X-Men: Apocalypse is set to continue the decade-and-a-half old franchise this summer, and fans are starting to get their first indications of exactly how one of the mutant team’s most iconic adversaries will be brought to life onscreen.
Apocalypse will see the X-Men facing off against En Sabah Nur, an immortal supervillain better known by the film’s moniker and recognized in-canon as the first mutant. Several different versions of Apocalypse have appeared in the comics over the years, however, and recent interviews with the team behind the new film have revealed which elements of the character are making their way to the screen.
— IGN (@IGN) January 24, 2016
To begin with, though he is exceptionally powerful, Apocalypse isn’t God. Coming from a time when mutants were worshiped as gods, however, his psyche is definitely affected when he emerges into a world where he is at best an equal to other mutants (depth of powers aside), and at worst a member of a marginalized group. Writer Simon Kinberg noted that this perspective was something the filmmakers consciously considered while divining the emotional and thematic material for the character.
— X-Men: Apocalypse (@XApocalypse2016) January 24, 2016
While En Sabah Nur isn’t omniscient, he is possessed of a multitude of powers rather than a single mutant ability. As director Bryan Singer pointed out in a recent interview, the film version of Apocalypse was conceived as a non-corporeal entity that migrates between bodies in order to escape the ravages of time. In doing so, he gathers the powers of the hosts he has invaded, accumulating them over the ages. While Singer has suggested that Apocalypse may be of extraterrestrial origin, his powers are able to cross dimensions, allowing him to amplify the abilities of other mutants, as Screencrush notes. According to Singer, Apocalypse is also able to shield himself from the attacks of psychics like Xavier.
“He’s not a psychic himself though. He can’t manipulate — he can amplify your power, but his ability to physically damage or destroy or build is in the non-biological world. That’s in the physical world. He can change the inorganic molecules of things.”
— IGN (@IGN) January 23, 2016
By far the most important of Apocalypse’s powers, however, is his ability to persuade others. Singer and Kinberg have both noted that in the upcoming film, Apocalypse’s powers of persuasion won’t manifest as literal hypnosis or spell-casting. Instead, they are far more nuanced, giving the filmmakers the ability to examine the various ways in which En Sabah Nur acts as a cult leader, with his four horsemen representing the various facets of such a following.
“It’s interesting, what’s a little bit, hopefully, complex in the movie, or even ambiguous, is how much he’s persuading his followers with a superhuman ability or just he’s like any cult leader who is really good at convincing people to follow him, so we don’t really ever make that explicit. It’s not like he’s putting people under a spell, but he is superhumanly persuasive.”
The horsemen that serve Apocalypse in the film are different from those typically found in the comics, and consist of several familiar faces. Magneto represents the political faction of a cult, as IGN notes, while Archangel stands in for the militaristic side of such a group. Storm represents the more “malleable” youth who find themselves drawn into a cult, while Psylocke is an avatar for the sexualized side of Apocalypse’s following.
— Flickering Myth (@flickeringmyth) January 17, 2016
While much may have changed in the interpretation of the character, Singer promises that Apocalypse’s vision and the scope of his ambitions are hardly set to change. En Sabah Nur is still a singular villain in the X-Men canon, and he will present as a threat on a worldwide scale, aiming to “make a massive global change” that threatens both mankind and mutantkind. Fans will finally get their chance to learn what those aims are on May 27, when X-Men: Apocalypse hits theaters.