X-Men: Days of Future Past has come and gone, and judging by the box office both domestically and oversees (i.e. the one that matters) a sequel is just as inevitable as Wolverine stealing the limelight from the other characters (four films and counting at this point). If after viewing Days of Future Past you made the condemnable mistake of not sitting through an endless list of people whose names and jobs you couldn’t care less about, or you haven’t heard any news about Bryan Singer’s plans that don’t involve getting himself a lawyer, then allow me to catch you up. Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer hinted at who the lead villain of the next X-Men film would be, and Days’ obligatory post-credit scene pretty much confirmed it.
It’s this guy:
No, that’s not an albino Michael Clarke Duncan wearing Blue Coral #5 lipstick, it’s Apocalypse, one of the most boring villains ever to grace the pages of comics. Now, to those of you who haven’t already stopped reading, let me explain. In the X-Men universe, Apocalypse is one of the oldest living mutants on the planet, and he believes the strongest mutants should rule the world with the not-so-strong mutants and humans as their slaves. Why does he believe this? Because he’s evil. Why is he evil? So the X-Men can fight him. Why do they want to fight him? Because he believes the strongest mutants…and so on.
Apocalypse wouldn’t be bad as the villain in a first movie, but considering we’ll be six movies into the series (not counting the Wolverine solo “efforts” [to be p.c. about it]) with this upcoming film, the time for one-note baddies is past. Especially when he has to follow-up 1) a Holocaust survivor who’s also the former best friend of one of the lead protagonists, and 2) an army colonel who hates mutants because his mutant son made his wife commit suicide. This is a franchise that should and has done better than a typical “rule the world” type of villain.
But a good personality can make up for boring motivations and generic goals. So what’s Apocalypse’s personality like? Well, he’s very loud and threatening and angry most of the time – angry because his grandiose plans tend to fail. Oh, and he tends to deliver long, drawn-out speeches. Exactly what a thrilling sci-fi action movie needs. Then there are Apocalypse’s powers. What are they? Every power. Seriously, name a power and he’s got it. Super strength? Got it. Flight? Got it. Laser blasts? Out of every conceivable bodily orifice. The power to turn his hand into a wall when it’s convenient for a specific situation? Of course. Instead of coming up with creative ways for a villain to use his limited amount of power (remember the metal-ball-prison-escape in X2?), writers can just make Apocalypse pull a new power out of his ass to get one over on the heroes. Apocalypse is the villain you write when you’ve run out of ideas (which maybe makes him fittingly named, but I digress).
This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the screenwriters had run the gamut of villains from the X-Men comics and they figure they should include Apocalypse for completion’s sake. But there are dozens of on-page-baddies who deserve to be on screen (preferably played by actors as awesome as Ian McKellan and Kevin Bacon), and here are just five of them.
5. The Shadow King
Remember in X-Men: First Class there was that evil telepathic mutant Emma Frost, and she had that big psychic battle with Charles Xavier, and it had all crazy surreal imagery and bizarre camerawork that you could get away with because it was all happening in their minds? Wait, that wasn’t in X-Men: First Class was it? Makes a telepathic villain and a telepathic hero seem like a waste doesn’t it? Oh well, that could easily be remedied in the next with the introduction of Amahl Farouk. Normally, Farouk is just a jerk with an inflated ego and an even more inflated belly, but when he uses his abilities to enter his victims’ minds, he becomes the creepy demonic entity known as the Shadow King. The Shadow King can posses people or torture them from the inside out, and being a sadistic megalomaniac, he enjoys doing both. In the comic book continuity, he’s also the first evil mutant Xavier encountered.
At some point in his rambunctious past, Charles Xavier encountered Amahl Farouk and beat him in a show of psychic abilities. Years later, Farouk returns stronger than ever and takes his revenge by tormenting the minds of Xavier’s students. No, the world isn’t in danger, but the stakes are higher on a personal level for Professor X. Aside from introducing elements of horror into the X-Men film series, psychic warfare provides a great opening for characters like Psylocke or a young Jean Grey.
Remember that group Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost were a part of in First Class, the Hellfire Club? Well, in the comics, it was more like an actual club – a secret society, in fact – with its own unique identity (members given titles based on chess pieces; e.g. Shaw was the Black King, and Emma Frost, the White Queen) and not just a substitution for the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The Club had many shifts in power over the years, and one member who rose to prominence was a mutant known as Selene (also known as the Black Queen). Admittedly, Selene has one of the same problems as Apocalypse: too many powers – telekinesis, pyrokinesis, magic (yes, magic), just to name a few. But all a good screenwriter needs to do is trim her down to her most prominent ability: draining the psychic energy of a person, thus gaining their strength, keeping herself young, and making that person into her mind-controlled slave. Yes, you are correct, Selene is a psychic vampire; essentially what would happen if X-Men member Rogue enjoyed using her own strength-draining powers.
Consider for the hypothetical film a story of revenge: the White and Black Queens are bitter about Sebastian Shaw’s death. They get together to hunt down the men responsible: Magneto and Professor X. Except it turns out Selene is a little too vicious and a little too crazy for Frost’s liking. Frost turns on Selene, Selene turns on Frost, Frost loses the scuffle and goes to the good guys for help. Plus, I really want to see an Emma Frost-led X-Men team in the future (it happens in the comics, I swear).
In Legion we have at least three villains better than Apocalypse. I’ll explain:
David Charles Haller is mutant who suffers from a multiple personality disorder. Through logic that only exists in comics, David’s personalities each have different powers, and some of these guys are quite evil – one is a terrorist, at least one is a sociopath, one tortures puppies, and another is a Lovecraftian demon.
Oh, and he’s also Charles Xavier’s illegitimate son. Let’s look at that idea through the cannon of the films. In First Class we see a young Xavier had some trouble keeping it in his pants – even using his mind reading powers to pick up women. Imagine if that came back to bite him in the ass. One of the (underdeveloped) themes in Days of Future Past was coming to terms with one’s past. This could be expanded upon by giving Xavier a physical consequence from his old life to deal with. Legion could come in resenting his father, looking for comeuppance, or he could want to join the X-Men, but (being crazy and all) takes their mission statement a little too far.
He could, for example, try to outright murder Magneto – which he did try in the comics, incidentally leading to the Age of Apocalypse storyline. The way Xavier deals with his unexpected (and honestly, unwanted) child could show the freewheeling, drug taking, responsibility shirking Xavier of the prequels transition into the mature, patient mentor of the original trilogy.
2. The Shi’ar Empire
A few villains not enough? How about an entire planet of them? The Shi’ar are a human-looking alien race that evolved from birds rather than apes – remember, comic book logic. The Shi’ar Empire has come to blows with the X-Men numerous times in conflicts that have taken place all over the galaxy. When they battle the super powered mutant team, the Shi’ar often use their own super powered team, the Imperial Guard.
If 20th Century Fox (owner of the film rights to the X-Men property) truly wants to compete with the ever expanding universe Marvel Studios has built around the Avengers, taking the X-Men into space isn’t a bad place to start. There’s an entire universe (literally and figuratively) of story lines Fox hasn’t yet tapped into. For instance, in the comics, Havok (the guy who shot lasers out of his chest in First Class and got demoted to cameo status in Days of Future Past) leaves Earth and becomes the captain of his own space pirate crew called the Starjammers. And his brother becomes the Shi’ar Emperor for a time.
Consider, too, the ramifications of introducing aliens into the film world of X-Men. How does a populace that traditionally fears people who can fly and rip cars in half react when they learn there are entire planets of people who can do those things? And if no one’s interested in stories or questions, let me just repeat: mutant space pirate.
1. Mister Sinister
One of the few things to look forward to in an Apocalypse movie is the possibility Mr. Sinister could show up. Mr. Sinister (or Nathaniel Essex, as his mother called him) is a nearly unkillable, hundred-and-something-year-old sociopath who looks like H. R. Giger and Yoshitaka Amano collaborated on a drawing of Dracula living on the Death Star. He occasionally works with Apocalypse (in fact, in a few expanded X-Men universe stories he’s cast as one of Apocalypse’s subordinates), but usually it’s a partnership of convenience so Sinister can further his own goals.
So, what are these goals? Nothing as grandiose as taking over the world or enslaving humankind; he merely wants to freely conduct his experiments, which routinely involve abduction, torture, and brainwashing. See, Sinister is a brilliant geneticist who grew up around the same time as Charles Darwin and believed that it was the duty of learned men like himself to help human and mutant kind reach the next level of evolution – with or without their permission. His desire to one day create the “perfect mutant” has led to an interest in – okay, obsession with – the energy generating Summers family (Cyclops, Havok, Vulcan). He’s meddled with – okay, nearly destroyed – the lives of Scott Summers (Cyclops), Scott’s wife Jean Grey, and their son Nathan.
It’s this lack of empathy, this progress-over-compassion mentality that makes Sinister frightening. It’s not much of a stretch to see parallels between Sinister and real life science psychos like Nazi doctor Josef Mengele (look him up if you want to vomit) – in fact, at one point, Essex did work with the Nazis. Being a former Nazi accomplice and person who likes experimenting on mutants, a film version of Sinister could conceivably have ties to the film versions of Sebastian Shaw and Bolivar Trask – maybe he mentored both of them. If nothing else, Sinister’s connection to the Summers could be the inspiration Bryan Singer needs to give Havok a decent amount of screen time.
Am I completely off? Is Apocalypse, in fact, the coolest villain ever? If so, tell me exactly why I’m wrong – in list format, please.