If I Was Making...X-MEN 4 and 5
"What if" movie plots for X-Men sequels.
So this is an interesting one. Unlike my previous articles, this one deals with a possible sequel to an established franchise. But before I get into that, I need to clarify something. I hated X-MEN: The Last Stand. HATED IT! The promise of Phoenix at the end of X2 was something I was excited for. The Ratner-directed film took that promise, laid it on the floor and took an enormous dump all over it. There are some who claim that X-Men 3 was a good action film with interesting set-pieces and a promising story. These people are entitled to their opinions. It's not one I share. Not only was Dark Willow from Buffy The Vampire Slayer a better interpretation of Phoenix (not surprising given Whedon's X-Men connection in comics and the first film), not only did X-Men 3 turn Xavier into a major dick, but it killed off major characters, purely for shock value and in the case of Cyclops, because Marsden joined Singer on Superman. Then there's the cure...not a bad plot device. It was made entirely irrelevant though with the last shot of the film (pre-credits, not the Xavier scene) where Magneto is shown to have his powers despite having been given multiple doses. I wouldn't have minded so much except that such a big deal was made of Rogue giving up her powers. That's now pointless.
But I've ranted long enough. This is a "what if" sequel idea. The reason I talked about X3 was because part of my idea for X4 involves undoing the damage caused by Ratner's film (not his fault to be fair, he came on to direct at the last minute and had no story input). This may not fit into the X-Men First Class timeline, which as far as I can tell actually ignores X-Men 3 entirely. As the title says, I have two movies in mind. So lets get started, shall we?
X-MEN 4: Legacy!
I'm presenting this as 2 movies with a major cliffhanger at the end of the first but it could be condensed into a single film. This is at a very early concept stage so forgive any roughness. Also, this is set in the X-movie universe, so there are going to be differences in terms of what's in the comics.
So the movie opens in the not too distant future. The X-Mansion is full of students, parents are even checking the school out, thinking of sending their own children there. The world has become a better place for mutants. Magneto's brotherhood has disbanded with only Pyro still actively targeting humans...actually what happened to Pyro and Juggernaut at the end of X3? Iceman defeats Pyro and Juggernaut gets knocked out...did they die when Phoenix tore up the place? Bah stupid movie. Anyways, Logan stands alone at the graves of Xavier, Jean and Scott. Suddenly the grass on the graves begins to burn up and turn to ash, fire coming from the ground and Logan is blasted back as a flaming figure emerges from underground....the flames are in the shape of a bird. Oh yes. The flaming bird takes off and shoots across the sky, beyond the horizon. Jean Grey is alive.
Now, things happen. I'll list them rather than give detailed accounts because I'm not sure of the order yet or how to get to each point.
First, we see Magneto getting his powers back, along with other mutants, including Rogue. In fact Rogue isn't aware her powers are back and accidentally absorbs the powers of another mutant...what are the powers? Flight and super strength of course. The mutant in question ends up in a coma and Rogue's new powers don't seem to be going away.
Second, Jean crash lands on a secluded beach, where a certain Remy LeBeau finds her. She is weakened and there is no sign of the Phoenix persona, it's just Jean but with all her powers.
Third, with Jean alive, mutants who were disintegrated in the Alcatraz attack begin to reassemble and return to life. This includes Xavier and Scott Summers. How this works is something I'm not sure about yet. Right now I'm thinking that Jean ripped their atoms apart when she killed them but doing so created a psychic link and their essence became a part of her. When she rose from the ashes, those atomic particles reassemble, either as part of her conscious will or because her mind can't take having the essences of the mutants she killed in her head. In any case, Cyclops and Xavier are back. How they get back to the school and all that stuff, I don't know yet.
Fourth, Remy takes Jean back to the X-Mansion. Does he recognise Wolverine? Doesn't matter. Logan doesn't recognise him and we don't recognise the existence of that movie.
Fifth, Wolverine isn't the main character, Cyclops is and for a very simple reason - the villain. Mr. Sinister.
Sixth, we learn that Gambit used to work for Sinister, who still has a hold over him. He wants Jean Grey. Gambit ultimately delivers Jean to Sinister and Cyclops goes on a one-man rescue mission. Why does Sinister want Jean? Um...I haven't quite figured that bit out yet He either wants to use her power for some nefarious purpose or he wants to eliminate her. Why would he want to eliminate her? Because she's the only mutant on the planet that could hope to stand in the way of the person Sinister serves...more on that later.
But let's assume the latter is the case. Sinister, being a scientist and all, was one of Worthington's backers in the cure creation. And contaminated it. The cure was temporary and when the mutant gene re-established itself, something else started to happen. Mutants start getting sick. First only the ones who had taken the cure but it has begun to spread. Sinister simply refers to it as "pestilence." Yeah you know where this is going. So Sinister tries to keep Jean under control while he experiments on her to discover the extent of her power, hoping to extract her mutant gene and replicate it. Sinister wants the world. He wants to cleanse it of all filth and remake it in his own image. He believes Jean's mutant abilities are the key to doing that and the one he serves has a similar goal (as far as he knows) but Jean cannot be allowed to prevent their plans from coming to fruition.
In any case, the end result is that Cyclops battles and defeats Sinister, rescuing Jean in the process. However the experiments done on her have cause her mutation to reverse itself. Not completely but Jean has essentially reverted back to the level she was at in the first movie. Sinister manages to retreat, proclaiming the age of the Apocalypse has come. The X-Men return to the X-Mansion where they are captured by government agents and drugged. The wake up to find Magneto by their sides. But he isn't threatening them. He takes them to a window and outside there are thousands of mutants being guarded by....come on, say it with me - giant freaking SENTINELS. Xavier asks what's going on and Magneto simply responds: Welcome to Genosha.
End of X-Men 4. A bit vague but I haven't really thought about this idea in about 3 years so a lot of what I had contemplated escapes me.
X-MEN 5: Age Of Apocalypse.
This one has a little more detail. Especially in the opening which I've had in my head for a long time.
We open in a desert. It's Egypt. 3000 years ago. A young boy, about 14 is living with a tribe of nomads crossing the desert. They've camped out and the boy is sent to a nearby oasis to gather water. As he nears the oasis he sees a group of men on horses coming from the opposite direction. He rushes out to greet them. One of riders approaches him at speed. The boy doesn't see the sword until it's too late. He puts his hands up to protect himself but the sword finds its target. Everything goes black. We hear screaming, the sounds of battle. Then, all is quiet. The boy opens his eyes. Amazingly there's not a scratch on him. He hurries back towards the camp which is burning. The bandits are executing the men and dragging the women and children away. Without even thinking, the boy attacks the bandits with his bare hands. One of the bandits strikes him with his sword. The sword shatters against the boys arm. The bandit stands back, stunned as its revealed that the boys arm is now a long, sharp metal shape, like a sword. Another bandit screams that its a demon and all the bandits rush to kill him. The boy defends himself. His arms become swords and shields, morphing with each blow. After defending against a flurry of attacks, the boy goes on the offensive. He strikes out and kills one of the bandits, knocking him 20 feet through the air. But the bandits aren't looking down at him any more, they're looking up. He has grown and now towers above them. He destroys them all without hesitation, his body changing, adapting with every strike. He returns to his normal size as the survivors from the camp look at him in fear. One person proclaims him to be a god and they begin to bow before him.
Cut to the mid 1800's, South America. A young Nathaniel Essex explores an old and forgotten tomb. He comes across a room, hidden deep within. On the walls are various inscriptions. Essex looks at them and realises what he is seeing is impossible. Not only are there Incan and Aztec symbols, but also Egyptian, Chinese, Greek and even English. We see him work tirelessly over months to decipher everything. It tells a story of a god, written from the gods perspective, telling how he was revered and worshipped. How his power outmatched all who opposed him. In time he grew weary of worship and sought a purpose. He believed that he was superior to all who bowed before him. He created bloody battlefields for his worshippers to fight and kill each other to prove their worthiness. But in time, as centuries passed, he grew weaker and his followers sealed him away, wanting to be rid of the god who tormented them. For hundred of years he slept, only to be awoken by graverobbers. He felt fresh, renewed. He began to understand that his power had a limit. He would sleep every few centuries to regain his full strength. But every time he awoke, the world had changed a little more. Humanity had advanced in their understanding of the world, but not enough. Never enough for the answers he sought. What was he? What was his purpose. In time, as centuries passed, he began to see the emergence of others like him. They were few, but they were powerful. Most hid away, fearing the world would destroy them as demons. But he knew it was something else. In time the answers would come. He started to realise he could change them as he changed himself. Make them slaves to his will. And one day, when these demons existed in greater numbers, when the world was right, he would change them. They would be his horsemen and he would be the Apocalypse.
As Essex studies the tomb, he finds a sarcophagus. Not being superstitious at all, he opens it to find the young boy from the desert, perfectly preserved, as if still alive. The boys eyes open and his entire body changes before Essex's eyes. He becomes the Apocalypse we all know and reaches out to choke Nathaniel. Apocalypse senses the "demon curse" within Essex, but it is dormant. Seeing that Essex is a student of history but also of science, Apocalypse determines that he can use Essex, that the time was coming when the truth of his apparent godhood would be unravelled by man. And so Apocalypse activates Essex's mutant gene but he does something else, something more. He changes Essex beyond his natural mutant potential. He corrupts his body and mind, turning him into Mr. Sinister, promising an age of renewal and perfection, of great power in return for loyal service.
Essentially, Apocalypse creates Sinister, who in this version has the mutant gene but it hasn't been triggered. Frankly, explaining Sinister's actual origins would be a bit convoluted and I think this is a happy medium. Over the next 200 years, as our technology advances and mutants start appearing around the world, Sinister acts as an agent of Apocalypse, abducting and studying mutants, determining the source of their power and how to manipulate it. We even see a scene with a group of mutants living in sewers being killed by Gambit (X-Men fans will know what that's a reference to) at the behest of Sinister.
In the not too distant future, the X-Men and Brotherhood and thousands of other mutants are now on the island of Genosha, guarded by Sentinels. The mutant plague, known as the Legacy Virus, has spread world wide and in a panic, world leaders have agreed to segregate all mutants and bring them to Genosha, hoping to avoid the virus spreading to normal humans. All the peace and good will that had been achieved between mutants and humans is gone. It becomes pretty clear that Sinister is behind the outbreak and he may have the cure. But to get it, the X-Men have to escape Genosha, doing so with the help of the Brotherhood, reformed on Genosha by Magneto. At the same time, Apocalypse has chosen his four horsemen who will wreak havoc on the human population. One of them is of course Angel/Archangel who is transformed by Apocalypse and Sinister after being tricked by Mystique. Also, Jean Grey has contracted the Legacy Virus and is in isolation on Muir Island after the escape from Genosha.
At some point, because I love the animated series, a human anti-mutant militant will attack Apocalypse, calling him a filthy mutant. Apocalypse will respond "I am as far beyond mutants as they are beyond you" and crush him. I love that line.
Ultimately, after battling Sentinels and the Horsemen, the X-Men finally manage to confront Apocalypse and Sinister. Sinister tries to explain their grand plan of remaking the world, trying to tempt Magneto with the promise of mutant superiority. But before Sinister can finish making his pitch, Apocalypse kills him. I mean straight up obliterates the guy. Sinister had been preparing a second generation of the Legacy Virus that will infect humans as well as mutants and pretty much every other living thing on the planet as well. Apocalypse determines that this is his purpose. To cleanse the world of all impurity, all imperfection. He is the instrument of doom.
Anyways, they battle Apocalypse and in a moment taken straight out of the animated series, Wolverine gets infected by the second generation of the Legacy Virus. At first he's clearly dying but it gradually begins to change. His enhanced mutant immune system starts to fight back, creating antibodies to eradicate the virus. It suddenly dawns on Apocalypse what is happening as Magneto explains it to him. Wolverine's healing factor is creating a cure. A cure that can be extracted and synthesised and given to the mutant population infected with the first generation. Apocalypse's plans are completely destroyed...well...unless he can kill Wolverine and the X-Men. The fight continues with an enraged Apocalypse being seemingly unstoppable. The combined forces of the X-Men and the Brotherhood struggle to hold their own against an overwhelming force. But out of the sky comes redemption. An angel purified in fire. Jean Grey. Her powers restored thanks to the effects of the Legacy Virus. The one mutant with the power to challenge Apocalypse. She invades his mind. His will is strong but she discovers his weakness. So they battle intensely. In fact thanks to the media, the whole world sees it.
But Jean isn't trying to defeat Apocalypse. She is getting him to defeat himself, forcing him to use the full extent of his powers to keep her at bay. The more power he exerts, the weaker he becomes. What once took centuries now takes minutes as Apocalypse is weakened to a point where he needs to sleep. He needs to recharge. The X-Men and Brotherhood catch on and they join Jean in wearing Apocalypse down, the final blow coming when Rogue uses her powers to drain Apocalypse of his. And he is defeated.
The epilogue shows the synthesised cure from Wolverine's anti-bodies being distributed to mutants on Genosha. Rogue is tormented by the memories of Apocalypse that she now has but is comforted by Gambit, who knows all about trying to come to terms with evil (also setting up a future romance of course). Xavier and Magneto converse on what it was like working together again to save all of humanity, not just mutants. Magneto calls it a nice dream but fears that the world will see Apocalypse as just another mutant and that the war between mutants and humans may be unavoidable but he promises Xavier that he won't be the one to start it. As for Apocalypse, he's sealed away in an adumantium sarcophagus, allowed to sleep, never to awaken again.
And there it is. X-Men. I guess I should explain my approach to Apocalypse and his powers. In these movies, his mutant power is the ability to reshape matter. I needed to find a way to simplify his many abilities and because using elements such as alien technology was out of the question, I decided on the basic idea of molecular manipulation or reshaping matter. This allows him to reshape his body as he sees fit and because I wanted to introduce the Four Horsemen, the ability extends to manipulating matter of other people, allowing him to transform them into his servants. However while his own body is built to endure such manipulation, manipulating others in such a way drains much of his energy so it's not something he does often. It did give me a way to create Mr. Sinister.
When I first conceived of this idea, Sebastian Shaw was to have a role but after First Class came out I decided to remove that role. There's a lot of work that needs to be done for this but the basics are there. It could conceivably be a single film instead of 2 but it would be a long one.
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