The Hidden Meanings Behind ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ – Revealed! by Tom Bacon , May 26th, 2016 at 1:12am Share on Facebook Share to TwitterBE WARNED: THIS ARTICLE HAS MASSIVE SPOILERS!In popular culture, the word ‘apocalypse’ refers to an end-of-the-world scenario. You’re talking supervolcanoes, asteroid impacts, and alien invasions. Think of 2012 , Independence Day , or Armageddon . These are the apocalypses of popular culture.So many apocalypses to choose from!But X-Men: Apocalypse is a whole lot smarter – and pays homage to a much older meaning of the word ‘apocalypse’.Apocalyptic literature is an ancient genre of writing, where a divine being or an angel reveals the future. Apocalyptic literature is complex, rich with symbolism, and shows the battle between good and evil in a way completely unlike any form of literature we have today. The most famous piece of apocalyptic literature is the Book of Revelation in the Bible, and it’s probably the most confusing book for modern Christians – precisely because the entire genre of writing no longer exists.The Four Horsemen in ancient art.X-Men: Apocalypse is all about revelations. En Sabah Nur – traditionally referred to as ‘Apocalypse’ in the comics – reveals truths that his friends and enemies are barely equipped to handle. One of his abilities is to reveal the full potential of the mutants he allies with, enhancing their powers. He doesn’t need to use these abilities for Magneto, though, only give a few pointers. He’s apocalyptic in a traditional sense.And yet, in the film Oscar Isaac’s En Sabah Nur never once refers to himself as Apocalypse. For all that he has his Four Horsemen, I don’t think the titular ‘apocalypse’ is about him at all.The Apocalypse of Jean GreyJean looks ahead in fear!Early on in the film, Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey has a vision of the end of the world. Her mind spins forward, through the launching of nuclear missiles to an explosion – and the world ending in fire. When En Sabah Nur learns of her vision, he uses it to guide his actions. But as he falls in battle with Jean Grey – burned away by her psychic fires – he has a telling line.It’s the most important line in the movie. But what does it mean?Let me take you back to the film’s beginning. Awakening from her vision, Jean talks to James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier about her fears. She feels as though her powers are like a separate entity within her, one that she’s afraid to awaken. Xavier dismisses this with far too much ease; and, at the end of the film, he encourages Jean to tap into the fullness of her power and defeat En Sabah Nur. She does so, and manifests a fiery effect that’s easily recognisable as the Phoenix halo. In triumphing against En Sabah Nur, she reveals the power within herself. In a telling sequence, her manifestation begins with a door opening and the figure of Jean stepping out of the shadows and into the light. The first trailer even deliberately interwove that scene with Jean’s vision!Now think about that vision: of missiles launching (which happened), and ultimately of fire burning across the world. In that moment, En Sabah Nur realises that all is revealed; he was never the fulfilment of the vision.The fire that burned across the world? That was Phoenix fire.The comic book inspirationOver in the original comics, Jean Grey was traditionally treated as a love interest – even for Charles Xavier! That was until the 1970s, when legendary X-Men scribe Chris Claremont took over. He amped up Jean’s powers in a cosmic way, with a single goal:Jean was christened ‘Phoenix’, and artist Dave Cockrum designed an iconic costume.Pay particular attention to Cockrum’s notes.With Phoenix as a member of the team, the X-Men’s adventures took them to places they’d never gone before – they literally wound up taking on galactic warlords and saving the whole of reality!Events took a dangerous twist for Phoenix. Claremont worked hard with John Byrne, another legendary figure in X-Men circles, to bring her story to a head. She was manipulated by the ruthless Mastermind, and fell sway to madness. Christening herself Dark Phoenix, she went on a rampage that literally saw her consume an entire star-system before ultimately committing suicide lest she fall once more to her inner darkness. It’s the legendary “Dark Phoenix Saga”, arguably the greatest X-Men story of all time.Fire and life incarnate!The Phoenix was originally envisioned as a sort of “schizoid personality” (in Dave Cockrum’s words). Over time, other writers twisted the concept to reveal that Jean had actually been replaced by the so-called Phoenix Force, a cosmic entity that craved human experience. This neat little retcon enabled Jean to be resurrected with a clean slate (editor Jim Shooter refused to have her brought back unless she were somehow absolved of her crimes), and opened up a lot of stories involving the Phoenix Force. Nowadays, most comic book readers have actually forgotten it was a retcon in the first place.What does this all mean?Concept art from X-Men: The Last Stand!Although X-Men: The Last Stand was based on the “Dark Phoenix Saga”, fans and critics alike decry that film. In X-Men: Days of Future Past , Fox deliberately chose to reboot their entire universe. Since then, Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg have constantly discussed the idea of retelling the Phoenix’s story.X-Men: Apocalypse plays a critical role in their plans. In X-Men: Apocalypse , Jean embraces the power that lies within her, and lashes out at En Sabah Nur in a display of power beyond anything we’ve seen in the X-Men films. She single-handedly defeats an enemy who was previously matching all the power of Magneto, Cyclops, and Storm. And she does so with tremendous style, in a scene that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.Jean steps into her destiny. Note the tassles!The film opened up with a visionary warning of where Jean’s story will go. It closes by revealing the true power of Jean Grey, manifesting the Phoenix halo, and setting her upon the path to the “Dark Phoenix Saga”. In other words, the film is the Apocalypse (revelation, or unveiling) of Jean Grey. Functionally, it plays an apocalyptic role in revealing the future direction of the X-Men franchise.Little wonder that Bryan Singer has been openly discussing taking the X-Men in a cosmic direction , or confronting them with Proteus (a reality-manipulator so powerful he almost killed Phoenix). He knows full well that he’s just embraced an iconic period of X-Men comics.The Shi’ar and Starjammers perhaps?My instinct, though, is that we’re not about to see the “Dark Phoenix Saga” in the next film; instead, we’re going to see the “Phoenix Saga”, the plot where the X-Men – and Phoenix – topple a galactic dictator. Using X-Men: Apocalypse as a first step along the journey, I think the franchise is set to explore Jean’s phenomenal new powerset in detail – before ultimately showing her fall.If I’m right, X-Men: Apocalypse is one of the cleverest titles I’ve ever seen. It works on so many different levels:Now that is smart film-making. I couldn’t be more impressed – or more excited to see what comes next.Are you looking forward to seeing more of Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey? Let me know in the comments!Bring on the next X-Men film!