X-Men: Apocalypse's titular villain is an ancient and immensely powerful character. In the pages of the comic books and the adaptations in cartoon and video game form that we've seen in the past, Apocalypse as had a wide range of powers and abilities. He's looked differently, and perhaps more importantly, been treated differently by society around him.
"To me he is the God of the Old Testament and all that comes with that," director Bryan Singer said to press on a set visit. That mimics a line from the trailer, where Oscar Isaac provides voiceover as Apocalypse saying he's "gone by so many names" including "Yahweh," the preferred name of the monotheistic God of the first half of the Bible.
"I started from there. When Oscar and I met, we began discussing, since he isn't really God, he's the first mutant perhaps, he's imbued with certain unique powers. Some of them may or may not be from this Earth," Singer elaborated. That's true to the character's comic book origins, too. In the pages of the comics, he appropriates technology from alien races, time travelers, other scientists and other mutants during his millennia-long journey on Earth.
"Then we started looking at cults and the nature of cults," he said, also mimicking the comics, where the Clan Akkaba rises up around the myths and stories of Apocalypse. "True cult leaders develop god complexes, and the old God always traditionally had four horsemen. So I thought a cult has traditionally four factions to it that interest me. It has a political faction, and I'd always felt Magneto could fill those shoes. It always has a military faction, so Archangel could fill those shoes as the guardian. There's also a youth faction, those that you're trying to seduce and grow into your cult, the young whose minds are malleable, and lastly the sexual component because cult leaders tend to sexualize their position and have sex with half the people in their cult. And the Psylocke character was a very bright character in the comic but is always looking for guidance and leadership. Always trying to find the right guy, so she starts with one and ends up with Apocalypse in this one. I always thought there was a mixture of ancient religion and cultism combined in the character of Apocalypse."
So that's the character - what about those powers?
"He has a number of different powers that he's acquired over the years as he's moved from body to body, accumulating these various abilities," the director explained. "One of them is to imbue other mutants and to heighten their powers and abilities. Secondly, he can shield from psychic powers; he can form shields so that it makes it harder for a psychic like Xavier to tap in and get to them. He's not a psychic himself though. He can amplify your power, transform you as a mutant but his ability to physically damage, destroy, or build is in the non-biological world. That's in the physical world, he can change the inorganic molecules of things. These are some of the powers that we're exploring and there are some epic things that he does towards the end of the picture."
His "greatest power is the power of persuasion," though. He's honed that for "tens of thousands of years." He finds "people at a time in a moment when there's an emptiness, when there's a need," and delivers them a means of filling it.
Expect Apocalypse to take on many forms and do all sorts of powerful evil deeds, in other words.
X-Men: Apocalypse hits theaters May 27, 2016.