It’s a bold move to list off deities who were apparently inspired by your villain, yet that’s precisely what X-Men: Apocalypse does. In a world where there’s outrage over a Captain America plot-twist or the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, I’m surprised that suggesting your antagonist was the inspiration for Yahweh (which is the Hebrew name for God) didn’t result in a degree of uproar.
Apocalypse also lets us in on a secret. It’s a commonly held belief within the franchise that mutants are a recent development, sped up by the coming of nuclear power. Colossus owes his steel skin to the Chernobyl disaster, for instance. Yet this film reveals that they’ve existed for longer than we thought. Apocalypse claims to have been there at the dawn of civilisation, which places his origin in or prior to the Sumerian era. For context, Sumer – known as ‘Shinar’ in the Bible – was a kingdom within Iraq that the Ancient History Encyclopaedia says is ‘generally considered the cradle’ of society. It existed from around 4,500BC, though the Sumerian people may have settled the land far earlier.
Despite being known as the first mutant, Apocalypse clearly wasn’t alone. As seen during the film’s prologue, he’s been accompanied by supernatural disciples (his ‘Four Horsemen’) since the time of the pyramids. If mutants existed during this era, they’re bound to have cropped up throughout history in the years since. Although we should bear in mind that this is a fantasy universe before getting carried away, there’s a wealth of ‘evidence’ for these individuals. Namely, religious figures from every age display what can only be described as superpowers. Can you see where I’m going with this? Should they have existed at all, it seems possible they were mutants in the X-Men’s world. That would certainly explain how Moses can part the ocean, the inexplicable life-span of Methuselah and why Jesus is able to heal the sick. It’s not out of character for 20th Century Fox to be so bold; the movie already suggests that Krishna, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, is simply another name for the film’s villain.
This helps contextualise the fanaticism displayed by Magneto and his Brotherhood, not to mention Sebastian Shaw’s Hellfire Club from X-Men: First Class. Perhaps they believe they’re somehow favoured by God. If Christ was potentially ‘one of them’, how can their powers not be a sign of divine intervention? It’s suddenly understandable that they’d call themselves ‘homo superior’ (besides the ability to spew fire, anyway).
X-Men: Apocalypse is significant in other way – but there are mild SPOILERS here, so be warned. At the beginning of the movie, we’re introduced to the character via the latest in a long line of rituals. During the ceremony, Apocalypse’s consciousness travels from an aging body into another mutant. In doing so, he absorbs their abilities. However, this ‘Transference’ doesn’t seem to be powered solely by those gifts. Consider this; it can be carried out by normal, garden-variety humans without a whiff of the paranormal. That’s demonstrated by the chanting cultists who awaken him in the 1980s.
This is plausibly thanks to Apocalypse himself, yet I beg to differ; he’s been comatose for centuries, unaware and oblivious. It’s also possible they’re completing the process his Horsemen started eons ago, except that doesn’t make sense either. Those mutants are long dead, and their powers died with them. So what completes the procedure?
Taken at face value, magic is a likely candidate. The one who kicked things off was a witch, for want of a better word. Secondly, the words spoken by everyone involved bring to mind occult rites. That said, I’m leaning toward the idea of unknown technology. Bearing in mind the pyramid beneath which it must take place, gravity-defying gold, glowing hieroglyphs and Apocalypse’s sci-fi armour, it seems rather alien. And maybe that’s what it is.
Before you laugh this theory off, it’s worth pointing out that it’s very much in line with the source material. The comic book Apocalypse encountered extra-terrestrial ships many times in his youth, discovering them hiding in plain sight or crashed (there’s a whole plotline about a time-traveling baddie pretending to be a Pharaoh, but we won’t get into that). The latter even gives him his trademark outfit, forged from its machinery. If that’s the case in the movie, it’d clarify the origin – and never-explained importance – of his suit.
Moreover, it sheds light on other oddities. If Apocalypse came from a time of parchment and candles, how was he able to pull knowledge from a TV? It’s feasible that this isn’t the first piece of technology he’s encountered. If that’s the case, what were aliens doing on Earth in the first place? Once again, an answer lies within the comics. They created mutants in the books; an elder race called the Celestials fiddled about with humanity at the dawn of their existence, leading to the mutant genome.
Although it’s not necessary in the slightest, this gives a reason for the X-Men bending laws of reality by shooting laser beams from their eyes. The films have always toyed with science via evolution and DNA, but that doesn’t cover how mutants are able to teleport or become sexy blue shapeshifters.
The mystery then is ‘why’. It’s possible that later movies will take inspiration from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, where the Inhuman race (who bear more than a passing resemblance to mutants) were made by the Kree to serve as soldiers in a coming war. This helpfully opens the door to the X-Men’s more outrageous space adventures, rumoured to be the franchise’s next port of call.
Whether that’s a good idea is another matter, of course. Judging by fans’ anger at the smallest of tweaks, such a monumental shift may not go down well.
Sources: Ancient History Encyclopaedia, Marvel Wikia, Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, 25 Moments.com, Encyclopaedia Britannica