Friendly warning, I’m spoiling all kinds of X-Men knowledge up in this bitch, from the first film through Apocalypse. If you aren’t caught up, now would be the time to click on another article.
X-Men: Apocalypse is one of those films that carries an extreme amount of plot on its shoulders. Thanks to its position as a final film in a trilogy, a sixth film in a long-running franchise, and a soft reboot of that franchise, Apocalypse had to deliver arcs that could serve as finishing moments for the leading trio, introduce a new roster of mutants, and juggle the after effects of a completely shifted timeline. Whether or not the film was successful in those endeavors has been the source of a lot of debate over the last few days, but there’s no doubt that director Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg had a full slate of to-dos (which seems to be why poor Jubilee got the shaft).
As a result, there were a fair share of unanswered questions by the time the credits rolled, some of them garbled plotlines that lacked clarity, some of them logical head-scratchers, and some of them unresolved teases setting up the future of the X-Men films. Let’s get our ponder on and break down the biggest unanswered X-Men: Apocalypse questions.
1. Why Didn’t Apocalypse Just Disintegrate Them All?
Here’s the problem you run into with villains like Apocalypse (and a worry I have for Marvel when they finally get to Thanos), he’s just too powerful. No matter how many mutants and their abilities you throw at him, it’s extremely difficult to wrap your head around a logical answer to how our heroes prevail. The film established how easily he could melt people into their surroundings or disintegrate any matter into columns of debris, so why didn’t he just eliminate the X-Men with a flick of his wrist?
It’s a symptom of a much larger flaw within the character – a total lack of articulated motivation or agenda. Perhaps he didn’t annihilate the X-Men because he doesn’t like killing mutants…except that doesn’t really add up since his plan (If you can call it that) was to demolish the entirety of everything, for reasons, and that included mutant casualties. The only thing Apocalypse seemed entirely committed to was giving his mutants fierce makeovers with a heavy-metal-meets-strippers-meets-superheroes bent. If nothing else, Apocalypse knows how to make it work.
2. How Many Times Will Erik Get a Free Pass?
Eric Lehnsherr has become the bane of humanity, and what’s worse he’d probably be proud to hear that. The original X-Men trilogy handled The on-again, off-again bromance between Charles and Erik as a delicate dance of frenemies who fought for a similar cause, mutant rights, through drastically different means. Thanks to the endless charms of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen — a chemistry that has since spawned an epic internet fan base — it was always feasible that Professor X might visit his old friend in the confines of his prison cell for a dignified round of chess and philosophical debate, but it was also always very clear that Magneto was the villain. He’s a straight up racist who believe mutants should be the ruling class and a warmonger to boot.
In the interest of demonstrating how Erik, a mutant crusader, became Magneto, a purveyor of death and destruction, the prequel trilogy has treated him as something more of a tragic hero than an outright villain. It’s a move that worked in First Class, making it that much more devastating when fulfilled his path to villainy, but after three films, the dance between hero and villain has become a bit frantic. Despite a pretty solid resume of insanity, war crimes, and generally being kind of a dick (remember that time he forced Charles to experience Shaw’s slow, brutal death through psychic connection before actually physically crippling him?), Erik continues to get sympathy from Charles, Raven and the X crew. No doubt he’s been through a lot, including psychological torture at the hands of Shaw and helplessly witnessing the death of his family twice, but since when has personal loss excused terrorism? I’m not asking for a Batman v Superman style investigation into the consequences of superheroes, but Erik needs to be held accountable for his heinous actions, not just by the people who are terrified of him, but those who love him.
3. How Will The World Ever Accept Mutants Now?
Our mutant heroes may be treating Erik with arguably undue sympathy, but you can bet humankind is absolutely batshit terrified of him. In First Class he tried to bomb the military, then he was locked up for allegedly killing JFK (he didn’t do it, but he’s given people no reason to believe that), in Days of Future Past he tried to assassinate the US cabinet and turn the Sentinels against humanity, and in Apocalypse he joined forces with an immortal evil and floated around on clouds of debris, amassing what must be an immeasurable body count. Aside from just being prejudice against the unknown, no wonder humans are terrified of mutants, and the way those small town cops reacted to Erik’s daughter proved the danger of that fear. And that was before a big purple guy gave Magneto the ability to control trace metals and basically clusterfucked the whole earth. Oh, let’s not forget that part Apocalypse used Charles to transmit a death threat to everyone, everywhere.
How can mutants ever come back from that? How can they even begin to regain the trust of humanity? Think about how many mothers, brothers, friends, wives and sons have died at the hands of mutants. What could the path to peace look like? Or can there ever be a path of peace again?
4. Is This It For The Marquee Trio?
Is this the end of the Jennifer Lawrence/Michael Fassbender/James McAvoy trio introduced in First Class? Lawrence has made no secret of the fact that she’s pretty much over the X-Men films. About a year ago, she went on record saying Apocalypse would be her last go in the X-Universe, and though she’s changed her tune a bit in interviews since, it’s always sounded non-committal. She openly hates getting into the Mystique makeup (and yeah, you can definitely tell the difference when she’s wearing that hideous blue bodysuit), which may be why Apocalypse has such a dearth of kickass Mystique set-pieces, but moreso, both Lawrence and Fassbender seem entirely bored with their roles.
McAvoy, at least, still seems to be having a good time (and, as always, his charisma is ratcheted up to 2000%), but from the sound of a recent interview, one interested actor may not be enough. According to Lawrence, the details of their original deal are a bit of an all-or-nothing situation. Here’s what she told EW, “Fox should be terrified because the deal we made was like, if one of us doesn’t come back, none of us are.“ In Graham Norton’s recent interview with McAvoy and Lawrence, they sounded game for more films if the script, schedule, and money were good enough, so there’s still hope for a return, but not only would the actors have to be willing to return, Fox would have to be willing to court them.
It’s an interesting predicament. You can’t have an X-Men franchise without Magneto and Professor X (and to a lesser extent Mystique), especially considering Wolverine is on the way out, but there may not be an easy solution to bring the current cast back. On one hand, the central trio are huge names and tremendously talented, but at the same time, X-Men seems poised to draw an audience regardless of which actors pick up the mantle (and as Deadpool demonstrated, people are much hungrier for new and different than studios like to give them credit for). Recasting may be jarring at first, but it worked in First Class, and a new set of actors could be a way out of the increasingly glaring age issue (the next film is planned to take place in the 90s, meaning they’d all be in their 50s, which nobody is buying for a second).
5. How Will Mister Sinister Play into The Future of The X-Men Universe?
The Apocalypse post-credits scene teased the introduction of a major player to the X-Universe, none other than Mister Sinister. Following Wolverine’s berserker massacre at Alkali Lake, a group of men walked through the piles of dead bodies, straight back to the lab where they retrieved a vial containing Weapon X’s blood sample and placing it into a case full of similar samples – a case brandishing the name “Essex Corp.” The very same corporation owned by one Nathaniel Essex, a scientist bent on perfecting human evolution who gains mutant powers and near immortality (thanks to none other than Apocalypse, in the comics) to become the villainous Mister Sinister.
The introduction of Sinister is an interesting prospect, and one that makes a huge amount of sense in the future of the X-Universe for a number of reasons. For one thing, the villain has a lengthy, soap-opera levels of crazy relationship with Jean and Scott, both of whom are set up to be major players in the future X-Men films. Thanks to a lot of scheming and a little cloning, Sinister is directly responsible for their son (sort of), who eventually becomes…Cable — a major player in the Deadpool universe who is reportedly on deck for the sequel. Sinister is also well known for his history with Gambit, whose solo film is still officially on the docket, though it’s been stalled for a while now. Finally, remember that bit about cloning…yeah, as a geneticist, cloning kind of Sinister’s thing. Given that he’s got a fresh sample of Wolvie blood, and the fact that Singer recently confirmed he wants the Wolverine clone X-23 in the X-Universe, could a woman be taking over for Wolverine when Hugh Jackman hangs up the claws? Or could the post-credits scene simply be a tease for the upcoming The Wolverine sequel?
For now, it’s all a lot of conjecture, but thanks to his connections and comic book history, Sinister is the perfect player to become a big bad in the future of the X-Universe.
6. How Dark Will Phoenix Get?
Apocalypse introduced a new version of Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner, and unlike her adult counterpart introduced in the first X-Men, teenage Jean is nowhere near in control of her powers. While that has always been an issue for the unusually powerful telepath, it didn’t become a danger until The Last Stand when Jean was overpowered by the Dark Phoenix, taking out Scott, Charles and eventually herself in the wake of her coming out party.
It was a shoddy adaptation a beloved and iconic book arc, which originally found Jean semi-possessed by an alien entity who increased her already immense powers and turned them against the X-Men, making her into one of the most formidable foes the team ever faced, and (oops) the destroyer of an entire star system. Apocalypse seems to be following The Last Stand‘s lead in that The Phoenix exists within Jean rather than a force that comes from without (though Singer recently teased interest in “a big alien, interstellar tenant within the X-Men universe that hasn’t been explored,” so that could still be coming) but so far, we’ve only seen that power used for good.
All the same, Jean defeated Apocalypse, meaning she possesses an absolutely unprecedented level of power, and you know what they say about absolute power. Jean was already afraid of her own abilities, how will she handle the knowledge of how enormous those abilities truly are? If we are headed for Dark Phoenix (and how could we not be after that shot of a blazoning Phoenix burning in triumph?), how long will it take to get there and just how dark will she go? Is Jean being set up to become a big bad, or will she be able to harness her abilities for good? Or, like in the comics, will her status as a villain be thrust upon her?
7. How Did Wolverine End Up with Stryker?
Let’s get to the most obvious unanswered question and one might ultimately have the biggest impact on the X-Men universe at large. you may recall at the end of days of future past, Wolverine was pulled out of the water by none other than his nemesis William Stryker, or so it seemed until strikers eyes flashed yellow to reveal that it was, in fact, Mystique in disguise. It was an exciting subversion of Logan’s existing arc in the previous films, and coupled with the fact that modern-day Wolverine woke up in a thriving X-Mansion with Scott and Jean, it promised a clean slate and refreshed narrative that was no longer beholden to the original trilogy.
So how the hell did Logan end up in Stryker’s hands, after all? As we saw in Apocalypse, somewhere along the way The anti-mutant military scientist captured Wolvie, hauled him to Lake Alkali where gave him an adamantium upgrade, and turned him into Weapon X. And this is revealed without any explanation, or even a nod to the Days of Future Past ending. It would have been pretty simple to explain away. With Raven dabbling in part-time mutant rescue, all it would have taken was a single line about an old friend she couldn’t help, or something along those lines, during one of her many “I’m not a hero” speeches. A throwaway line might also help explain why none of the X-Men seemingly did anything to help Logan, despite the fact that he kind of saved their entire race in the last film. Why wouldn’t Charles use Cerebro to find and rescue him? With nary a mention, it seems more like lazy storytelling on the surface, but when CinemaBlend asked screenwriter Simon Kinberg about this very issue, he gave an answer that’s not only unsatisfactory but a little worrisome for the future of the X-Men narrative. Here’s what he said:
One of the things we talk about in Days of Future Past — there’s a scene where Hank/Beast talks about the immutability of time. Basically, you can change the way the future goes, but it finds its way back. So while we don’t show how, it found its way back to Wolverine being part of Weapon X and under the thumb of Stryker, that’s the idea.
Wait, what? That just leads to an even bigger question…
8. What The Hell Is Up With The Timeline?
If the force of time is always going to redirect the story to the same destination, what was the point of rebooting the timeline? Does that make Wolverine return to a peaceful future at the end of Days of Future Past a lie? Is mutant kind ultimately destined to become extinct at the hands of the sentinels…especially considering Trask got his hands on Raven’s DNA despite the X-Men’s best efforts? (Thanks a lot, Erik. We’ll get to you.) Dear god, are we going to see a repeat of The Last Stand?
Unfortunately, you’d be hard pressed to find a clear cut answer on where the timeline stands. Adam visited the set of Apocalypse last year, where Singer and Kinberg spoke at length about their take on the new timeline…but it all adds up to a pretty confusing and somewhat indecipherable stance on the repercussions of time travel. You can check out everything they had to say here, but Singer’s quote below sums up the gist nicely:
“The idea that time is like a river. You can splash it and mess it up and throw rocks in it and shatter it but it eventually kind of coalesces...So what I’m doing with these in-betweenqueels is playing with time’s immutability and the prequel concept, meaning that yes we erased those storylines and anything can happen. That means the audience goes into the movie thinking that anything can happen. I mean anything, anyone could die. Any possibility could occur, but characters are still moving towards their immutable place.“
Which…doesn’t make a ton of sense. They’re saying that time is immutable…yet anything can happen. Not to get all Sarah Marshall, but those are two conflicting ideologies. Or maybe I just don’t get quantum physics.
9. Where Does Wolverine Go From Here?
If time is immutable, is Logan headed down the path we found him on at the start of the first film? Will he be aimlessly wandering Canada when his X-Destiny finds him again? Will it be Rogue who brings him back into the realm of the X-Men? And how exactly does he regain his sanity, considering the last time we saw him was running off into the snow after going full berserker mode? We know that Jean gave him a few of his memories back (leading to a pretty creepy moment between Wolvie and the very young object of his future affection), but we don’t know which memories or what path they may send him down.
These are questions to which we may never get an answer. Hugh Jackman is set to retire from the claw life after one final appearance in a solo Wolverine film. With James Mangold on board to direct and Jackman heavily invested in getting his final film right, it’s likely that The Wolverine will skew toward character drama over world-building, and opt for resolution rather than delving into the mysteries of the character’s past.
What are your lingering questions after X-Men: Apocalypse? Sound off in the comments with the moments that still have you scratching your head or the teases you can’t wait to see resolved.