Bryan Singer returns for his fourth instalment in the X-franchise, following X-Men, X2 and Days Of Future Past. This sets a record for the most films directed in a superhero franchise, the previous holders being Christopher Nolan and Sam Raimi for their respective Dark Knight and Spider-Man trilogies.
Simon Kinberg wrote the screenplay, with story credit going to, Kinberg, Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris. Kinberg is the only returning writer from Days Of Future Past; Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn are nowhere to be seen this time. Singer previously scored story credit on X-Men, X2 and First Class. Dougherty and Harris wrote X2 and Singer's Superman Returns. Dougherty most recently directed the Christmas horror Krampus from his own screenplay. Harris also directs: his comedy drama Speech & Debate is currently in post-production.
As per the official synopsis from Fox... "Set in 1983 X-Men: Apocalypse picks up ten years after Days Of Future Past. Apocalypse, the first and most powerful mutant in the X-Men universe, who has been worshipped as a god since the dawn of time, has awoken. Disappointed by the world he discovers, he recruits a team of powerful mutants to cleanse mankind and create a new world order. With the fate of the world up for grabs Raven and Professor Xavier lead their own group of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis."
This is the final film in a trilogy for the cast of X-Men: First Class. The climax of the last few years then, it also needs to set up The Next Generation for future X-movies.
May 19, 2016. Almost two years to the day since X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
Oscar Isaac is Apocalypse
That figure we glimpsed after the Days Of Future Past credits waving pyramids around? That was Apocalypse: the 5000 year-old super-mutant-with-a-god-complex who walks the world testing civilisations by provoking wars. He finds he doesn't think much of the 1980s. Click here for Empire's full guide to who Apocalypse is (in the comics) and what he can do.
"It’s a character that I always just loved," says comics fan Isaac, "just because it freaked me out. I was really into anything that dealt with end times and being left behind and the Four Horsemen. It’s the trippy-est stuff. It’s crazy imagery. And then you had a comic book that was trying to have a character that encompassed that. So, for me, he always has the feeling of The Book of Revelation. He can be anything, he can do anything. I think of the idea of the first mutant and the idea that he wouldn’t be called a mutant back then. What would he be? God. He would be a god on Earth. So I’m playing with that..."
"He's a very imposing character and Oscar acts the shit out of it," says Singer.
James McAvoy is Professor X
Following his arc in Days Of Future Past, we find McAvoy's Xavier in a better psychological state, positive and hopeful, and running his School For Gifted Youngsters. There will, it's safe to say, be bumps along this road, with the trailers revealing the school under attack - not for the last time in these films' tortured continuity.
This is the first time we'll see McAvoy sporting the traditional bald look for Xavier, reminding us that he's on the way to becoming Patrick Stewart. "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." McAvoy will also end up in the same wheelchair used by Stewart back in 2000. The production had to source it from a collector.
Michael Fassbender is Magneto
Where Days Of Future Past was focused on Xavier's development, Apocalypse is centred on Magneto. Singer and Fassbender opted to show him trying to lead a quiet, "normal" life in this film, before taking it all away from him again. The trailers have already revealed that we'll find him working side-by-side with Apocalypse - although it's likely causing him some anguish.
"Apocalypse has 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. Persuasion is Apocalypse’s greatest power."
Jennifer Lawrence is Mystique
Lawrence has confirmed that Apocalypse will very likely be her final X-outing. And while her screen-time is as great, if not greater, than in Days Of Future Past, she also says she "put her foot down" as much as possible on this occasion regarding how much of it she spent in the blue make-up and the exposing costume.
As for what we'll see her doing, there's the unexplained business about her being disguised as Stryker and taking charge of Wolverine at the end of the last film. We'll hopefully get some answers about what was going on there. Plus, “The relationship between Mystique and Beast is a really interesting one that we didn’t have a lot of time to explore in Days of Future Past," says Kinberg, "so we’ll have an opportunity to do more of that in Apocalypse."
"Part of what’s really interesting about Mystique’s character is that she is, in some ways, the child of both Erik and Charles," Kinberg adds. "She grew up with Charles and then she sort of became a woman with Erik, so her being the cross-pollination, if you will, of those two philosophies and those two men is something we explore too."
Other returning X-Men
Nicholas Hoult is back as Beast, with Evan Peters getting another set-piece scene as Quicksilver. Lucas Till is Havok. And in the non-mutant corner, Rose Byrne makes a welcome return as the CIA's Moira McTaggert, despite having ended First Class with her memory of the X-Men wiped. And Josh Helman continues from DOFP as William Stryker, the shady major previously played by Brian Cox and Danny Huston. He may also get to play Mystique playing Stryker, since that was how we left things last time...
What about Wolverine?
Good question. Hugh Jackman's Wolverine is either not part of Apocalypse - which would make this the first X-Men film in which he hasn't appeared - or his involvement is being kept meticulously under wraps. Jackman was part of the X-Men: Apocalypse Comic-Con panel last year, and said earlier in 2015 that discussions were underway. "I’m not at liberty to say exactly what’s going on," was his official line, "[but] there are some very exciting things about integrating the whole X-Men world, including the Wolverine movie. There are some really cool things happening."
This is pure speculation, but Apocalypse, at one point in the comics, brainwashes Wolverine into servitude as one of his Four Horsemen. From what we know so far, Apocalypse's movie Horsemen appear to be Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto, but that's a situation that looks to be fluid throughout the film's run-time.
Apocalypse also shows up in the Old Man Logan comics series by Mark Millar, which is the basis for Jackman's final solo outing in the role, the as-yet untitled Wolverine 3. So we could be possibly be looking at some sort of crossover element.
The third trailer (scroll down) released on April 25 confirmed that Wolverine does indeed show up in Apocalypse in some capacity...
Sophie Turner is Jean Grey. Nicking another cast member from Game Of Thrones (following Peter Dinklage's showing in DOFP), Singer has cast Sophie Turner as the young Famke Janssen. Not that Famke Janssen is old.
Tye Sheridan is Cyclops. We've seen a young Cyclops before; Tim Pocock played him in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Like that film's Emma Frost (Tahyna Tozzi), however, Pocock has been stricken from the record, with Sheridan stepping in as the young James Marsden. Not that James Marsden is old.
Olivia Munn is Pyslocke. Psylocke was previously a major villainess in X-Men: The Last Stand, where she was played by Meiling Melançon. In the comics she's the child of James Braddock Sr., who came from the alternate dimension Otherworld and fathered three kids. Psylocke suffered an early trauma when she was blinded and nearly killed by a villain, before being given artificial eyes. Her powers include telekinesis, particularly focusing that energy into a “psychic knife” to use on adversaries, plus impressive martial arts skills. How much of her Marvel backstory will be filtered into the movie is something that we’ll have to wait and see.
If you're interested, Munn has posted on Instagram showing what Psylocke looks like from the back.
Alexandra Shipp is Storm. April Elleston-Enahoro had her scenes deleted in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, so Shipp is the first official young version we'll have seen of the role made famous by Halle Berry. Not that Halle Berry is old.
Ben Hardy is Angel. Previously played by Ben Foster in X-Men: The Last Stand. This version, Singer told us, is "not a very nice Angel". Like Psylocke, he'll spend at least part of the movie as one of Apocalypse's Four Horsemen.
Lana Condor is Jubilee. Jubilee was played by Katrina Florece in X-Men, and by Kea Wong in X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand. Newcomer Condor might have got the chance to play her earlier in Days Of Future Past, but with that film already overloaded, the smart choice was made to hold her over for this story.
Jubilee’s comics backstory saw her raised in wealthy Beverly Hills, but set on a new trajectory when a hitman took out her parents in a case of mistaken identity. Living for a time as an orphan, she used her mutant power of generating blinding and explosive energy "fireworks" to entertain people and earn money before she ended up with Professor X and company.
Tómas Lemarquis is Caliban. Finally, a mutant - actually a Morlock - we haven't seen on screen before. Caliban's ability is to sense and track other mutants: the sort of ability you’d need to employ if you didn’t have Cerebro and you needed to locate other mutants of immense power... The Icelandic Lemarquis should be familiar from Nói Albínói and Snowpiercer. He can be glimpsed in the trailers hanging out with Apocalypse.
"He's a great character; really cool," says Singer. "He's bald and has funky eyes."
John Ottman is once again providing the score, as he did for X2 and Days Of Future Past. He's also frequently worked with Singer on other films, namely The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil, Superman Returns, Valkyrie and Jack The Giant Slayer.
"I couldn’t score (the original) X-Men because I was directing Urban Legends 2," Ottman explained to Empire in 2014, "but I fell right into X2, coming up with all these crazy character motifs. I learned from the original Star Trek. A lot of that was motif themes over and over again. Then, after Superman Returns, Bryan was wary of seeming too nostalgic, so it was touch-and-go whether we would re-use the X2 theme for Days Of Future Past. Now he thanks me for pressing him on it. It was ours! Why wouldn’t we use it?"
Shooting took place entirely in Quebec, Canada, including in Montreal, Oka and Greenfield Park. The studio was Montreal's 27-acre Mel’s Cité Du Cinema, also previously home to Days Of Future Past. Principal photography began on April 27, 2015 and wrapped on September 4, with some additional filming in January, 2016. Newton Thomas Sigel, another frequent Singer collaborator, is the cinematographer, and the camera he's using is the Red Epic Dragon.
Trailer 1: released December 11, 2015. Click here for our exclusive breakdown with Bryan Singer.
Simon Kinberg fan Q&A: released January 16, 2016.
Superbowl Spot: released February 7, 2016.
Trailer 2: released March 17, 2016.
Four Horsemen featurette: released April 5, 2016.
Trailer 3: released April 25, 2016.