Although Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, the conclusion of the prequel trilogy that began with X-Men: First Class, comes out in just a few weeks, yesterday saw the launch of the third and final trailer, containing a few more story hints, a lot more spectacle, and a tantalising last shot which doesn’t so much hint at the presence of the most famous mutant of them all as scream it loudly from the rooftops. Naturally, we just had to get Singer, who is finishing the movie today, on the phone to talk about it.
The previous trailers for the film adroitly set up the story, in which Oscar Isaac’s ancient mutant, Apocalypse, awakens in 1983 and decides that the jig is up for all of mankind. So, in a departure from the usual trailer breakdown, we’re not going frame-by-frame.
It’s all part of the plan
Releasing a trailer with a few weeks to go is actually fairly unusual for a modern blockbuster, but Singer says this has been in the works for ages. “We always planned three trailers,” he says. “This trailer had to be ready weeks ago visually, so it could be reproduced all over the world. There’s still tons of stuff I wish I could have put in it, but you have to wait for the movie!”
Where’s the cueball going?
Every shot we’ve seen of Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse has seen the actor caked in blue make-up, prosthetics, and a heavy headpiece. The line from Singer from the off has been that we won’t see Isaac as Isaac at any point, and yet here he is, lying on a table, with his noggin shaved. “That was shot fairly early on,” admits Singer, “It’s not a big moment, but you get a taste of who he was. That’s when he’s not Apocalypse. This is when he’s a willing contributor.” So this would appear to be a scene set thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, and might support the theory that Apocalypse transfers his consciousness into different vessels to prolong his life. Might.
You’re the voice, try and understand it
As Apocalypse rages about building a new world, his voice takes on a distinctly weird, almost alien tone. “He’s bearing the souls, as we say, of many lives and many characters,” explains Singer. “He has contained within him many voices, but he chooses one primarily. Sometimes he’ll lapse into other kinds of voices, all taken from various ranges and tones.” To achieve this, Singer and his sound department turned Isaac into a half-man, half-microphone. “We had a bass mic to his right cheek, a bass drum mic to his left cheek, and a normal Sennheiser that records the primary dialogue. I was able to take all those voices and augment them. But this isn’t the final mix. It’s getting closer to how he’s going to sound.”
We’ve seen glimpses of the Battle Royale between James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier and Apocalypse before. Here we see a little more. What with Charles running around and Apocalypse growing in size, the smart money is on this battle taking place on the astral plane, which would allow these two tremendously powerful mutants latitude to escape the confines of their physical bodies. The smart money is only half-right, it seems. “It’s something like the astral plane,” says Singer. “Apocalypse is a very powerful mutant and it results in an all-out attack on many levels. This is just one part of the attack. Every character is involved in one way or another.”
Wish you were here
Singer has often said that the action in Apocalypse is on a truly global scale. Previously, we saw Apocalypse’s powers (he can manipulate inanimate matter) begin to lay waste to New York. Here, Sydney and its iconic opera house gets the full treatment. Strewth.
Nightcrawler and Raven
Having rescued Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler from an underground mutant fight club, Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven looks somewhat discomfited when the blue-skinned teleporter says, “you’re her”. In the decade or so (movie time) since the events of Days Of Future Past, where she effectively saved the world in full view of dozens of cameras, Raven/Mystique has become a folk hero among mutants.
We never like to digress into fights for the sake of fights. I always like to give conflicts purpose.
“She’s famous, but nobody’s really seen her since,” says Singer. “Meeting her is a big deal to him. She’s the great hero from 1973 and he’s starstruck in that moment. She’s not comfortable with it. She’s not interested in being the face of a world that she doesn’t believe exists. She’s not a hero. It’s the same reason I’m setting 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea right after the Civil War. Everything wasn’t suddenly hunky-dory between the North and the South - there was still hostility and tension. The same thing exists here.”
There is, of course, an extra frisson to this scene. If the movies follow X-canon, Mystique is Nightcrawler’s mum. But since that would mean she bumped X-uglies with Jason Flemyng’s (now-deceased) Azazel at some point after First Class, we suspect that isn’t going to be the case here.
“I am your father”
In this brief scene, set in a holding cell in Alkali Lake (to read more about that, pick up the current issue of Empire, with our nine X-Men: Apocalypse covers, on sale until Thursday of this week), Evan Peters’ Quicksilver confirms to Raven what we all knew: Michael Fassbender’s Magneto is his dad. Some might raise eyebrows at a plot point like this being confirmed in a trailer, but “it wasn’t meant to be a big deal,” laughs Singer. “It’s not like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. We know the deal. The question is, who else knows it and what does it mean and how does it inform how Quicksilver has evolved as a character? It’s part of his journey right to the end of this film.”
Cyclops v Storm: Dawn of X-Justice
Towards the end of the trailer, we get glimpses of a battle between Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops, future leader of the X-Men, against Alexandra Shipp’s Storm… who is another future leader of the X-Men. Here, though, she’s one of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen, which gives Singer scope to pit contrasting abilities against each other. “We never like to digress into fights for the sake of fights,” he explains. “I always like to give conflicts purpose. And visually, who would be a nice match? Whose powers complement each other in battle? To have Cyclops trying to pin Storm, who can fly, it makes for some really wild imagery that I haven’t seen before.”
What’s this? The trailer ends with a slew of dead bodies, in a corridor that might seem familiar to fans of X-Men 2, and a hand wielding some very familiar metal claws. From the off, we’ve been told that Hugh Jackman’s Logan will be Sir Not Appearing In This Film for Apocalypse, but this (and the fact that Jackman himself teased the footage on his Instagram account) would seem to suggest otherwise. What gives, Singer? “Make of that what you want,” he pokerfaces. “I will say, it’s not simple. There’s something more pivotal that occurs with that. It hints to a sequence that again fits within the canon of all six movies, and the birth of a new direction. It’s not insignificant, nor is it simply just a throw-in.” So, will we find out to whom the claws belong? “It’s not the only shot you’re gonna see, let’s put it that way.” Well, that’s just put the Wolverine among the pigeons.
X-Men: Apocalypse is out on May 18.