Olivia Munn has been cast as the beautiful Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse and a few weeks ago we even got to see her costume! The dangerous telepath has been a key member of the X-Men since 1986, but in those decades she's only had a few strong character arcs. What are those arcs, and how may they affect her portrayal in X-Men: Apocalypse?
1. THE BODY-SWAP
In the comics, Betsy Braddock was a British aristocrat, sister of the superhero Captain Britain. In fact, she first entered the superhero scene when she donned the Captain Britain mantle herself! Joining the X-Men, and taking up the codename Psylocke, Betsy was eventually plunged into a mystic portal known as the Siege Perilous. Through the Siege Perilous, her mind was transplanted into the body of the ninja assassin Kwannon, and she briefly became Lady Mandarin before rejoining the X-Men when Wolverine broke her brainwashing. The Psylocke who's most familiar to fans is the British aristocrat in the body of an Asian assassin, with all of the assassin's skills.
Let's face the facts: that's a twisty, impossible character arc to fit into a movie that's supposed to be focused on Apocalypse. What's more, Fox may not have the licence to use Captain Britain (ironically, because he's often been tied to the X-Men, there's a chance they might have), and they definitely don't have the licence for the Mandarin.
No, it's pretty certain that Psylocke's backstory here will be far simpler. I suspect that Bryan Singer will have Psylocke be one of two things: either a British mutant aristocrat who headed out to Japan and became a top assassin, or an Asian mutant who became a master assassin. We already know - if only from Olivia Munn's Instagram - that her Psylocke is most definitely going to be lethal...
In the 1990s, Psylocke was typically played as sexually aggressive - never more so than in her flirtation with Cyclops. Psylocke was genuinely attracted to Cyclops, whose long-time relationship with Jean Grey was going through a rough patch at the time, and she began a campaign of seduction that pretty much crossed the line to sexual assault on occasion. In later interviews, writer Scott Lobdell admitted the only purpose behind this flirtation was to force Cyclops and Jean Grey to get to a position where their relationship was stronger, so they could then be married.
This is the Psylocke I can picture on the screen, and - with Cyclops and Jean Grey in the film - it's even possible we'll get some nods to Cyclops' considering her pretty hot. I doubt we'll see that flirtation advance too much, but it may have a minor impact on the plot.
3. LONG-TERM ROMANCE
Shortly after her flirtation with Cyclops came to an end, Psylocke began a long-standing romance with fellow X-Man Archangel. Apocalypse's most well-known Horseman, Archangel often found Psylocke essentially in keeping him together, as the darkness Apocalypse had placed within him threatened to consume him. All of this culminated in "The Dark Angel Saga", where Psylocke was ultimately forced to kill Archangel. Although he was reborn, it was an amnesiac, a whole new person who did not love Psylocke.
Although these comics are iconic, and I think a relationship between Psylocke and Archangel is inevitable, the movies are too different for these to be replicated. In X-Men: Apocalypse, both of these characters are Horsemen, meaning the central concept - that Psylocke was holding Archangel's darkness in check - is pretty much nullified. That being said, Psylocke's telepathy may give her increasing resistance to Apocalypse, and she may in turn then exert an influence upon Archangel, working to free him in turn.
4. CRIMSON DAWN
After nearly being killed by Sabretooth, Psylocke was saved from death when Archangel managed to link her to the mystical Crimson Dawn. This led to her developing additional powers, namely the ability to teleport through shadows, and to her being pursued by demonic forces for a while. The most visible change was a marking over one of her eyes.
I seriously doubt that this plot will be picked up in X-Men: Apocalypse - the mystic element is one that Fox have consciously shunned in all their Marvel-based movies, and I doubt that's going to change any time soon. That said, I can see Bryan Singer choosing to give Psylocke the ability to teleport through shadows. Teleportation has already been played out phenomenally in the X-Men movies - Nightcrawler's attack on the White House in X2 was, in my view, the high point of the entire series so far. And an actual assassin with those powers would be seriously lethal.
In all honesty, given that Fox's movies tend to be only loosely based on the comic books, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Singer chose to ignore Psylocke's telepathy completely, instead favouring this powerset. It might suit the character I suspect he's creating rather better.
5. ADDICTION TO KILLING
In the most recent X-Force series, the darkness that surrounded Psylocke became too much. She literally became addicted to killing, finding the adrenaline rush of taking a life to be her only joy. And because she was working in a seriously nasty black ops team, she had plenty of opportunity to feed this disturbing addiction. That was a seriously dark take on the character, with Psylocke eventually coming to a point where she chose not to kill, taking the first step in overcoming the addiction.
If there's one element I can see working as a Horseman of Apocalypse, it's this, especially if Singer chooses to make Psylocke an Asian assassin by origin.