Last week, Bryan Singer stoked flames that hadn’t even been lit yet with the following twenty-two characters: #Xmen #Apocalypse 2016. The director’s return to the X-Men franchise isn’t even due out for five-plus months, yet with that one tweet he has caused plenty of comic book fans to wish (even harder than they normally do) for a time machine set for two and a half years into the future. For the non-diehard fans out there curious about what this title reveal could possibly mean, allow me to offer up a bit of a primer on this Apocalypse fella and some of my personal theories (accompanied by a healthy combination of speculation and rumor-gathering) on what to expect in 2016.
For starters, the title refers to arguably the most imposing villain in the X-Men’s long history, an immortal mutant called Apocalypse. The basics of his backstory are as follows: Widely believed to be the first ever mutant, Apocalypse’s origins date back to ancient Egypt, where he was taken in as an infant by the pharaoh and eventually rose to power himself. Through his exceedingly long life and the teachings of his mentor, he has developed a philosophy that could be described as “Darwinism to the extreme”; in essence, he believes in survival of the fittest and will take matters into his own hands to ensure that only the strongest remain. His immortality has allowed him to cultivate an unmatched knowledge of various scientific fields (namely genetics), and his exposure and mastery of alien technology has granted him the ability to completely control his molecular structure, allowing him to change size, transform his limbs into weapons, teleport, and basically any other power one can imagine. Long story short, he’s a force to be reckoned with, both physically and mentally.
That’s a lot to pack into two hours, so it may follow that Singer will draw from the most influential Apocalypse-related storyline for the film, called “The Age of Apocalypse.” This massive X-Men comics event from the ‘90s takes place in a (literally) post-Apocalyptic world in which Charles Xavier was mistakenly assassinated by his time-traveling son, and thus was never around to form the X-Men, leaving the world vulnerable to Apocalypse, who proceeds to conquer North America, culling the genetically “weaker” humans (and any mutants who oppose him) and establishing the ultimate dictatorship.
The fact that the villain’s biggest storyline to date has its foundation in time travel makes this approach a natural follow-up to X-Men: Days of Future Past. Speculation has already run rampant that the post-credits sequence (it’s a comic book movie, a scene after the credits is obligatory at this point) will reveal that whatever actions the time-traveling Wolverine and the ‘70s-era X-Men took to rectify their original dystopian future have paved the way for Apocalypse in some form or another.
This is all exciting for many reasons, not the least of which is that we’ll be getting our first ever glimpse at one of the most powerful figures in X-Men comic book history. The time travel aspect also allows Singer and company to do a little bit of movie-timeline shuffling, perhaps bringing back some characters who were under-written or misused in previous entries (Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Angel come to mind, especially with all three having major roles at one point or another in the X-Men’s dealings with Apocalypse). They could also entirely change characters’ allegiances for a totally fresh take on the X-Men if in fact they decide to represent the Age of Apocalypse on screen. After all, in the AoA storyline, it’s Magneto who leads the X-Men (and marries Rogue, though let’s hope an Ian McKellen-Anna Paquin romance is not in the cards), while Cyclops, Havok, and Beast are all on the side of evil. And let’s not forget, this will also be a welcome opportunity to show a truly epic confrontation unlike anything else we’ve seen before in the franchise (though if we’re lucky, we’ll get some awesome action in Days of Future Past this year as a preview).
It’s very cool news for X-Men fans out there, and I must say, I can’t wait to find out more details about Apocalypse as the weeks and months go by!