Flickering Myth’s Oli Davis sits down with the man who arguably birthed the superhero genre as we know it today with 2000’s X-Men – director Bryan Singer – to talk about super-slow motion, making fun of The Last Stand, and how involved will he be in the X-Verse in a ‘Post-Apocalypse’ age? You can watch the interview in the video below, or read it in prose form beneath that.
VHS tapes. That was my grand opening. Here I sat before Bryan Singer, the director of X-Men: Apocalypse, and I was talking about VHS. Back when I was 14, I considered his X-Men 2 to be the greatest film of all time, and it was the last movie I had ever bought on the medium. It even contained special features at the end of the tape.
“We were just discussing how we used to pop tapes out,” he reminisced about the old format. “And now you pop these little things you could so easily lose out of these recorders.”
Technology has become unrecognisable since Singer’s first X-Men movie. Some would argue that’s why superhero films are today’s dominant genre – what can be accomplished onscreen has finally caught up with the imagination of comic book artists. Singer’s marvellous staging of Quicksilver’s super-slow motion sequences in Days of Future Past and Apocalypse being a prime example.
“It took about a month and a half to shoot the two minutes of film,” Singer revealed about Apocalypse’s Quicksilver scene. “Evan Peters worked 17 days on the sequence doing most of his own stunt work. We used every kind of visual effect – CGI explosive algorithms; we also took Phantom 3D cameras rolling at 3,000 frames per second, and put them in explosive-proof cases on a track, and ran them through the explosions.”
“When you watch the footage, you can literally see a flaming book pass across the screen so slowly you can read a phrase, a paragraph. It’s pretty amazing. Just for two minutes of ‘Bittersweet Fun’, I call it.”
One of the best gags in X-Men: Apocalypse comes when Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey and Jubilee walk out of seeing Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back. They argue about which is the better movie between that and A New Hope. The only thing they all agree on is that the third film is always the worst. It sounded like a dig at one of the X-Men movies Singer infamously didn’t direct – the critically-panned X-Men: The Last Stand. Rumours have it that Singer delayed the film to make Superman Returns, but Fox rushed X3 back into production with director Bret Ratner out of spite.
“The third ones are rough,” Singer explained. “They’re just very hard. It’s meant to be a universal thing. I know it’ll have an inside impact with X-Men 3, but the filmmaker’s a good friend of mine, so it’s done in fun and jest. And there’s some great stuff – Ellen Page came out of that film. It’s having fun with the medium. It’s a little reflexivity on ourselves and lots of franchises. I would say the third ones, in real life, are always the hardest.”
Continuing on that reflexive theme, the main villain of X-Men: Apocalypse has ‘passing the torch’ embedded in his modus operandi: he intends to destroy everything to rebuild a better world from its ashes. It’s symbolic of the new X-Men class of Cyclops, Grey and Storm taking over from Charles, Magneto and Raven, which reflects the real life expiring contracts of actors James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence.
“Apoclaypse as a character was a formation of my visual interpretation of the character,” Singer recalled about the villain, “and also lots of discussions I had with Oscar [Isaac]. We talked about religions and cults and all kinds of things to try and formulate what would a mutant born thousands of years ago would think they were. Well, they’d think they were a god. And what would people think they were with all these powers. They’d think they were a god. And the pitfalls of being a false god, and the dangers and the threat.”
Head to the next page for Bryan Singer on whether he’ll be around for the X-Men in a post-Apocalypse age, how involved he is in 20th Century Fox’s other X-Verse films, like Deadpool and Wolverine, and why did he first announce Apocalypse five months before Days of Future Past was even released…