Maybe it was the X-men t-shirts and the bag with a bunch of Marvel superheroes on it, but both times I've gone to see X-men: Days of Future Past people have felt I was the guy to pitch a bunch of questions to. And I'm cool with that because comics, in particular X-men comics, are kinda my thing. And sure enough the majority of questions had to do with the film's post-credit sequence, which wouldn't have been clear to anybody but diehard X-men fans.
Okay, so at the end of X-men: Days of Future Past we are taken to a scene in ancient Egypt where a throng of people are chanting "En Sabah Nur!!" to a robed man atop a sand dune using his mutant power to build the Pyramids. The camera rotates around to show his face, revealing he's a teenager with blue lips and greyish skin. This is the immortal Apocalypse, a character born some 5000 years ago in Akkaba, and generally regarded as the first mutant. That distinction went to others for awhile (including Namor) but it has stuck with Apocalypse.
Because of how he was raised, Apocalypse subscribes to the Darwinist theory "survival of the fittest", and has spent his many thousands of years testing himself and others. Due to the involvement of the villain Rama-Tut and acquired Alien technology, Apocalypse has grown in strength and ability over time. He has the power to alter reality and matter, making him capable of literally anything. To maintain his power, he goes into hibernation for lengthy periods of time, leaving his followers in the Clan Akkaba and his personal envoy Ozymandias to handle matters.
That's all well and good, but how is he associated with the X-men? His first appearance comes in the pages of X-factor where he faced the original team of Cyclops, a newly reborn Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast, and Angel. Apocalypse's motives were modest, initially, but then we see that his past, present, and future are uniquely tied to the Summers (Cyclops) bloodline. Apocalypse infected Cyclops' son, Nathan, forcing the child to be sent off into the future when he could be cured. When Nathan returns as the grown-up and militaristic Cable, it's his arrival that awakens Apocalypse once again. Apocalypse becomes obsessed not only with the Summers clan, but with the survival of all mutantkind, in a way making him not too far removed from Magneto ideologically. His aspirations are far greater and self-serving, however.
Apocalypse is the centerpiece of one of the most critical X-men storylines, the Age of Apocalypse. In a story that is very similar to X-men: Days of Future Past, Charles Xavier's son goes back in time to kill Magneto but only succeeds in murdering his own father. With Xavier dead, a new timeline is created in which Apocalypse rules with an iron fist, humans are marginalized or killed outright, and a new team of X-men must be formed to stop him. There have been suggestions that Bryan Singer plans to incorporate elements of this into 2016's X-men: Apocalypse, but all he's seen fit to reveal is a desire to explore the idea of "ancient mutants", which obviously includes Apocalypse.
But what may be the best indicator of what's in store for the film may have to do with the mutants Apocalypse surrounds himself with. He's usually accompanied by his lieutenants the Four Horsemen, named after the Biblical plagues War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death. At first these Horsemen were non-descript mutants given a significant power boost, but lately Apocalypse has been going after more prominent figures. He transformed Angel into the psychotic metal-winged Archangel. Other X-men who have served as Horsemen include Wolverine, Sunfire, and Gambit, and for a spell even the Hulk was counted amongst their number. Screenwriter Simon Kinberg suggested Apocalypse will be trying much the same thing again...
Kinberg: "The thing that we've spent the most time talking about is not just the visual execution of the character, which is its own challenge. [But] creating a character that's the most powerful I think of any mutant villain that we've seen in the 'X-Men' movies so far. More powerful than Magneto...But we've also been talking about how to give him a real emotional and philosophical underpinning. So he's not just somebody who's out there destroying the world because he can. What he's doing is – in his mind – justified and validated by a real compelling, coherent philosophy. He tries to convert people – maybe some of our most familiar characters – to come to his cause."
So does this mean we'll see a return of Ben Foster as Angel? And what about Gambit, who will presumably be played by Channing Tatum? Gambit is a maybe, but X-men: Apocalypse is set in the 1980s and so it would require a younger actor than Foster to play Angel. It's worth noting that in the 'Days of Future Past' virals it's revealed Angel was killed in anti-Trask protests in 2011. He could still return thanks to the new timeline the films have established. Chances are Singer and Kinberg will be making significant changes to Apocalypse's history for the film, but as we saw in the post-credits sequence his origin will remain largely intact. This is just a small glimpse into who Apocalypse is (he even fought a young Dracula back in the day!) and the incalculable threat he poses to the X-men, and I'm very curious to see how he's depicted on screen. I'm also hoping Singer has room to include Apocalypse's other henchmen, the Dark Riders, who were my favorite heel team for awhile.
X-men: Apocalypse opens May 27th 2016 and will be shot back-to-back with the third Wolverine film.