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There have been many iterations of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen in all the various X-Men properties. The animated series featured a classic comic book style line-up, Wolverine became one in the comics’ second incarnation, and even Professor Xavier served his time in X-Men: Evolution. But, typically, they went by War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death.
In Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, these are the names given to the title villain’s original line-up. We first glimpsed them in the post-credits scene for Days of Future Past, but the sequel will return to ancient Egypt to reveal them to be two men and two women, one of which stands at about 7’ 6’’ with long mace-tipped braids. Then, of course, there’s the modern-day incarnation. On the film’s set, writer-producer Simon Kinberg explained how the story for X-Men: Apocalypse was built from the inside out. For the Horsemen, they started with Magneto. "We had a very clear sense of what we wanted his emotional story to be," he said, "which actually goes back to, Michael Fassbender and I went to Russia last summer for the Days of Future Past premiere." As the two discussed what interested the actor most in continuing the evolution of the character, they landed on an arc that felt right for Magneto to become a follower of Apocalypse. Said Kinberg:
That was the first person that we decided would be an interesting Horseman, and then, truly, we just kinda sat there, the way anybody would whether you were in a role playing game or a video game or, you know, doing fan-fiction, and it was like, 'Who are the coolest characters you wanna see and who are interesting combinations with one another and who are interesting foils for the heroes of the movie?'
Ahead of X-Men: Apocalypse’s premiere on May 27, we compiled a guide to these Four Horsemen straight from the actor’s themselves on the film’s Toronto sets.
MagnetoIt’s 1983, about 10 years since the events of Days of Future Past, and Magneto has disappeared. "I start off in Poland for Erik, and he’s basically living a normal life, has a family, has fallen in love," Fassbender said. "He doesn’t use his powers, has left that life behind and lives a very sort of simple life."
In the comics, Madga is the mother of Erik’s children (you might know them as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver), but in Apocalypse it seems she’ll feature as his new love in Europe. Erik’s goal is to provide for his new family, which involves working at a steel mill, somewhere Fassbender said he can use his powers but in a way similar to penance. Staying out of the spotlight doesn’t mean he’s at peace.
"For Magneto, he’s somebody who’s been injured, somebody who’s had all of his loved ones taken away from him and is someone who is quite singular in his thoughts," Fassbender explained, referring primarily to the concentration camp that killed his family. Once again, he’ll have something else taken away from him, and that’s when Apocalypse comes into the picture. The actor continued,
At that moment when things are being taken away from him again in Poland, it’s almost like he’s looking for an answer or he’s challenging God. It’s like, 'What do you want from me ‘cause I tried everything? I’ve tried to lead a good life. I’ve tried to do it correctly, whatever that is, and now you do this to me. So what is it that you want?'
Magneto, having been a leader and a lone wolf, but never a follower, sees Apocalypse as a God-like being who will fulfill everything he couldn’t. Fassbender, Kinberg, and Singer compared the relationship to a cult in which Apocalypse, the leader, finds Erik at his lowest point and persuades him to join his plan of "judgement," which is something he does with each of his Horsemen.
I think that’s the sort of classic thing, you know, of any sort of megalomaniac, there are huge contradictions and hypocrisies within it. It’s almost like some of the worst dictators start off as complete idealists and that almost makes them more extreme in their dictatorship later, and what Apocalypse is doing is echoing that. But, for him at that point, I think it’s just about, Okay, I’m going to bring as much pain to the human race as they’ve brought me and, basically, wipe them out once and for all.
So, what about Storm? Let's see.
StormMagneto may have been the first choice to become a Horsemen, but Storm is the first recruit. Having been running with a bad crowd of mutants on the streets of Cairo, the weather-wielding mutant, played by Alexandra Shipp, meets an awakened Apocalypse babbling in some sort of ancient language. After she attempts to communicate with him through Arabic, En Sabah Nur takes a moment to piece together his surroundings.
Coming from ancient times where he was revered as a god, he sees the young girl as a deity robbed of a throne. For Storm, who’s been living a life as a pick pocket, this appeals to her. Shipp explained,
She’s in survival mode, so when she meets Apocalypse she kind of like hits this revelation where she’s been struggling to feel like she belongs somewhere, and then this extremely powerful being comes to her and says, 'I’m what you’ve been waiting for. I will take care of you,' and for her that’s like, click. She doesn’t know anything about the X-Men. The only thing she knows is about Mystique when she saved the President.
Because of her hard knock life, she’ll automatically see herself at odds with the other younger mutants Jean, Scott, Nightcrawler, and the like. "Storm is a different kind of smart. She’s had to survive, she’s a bit of street smart," Shipp said. "So I feel like if and when she makes it to the mansion, it’s gonna take a little time for her to warm up to these normal white people. You know what I mean? She’s been in Cairo, she’s been fighting, and her life is just so much more different."
One of Apocalypse’s many powers in the film is to enhance the abilities of other mutants around him to become "cagega-level mutants," the bubbly Shipp joked. At first he’s unaware of what Storm can do, just that he can sense how powerful she is and he needs a protector in his newly awakened and weakened state. By the time she’s recruited as a Horsemen, she can essentially do whatever she pleases from blowing away missiles and planes with wind, to calling down lightning. "I’m not the Phoenix, but still," Shipp said.
PsylockePsylocke was a late addition to X-Men: Apocalypse. Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg were working on the script in pre-production in Montreal and they felt like they needed a different Horsemen. "We just started going through the cycling of the different Apocalypse Horsemen over history," Kinberg said. "We felt like we wanted it to be a female character and pretty quickly settled on Psylocke."
It just so happened that Kinberg had been in L.A. a week or two earlier casting Deadpool that he met with Olivia Munn. She came to audition for a role, and, though she wasn’t a good fit for the casting, she turned out to be a great fit for Psylocke.
What interested Singer about the story of Apocalypse was the concept of cults. There’s a religious and/or political part, there’s an angelic part, there’s a childlike part, and then there’s a sexual part. While Magneto, Angel, and Storm fill those first three roles, Psylocke fills the latter, if only through her scantily clad yet comic book accurate attire.
When it comes to her abilities, she’s a badass. The producers called Munn, wearing black Crocs and glasses over her costume, back on set to finishing shooting a group scene, but she needs moment. Stepping off to the side, the actress whips out her rehearsal katana sword and whirls it about Kill Bill style.
Munn said later:
[Apocalypse] first meets her and she’s the bodyguard, and she’s got this amazing skill and has zero fear when she goes against him and so he needs her. What he sees in her is that she is someone who can protect and has no fear and is an amazing fighter and has these amazing abilities.
Psylocke will have all of her comic book abilities, including her signature psionic blades. This was something that always interested Munn, the character’s unapologetic enjoyment of killing. "Most superheroes don’t enjoy killing or want to kill, but they will kill if they have to, or some avoid it at all costs," she said. "Psylocke can create anything with her mind, so she can kill from afar like Magneto or Storm, but she chooses to create a sword, which is a very intimate way to kill someone."
One thing fans won’t see from the character is her telepathy, which came down from a decision. Munn explained that "we don’t talk about it, we don’t address it" because there was already a lot going on with the story and there wasn’t enough time to fully delve into parts of Psylocke, being that she needs to appear in this film fully formed. That said, that doesn’t mean she’s not telepathic.
When you are telepathic, I feel that it’s a power that you want to hold close to your chest. It’s a card that you don’t want a lot of people to know about because you’re so much more powerful when people don’t know that you have this power. And so, it’s fun because we’re definitely having moments of that where, some of the fights scenes that I have where I’m able to go after them quickly because I’m already assessing what they’re going to do, but they don’t know that I have that ability.
If you don’t know who Psylocke is, you probably won’t think twice about all of this. If you do, Munn promises some fun moments that’ll become more juicy in realizing that the character is already two steps ahead of everyone else.
ArchangelIn the dusty rafters of a crumbling building in Toronto, an Archangel gets his wings. As floorboards creak and mites sift through the sunlight poking through the cracked ceiling, Apocalypse moves his hands over Angel’s body. The effects will be added in later, but Ben Hardy stands on set rocking new, black-plated armor, a poofed blond mohawk, and ancient tattoos inked on his shaved head. Apocalypse has his fourth Horseman. All that’s missing are his wings.
"We didn’t build the wings," said Singer. "The wings are maybe 20 feet long, you know. Well, first he becomes, he’s two characters. He’s Angel and then he’s Archangel. So, either are very complex and those we clearly would make room for, but we always have to be careful. Whenever I’m telling my cinematographer, leave negative space for the wings."
In the comics and animated series, the latter of which Singer used as a template of sorts for his Apocalypse story, Angel’s transformation into Archangel is a tragic tale. After losing his wings, Warren Worthington III is presumed to have committed suicide, thanks to a sabotage, giving Apocalypse the opportunity he needed to recruit and brainwash the mutant. He emerged as Death, a Horseman with immense metallic wings that could whip deadly blades at his enemies.
The circumstances surrounding the character’s recruitment in Apocalypse is being kept under wraps, though we’ve seen concept art showing Angel trapped in a a circus-like aviary as an announcer debuts him to a crowd of spectators. This was followed by a behind-the-scenes image from the film that revealed this scene to be a fight club scenario, similar to when we first met Wolverine in the beginning of X1. At the risk of connecting more dots, Kodi Smit-McPhee's version of Nightcrawler has some sort of scuffle with Angel before he becomes a Horsemen.
All Singer would say was that, in keeping with the concept that each of the Horsemen embodies a specific aspect of cult culture, the character fills the role of military. "Archangel could fill those shoes as the guardian."