to it)?
More than that, he allowed comic book easter egg moments like Charles ordering Scott Summers to “unleash havoc!” and Magneto creating a metal X to signal his betrayal of Apocalypse. That being said, the final sequence with everyone in costume and preparing to fight the (holographic?) sentinels in the danger room was pure fan service delight.
12. Will these characters ever age?
As the X-Men enter into the final battle, the new recruits all explain how much Mystique’s “coming out” moment in 1973 changed all of their lives, showing them that they weren’t alone in the world. It’s a wonderful sentiment, one which plays perfectly on the faces of Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan and Kodi Smit-McPhee. That’s largely because this is the first time we’ve ever see them as Jean, Cyclops and Nightcrawler so it’s easy to imagine them as little kids in 1973. However, Quicksilver is also on that war plane with them, and he says the same thing about Mystique changing his life.
One small problem: does it really look like 10 years have passed for this person?
A decade has passed for the character, but Evan Peters is only two years older. They appear to have added some slight lines under his eyes, and greyed his hair a little more to compensate. Otherwise, he looks mostly the same.
Is it a big problem? Not really. It’s to be expected, really. But as Quicksilver undercuts the moment by joking nothing in his life has actually changed, e.g., still living in his mom’s basement, you’re inclined to joke back that nothing about his appearance has significantly changed either.
It’s an issue for all of the returning actors. Around twenty years have passed in the X-Men world in-between First Class and Apocalypse, yet these actors are all only around 5 years older. So, Rose Byrne and James McAvoy have slight hints of grey in their hair now, although I’d swear none of that grey was in Byrne’s hair during the early Cairo scenes. I didn’t personally notice any difference in Fassbender, Hoult or Lawrence, although Mystique’s shape-shifting makes her more or less age-proof.
13. What the heck is the Essex Corp. in the Post-Credits Scene?
Guys in suits calmly enter Stryker’s research facility, steal blood samples from the Weapon X program, place them in a suitcase with other samples and fasten it shut, revealing the following engraving: Essex Corp.
ComicBookResources, you want to take this one?
The first big reveal, the Essex Corp name, is a major deal because “Essex” is the surname of one of the X-Men’s most prominent villains: Mister Sinister. Essex Corp is most certainly a shout out to the character, a creepy, glam rock geneticist born in the Victorian era and obsessed with genetics, cloning and meddling with the building blocks of life for his own selfish purposes. The fact that this Essex Corp was concerned with snatching a vial of Wolverine’s blood makes the reveal even more Sinister. Then there’s the fact that Richard E. Grant has been cast in “Wolverine 3” as a “mad-scientist type” villain. It looks like “X-Men: Apocalypse” may have confirmed that that “mad-scientist type” is Mister Sinister.
What the Essex Corp men placed in the briefcase is another potentially massive reveal. They took a sample of Logan’s blood to, presumably, take it to a villain known for creating clones (most notably of Jean Grey and his henchmen the Marauders). Wolverine does have a clone in the comics — a very notable one, so it’s possible that this post-credits scene sets up X-23, Wolverine’s teenage female clone.
What about you? What were some of the questions you had after seeing Apocalypse? You can get as nerdy and as nitpicky as you want in the comments section.