The following piece contains major SPOILERS about the very end of X-Men: Days of Future Past - as well as potential spoilers about the next film in the franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse.
It's safe to say that X-Men: Days of Future Past writer / producer Simon Kinberg is about to have a great weekend. "I'm very Jewish in my neuroses, so I won't celebrate at least a week or two from now," Kinberg tells me over the phone from the set of The Fantastic Four reboot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Still, he already has reason to pop a bottle of champagne before Memorial Day. Critically, commercially, and in sheer size, X-Men: Days Of Future Past is poised to be one of the biggest superhero movies of the year. It earned a solid $8.1 million last night, slightly below Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Godzilla, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2's Thursday night openings. It's the largest Thursday night haul for an X-Men movie ever.
More importantly, Kinberg successfully introduced time travel and retconned a timeline turned sour. His contributions to X-Men: The Last Stand - having Jean Grey's Dark Phoenix storyline play second fiddle to a muddled, emotionless mess - was essentially seen as the beginning of the end for this series. Against all odds, Kinberg and Bryan Singer, the director responsible for the original X-Men, X2: X-Men United, and producer of the wildly entertaining prequel X-Men: First Class, have convinced me to do what Professor X demands of his younger self in X-Men: Days Of Future Past: Have hope again.
"I've been wanting to make a movie with him since X3," Kinberg says. "10 Years after I started working on these X-Men movies, I get to work with Bryan. It was a dream for me." He believes Singer is more responsible for the modern superhero movie than any other filmmaker. He redefined what comic movies could be for Kinberg. "He has an amazing mind for these movies and I'm excited to make more with him," Kinberg says.
This overwhelming ambition coexists with Bryan Singer's scandal, in which Michael Egan, 31, accused the director of sexually assaulting him when he was 17-years-old. A few weeks later, another lawsuit claimed Singer molested a 14-year-old actor. Despite the controversy, Kinberg says he will direct the next film, X-Men: Apocalypse, which gets a stellar post-credit teaser in Days of Future Past.
So, what happens in the post-credits scene? Long story short, the immortal mutant is being worshipped in Egypt. People chant his named, En Sabah Nur, and he builds pyramids by raising his arms. Oh, and there are four men on horses nearby... It's a lot for any X-Men fan the handle and gives us hints of things to come.
What should we expect from Apocalypse in the sequel? Here's what I managed to get out of Kinberg:
Apocalypse will be a charistmatic leader on par with Xavier and Magneto
Look, Apocalypse is a pretty bad dude in the comics. Not only does he have the ability to change size and shapes, have superhuman strength, and psionic abilities, he's generally evil and has few redeemable qualities. He brainwashes people to his cause. He kills mutants and humans. That's just what happens when you consider yourself godlike because you're a 5000-year-old monster. We also know he lives in the distant future, in addition to the past. But expect a different, more human-like approach in X-Men: Apocalypse:
Simon Kinberg: What the comics do best and I think Bryan's done so well with these movies is humanizing, dramatizing the characters. It's really been about how do we give him [Apocalypse], most importantly, a very human and relatable motivation so that as extreme and insane as his methods are, there is something, you know, understandable, almost empathetic about his motivation. Some of that is in the books, some of that is us building on that. You know, fully dimensionalizing the character, but it is a huge part of the task of adapting the story of Apocalypse. It is making him, while larger than life also dow to a human, emotional scale.
Simon Kinberg: We're definitely approaching him as a super charismatic leader that will draw people to his cause. So far, in the X-Men movies, there really are two leaders. You know, there's Eric/Magneto and what he did with the Brotherhood and Charles/Professor Xavier and what he did with the X-Men. Apocalypse does present a new leader, the darkest leader in the movie franchise.
The stakes will be higher than Days of Future Past and might take visual inspiration from an alternate timeline
Even though DoFP features mutantkind at the brink of extinction thanks to futuristic sentinels, the threat for the past cast is still pretty far off, even if they fail at their task. X-Men: Apocalypse will raise the stakes by having an immediate extinction level-sized event. Is it the Legacy Virus? Just the Four Hoursemen? Who knows! One thing's for sure, though: Kinberg really likes the Age of Apocalypse storyline, an alternate timeline in which Professor X is dead and Magneto leads the X-Men in a desolate future. This is a good thing because some of the best parts of DoFP took place in an alternate future.
Simon Kinberg: I had read Age of Apocalypse and most of the appearances of Apocalypse before thinking about the movie, but went back and reread it and I think one of the things that's most exciting about it is the potential for the visual scale of the movie, and so it is a larger story than even Days of Future Past. In Days of Future Past, they're trying to stop something that's not extinction level in the moment, although it could be one day. There's not an immediacy in the plot and this is a plot that actually has extinction level stakes and is even more global than anything we've ever seen before. There's a lot of architecture from the stories that we'll be using. It will be about his character emotionally, you know, like who is he? Not just as a mutant, but as a person.
Despite potential visions from the future, don't expect time travel like in DoFP
Again, Age of Apocalypse has a distinct vision for the future. But Kinberg is determined to avoid time travel, even if we do see cross-cutting between the present and future.
Simon Kinberg: The Apocalypse story has a lot of different ways of telling stories. That was one of the things that I liked about Days of Future Past: Doing a time travel movie where it's not just sending someone back in time, but actually intercutting between the past and the future that we really haven't seen in a movie before. Usually you have somebody go back and stay in the past the whole movie. Apocalypse has some, without getting into detail, as you know from the books, has some innovative, different ways of storytelling also.
Kinberg is excited about Channing Tatum as Gambit and he's aware that people want Lupita Nyong'o as Storm
Simon Kinberg: I think Gambit's one of the coolest characters that hasn't been heavily featured. I mean, he was in the first Wolverine movie, but he hasn't really been heavily featured in the main X-Men movies. I think Channing will be amazing playing him. What I like about the character is that my favorite characters in the comics are anti-heroes like Batman, like Wolverine, like Iron Man. I think Gambit fits into that classification because he's a thief, he's rogue, he's a little destructive. I think he's one of the more dynamic characters in the X-Men world. He's certainly one as a fan that could be explored more in the films.
You know, people want Lupita Nyong'o as Storm:
Simon Kinberg: [Laughs] I have read that. I've certainly been reading about it. She's a great actress...