Bryan Singer breaks down the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer

Image for Bryan Singer breaks down the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer

The teaser trailer for Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse went online today, bringing us tantalising glimpses at what’s in store for Professor X and the gang this time around, as Oscar Isaac’s ancient menace, Apocalypse, shows up in 1983 and sets about destroying the world. The git.

Singer hopped on the phone with us earlier this week to talk us through the key moments and images from the teaser.

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Jean genie

The trailer opens with what we took to be a shot of Apocalypse walking menacingly through Cerebro, the device that James McAvoy’s Professor X uses to pinpoint hot mutant singles in his area. Not so, according to Singer.

“That’s actually Jean,” he says, referring to Sophie Turner as a young version of Jean Grey, the powerful telekinetic who we last saw played by Famke Janssen in X-Men: The Last Stand. “Her hair makes her a little strange looking! But I don’t want to explain why she’s doing what she’s doing…”

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I dream of Jeannie

After various quick shots of global destruction, the sun and Egyptian hieroglyphics, we see a startled Jean for the first time. It’s clear that she had a dream, and not one of the good ones where you ride a dragon and score the winning goal in the FA Cup Final. “I saw the end of the world,” she tells James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier. “I could feel all this death.” Of course, given how incredibly powerful Jean is, it’s very likely this wasn’t a dream, but a vision. “It’s all about their potential,” says Singer. “Jean has a special connection with Xavier, she has a special connection with the psychic world and she has enormous untapped power that’s growing.”

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Sad professor

“Jean,” says Charles, “it was just a dream.” Take note, trailer fans – this line reading is exclusive to you. “The take I used for the movie is a less sincere take,” says Singer. “In the movie it’s an intense moment, a psychic moment happens between them and the take is a much more suspicious take.” Is Charles, who’s now happily running his School For Gifted Youngsters in 1983, worried by the nascent power of one of his newest students?

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Morse code

As the haunting strains of The Hunted, by Snow Ghosts kicks in (Singer wanted a U2 song originally), we see Oxford, Charles’ old stomping ground, from the air. “I found this song was most haunting,” says Singer. If you look closely, you can just about make out Inspector Morse’s old Jaguar. We’d like to think.

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A gathering storm

As we hear Apocalypse speak for the first time in a soft accent that seems like a hybrid of many different cultures, we see him begin his recruitment process with Alexandra Shipp’s Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, in Cairo. Although she may ultimately become an X-Man, when Apocalypse meets her, she’s disillusioned, disenfranchised and, as Singer says, "looking for a mother and a father and the village she lost."

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Is this Caliban?

The hooded figure on the left here is Apocalypse. On the right, the unmistakeable Mohawk of Storm. In the middle is someone who may be Caliban, a Morlock with the ability to locate other mutants. The sort of mutant you’d need if you didn’t have Cerebro, and you needed to locate other mutants of immense power. “Caliban’s bald and has funky eyes,” says Singer. Pretty sure that describes this gentleman. “He’s a great character. Really cool.”

God loves, God kills?

“I’ve been called many things over many lifetimes,” says Apocalypse. “Ra. Krishna. Yahweh.” Here, he sets out two things: he’s really, really old, and he has a God complex the size of the Garden of Eden. “What is a God?” asks Singer. “Why would someone create and rule over a race simply to be worshipped?” Which, it seems, is what Apocalypse wants, and he’s not happy when he wakes up in a time period that doesn’t seem to give two figs about him. “It bears no respect or devotion to him – that’s the big giant ego of the old God,” adds Singer. “All of it lacks symmetry, order and devotion to him. It needs to be culled. It needs to be wiped away and rebuilt again.”

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X-position

Next, we see two old faces return – first, Rose Byrne as the CIA’s Moira MacTaggert, who clearly boned up a lot on mutancy and secret societies while she was busy skipping X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Here, she’s visited by old (and potentially new again) flame, Charles, who’s brought Alex Summers – aka Havok – with him. “Alex has been out in the world,” explains Singer. “He decides to go with Alex to see Moira, so Hank can run the school while he’s gone.” The event that’s brought Alex back into Charles’ world? He’s just arrived at Xavier’s school with his younger brother, Scott. “Who’s completely blind, he can’t even see.”

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Diamond Giza

As Moira fills us in on Apocalypse’s possible origins in ancient Egypt, we get a quick shot of a pyramid. Something’s going on in here. An all-night rave, possibly.

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Restricted view

At first, the trailer just gives us hints of Apocalypse, whose appearance was criticised in some quarters when the first image from the film was revealed a short while ago. Here, he’s stuck behind a pillar. “I like that you just see bits and pieces,” says Singer. “It forces you to look at not just his face, but his costume, the scale, the strangeness, the inscription, the technology. It makes you want to lean around the corner to get a better look.”

Singer also addresses the criticisms of Apocalypse’s look. “That was a picture,” he says of the first reveal, and there were no visual effects. He’s a very powerful and imposing character and Oscar acts the shit out of it.”

beast

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Children of the atom

“You are all my children,” continues Isaac, as we see quick shots of faces old and new. There’s Nicholas Hoult’s Beast, Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven/Mystique, Kodi Smit-McPhee as the teleporting Nightcrawler and Lana Condor as Jubilee. “I very specifically put Jubilee in,” says Singer. “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.”

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Given that three of the mutants we see here (the person scrambling through a tunnel is Moira, so not a mutant at all) are blue-skinned, as is the big A, does that mean we should take his ‘children’ claim literally? Did he, as the first mutant, spawn everything that came after? “It’s probably what he believes,” says Singer. “There are a lot of blue mutants, and we do make a couple of blue jokes in the movie.” As in jokes about the colour blue, not Roy Chubby Brown material. At least, we hope not.

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Blind faith

As En Sabah Nur – to give him his other, and far easier to type, name – continues his diatribe, Singer cuts to a shot of Xavier on the phrase, ‘blind leaders’. “That’s the person who needs to be addressed,” says Singer. “Charles is idealistic at the beginning of the movie, but he gets a big wake-up call when Apocalypse rises.”

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Meet Apocalypse's glamorous assistant...

And then we finally get to see who Apocalypse has been speaking to this entire time: Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto. Last seen beating a retreat in 1973, he’s attempting to lead a quieter life these days. Fat chance of that happening. As possibly the most powerful mutant on the planet, he’s Apocalypse’s number one target for augmentation. “I am here now,” he says. “I am here for you.”

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But can a leader like Erik ever become a follower? “He’s found Erik at the most vulnerable place in his life,” explains Singer. “He’s searching for God. Remember, he was a young Jew in a concentration camp when he first lost his family and now here comes this man who was, is, or claims to be God. The power of persuasion is Apocalypse’s greatest power.”

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The Horsemen

As Moira outlines her theory that Apocalypse recruits a quartet of mutants to act as his bodyguards, the Four Horsemen, we see quick glimpses of the souls he’s selected. There’s Storm, of course, and Olivia Munn as Psylocke, Ben Hardy as Angel/Archangel and, last but not least, Magneto, sporting some snazzy new purple duds.

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New and improved Cerebro

Here we see Charles using a suitably 80s-style Cerebro that looks like it’s come straight off the set of a Peter Davison Doctor Who episode. This one probably even has a new-fangled CD player. But, to judge from Charles’ X-pression, something bad is about to happen.

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Home invasion

“He can control us all,” says Charles, as we see Apocalypse and his Horsemen arrive in the X-Mansion for a stealth attack that ends with Magneto flying an unconscious Xavier out of there, new wheelchair and all. (You’d think that Charles would learn that a metal wheelchair is not such a good idea, what with his best frenemy being the master of magnetism and all. Perhaps one day.)

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Blue blood

“This movie is about the formation of the X-Men,” says Singer. “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.” And it’s explicitly stated here in this exchange between Hank McCoy and Raven (although Raven’s half of the conversation seems to be from a later sequence). “Hank’s carrying Raven’s torch,” adds Singer, hinting at a possible resolution to the sometimes neglected romantic sub-plot between the two.

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Seatbelts

And here’s our first look at the new X-Men – or some of them anyway. Here, in the X-Jet we see Moira MacTaggert (token muggle), Mystique, Beast and, in the back, Jean Grey, our first glimpse of the young Scott Summers, and Evan Peters as Quicksilver…

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Captured?

Here, we can see some members of the team lying down on the job in a big round room. Quicksilver, Mystique, Beast and Moira can all be seen here – have they been captured? And if so, by whom? And where are they being held? We know, but you’ll have to wait for a future issue of Empire to find out. #ShamelessPlug

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The new blood

Here, against the backdrop of what looks like the smoking ruins of a city, the three newest X-Men – Cyclops, Jean Grey (she really needs to work on that name) and Nightcrawler – look, frankly, terrified. “Not all of us can control our powers,” says Cyclops. “Then don’t,” counsels Mystique. “This is war.”

“It was important to show that these are kids,” explains Singer. “There’s no way anybody can get in there but them, and do what needs to be done, and yet they’re kids.” And what of Mystique’s role as leader? “She works alone. The very last thing she wants to be is in charge of a group of young mutants. But we find everybody at a certain place in the movie and take them to the very opposite of where they started.”

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Charles vs. Apocalypse

Here, we see an enraged and desperate Charles try to take down Apocalypse in mutanto-a-mutanto combat. It doesn’t end well. The fact that Charles is able to run here indicates that this might be a battle taking place on the astral plane. “The two of them really go at it,” says Singer. “The end of the movie becomes an all-out battle with a force that’s very formidable. He’s a hard man to break, Apocalypse. It’s why he thinks he’s God.”

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Giant-sized Apocalypse #1

One of Apocalypse’s key attributes in the comic was the ability to change size, something that is seen very clearly here (and which can be easily explained if – if – this is a battle of minds) as he swells up and pins Xavier to the ground with one mighty paw. “It’s part of the mythology of Apocalypse’s size, but I couldn’t go full Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man where he’s just Giant Apocalypse, swatting at things,” laughs Singer. “I did something a little interesting in how I addressed the size thing, but I think the audience will get a kick out of it.”

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On the run

The standout sequence of Days Of Future Past was the Pentagon kitchen scene, when Quicksilver – the fastest man alive – saved the day at supersonic speed to the soothing sounds of Jim Croce’s Time In A Bottle. This is a quick glimpse of the biggest Quicksilver sequence in Apocalypse, one that ups the stakes considerably. “There’s one sequence that took one and a half months to shoot for three minutes of film,” says Singer. “It involves the most complex camera moves, very sophisticated explosive algorithms, 3D Phantom cameras travelling at 50mph while shooting at 3,100 frames per second. Evan worked more days on this movie than any other actor because of this one sequence.” And if Singer gets his way, this scene will be accompanied by a very cool 80s pop song. Our lips are sealed.

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Archangel and Storm

The trailer builds to a head with Three Horsemen in action. First there’s Hardy’s Archangel and Shipp’s Storm…

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Beware the purple helmet

And a mean-looking Magneto. The eagle-eared will notice that Fassbender doesn’t have a line in this trailer. “He’s one of the most pivotal characters,” says Singer. “Fassbender really delivers here in non-traditional comic book style. There are scenes here you will not see in any other comic book movie. I really think Erik goes through one of the most complex journeys in the movie.” Does this indicate that Magneto won’t be happy playing second banana forever? Or how does a mutant supremacist react when faced with the deaths of his fellow mutants?

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Shh. This is a library

The slow motion indicates that this is another shot from the major Quicksilver sequence. “This is tonally different to the Pentagon sequence, and a little bittersweet,” says Singer. “I’ll leave it at that.”

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Monologuing

The trailer starts to wind up with a look at Apocalypse in all his grandstanding glory. “With Apocalypse, it’s well, ‘you have no choice – follow me or I will swallow up the earth. I’ll show you exactly what’s going to happen’, and he does it.”

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Apocalypse's Cerebro?

Singer declined to explain what was happening in this scene, but if Apocalypse has hacked into Cerebro, or has built his own version, it can’t be good.

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Leaving New York never easy

Here, Apocalypse follows through on his plan to build a better world from the ashes of the old one by putting a serious hurt on New York with water typhoons (the work of Storm?). “It’s not just New York, it’s all over the world,” says Singer. “They’ll be visually different than things you’ve seen in these kinds of destructive movies, like Roland Emmerich’s films or Michael Bay’s. There are large-scale setpieces.”

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Charles not in charge

“I’ve never felt power like this,” trembles Xavier as an unseen force, presumably, takes hold of Cerebro and turns his eyes black. Might this be the beginning of the traumatic event that will make Xavier’s long, luscious, just the right side of Flock Of Seagulls, locks fall out? Could be, because…

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Professor X at your service

The trailer ends with McAvoy and his baldy noggin doing their best Patrick Stewart impression. “I wanted to remind the audience that this isn’t just the climax of three movies,” explains Singer. “It’s the climax of six movies, beginning with X-Men 1.” To that end, take a look at Xavier’s wheelchair here. “It’s the original chair from the first movie – we bought it from a collector.”

Intriguingly, the trailer ends with Xavier seemingly looking at the camera. Either Deadpool no longer has a monopoly on X-Men characters breaking the fourth wall, or there’s more here than meets his eyes. “He’s not looking at the camera,” clarifies Singer. “He’s looking at something else. And that’s in the film. You’ll see it.”