Bask in the Glory of the Bonkers ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Credits
Centuries from now, when scholars look back on 2016, they will note several key events. They will discuss the year’s Presidential election, one of the most bizarre and tumultuous in our nation’s history. They will note the deaths of great artists like Prince, David Bowie, and Gene Wilder. And they will ponder with great curiosity the opening credits to Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, surely one of the most bats--- insane moments to ever kick off a $200 million movie.
Bonkersauce as it is, the Apocalypse opening credits do belong to a tradition within the X-Men franchise. Starting with the first X-movie back in 2000, each film in the series began with an elaborate CGI sequence. In the first, which was pretty clearly inspired by the famous opening credits to Fight Club, Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier explained the concept of genetic mutation, and then the camera leapt into a spinal canal (I think?) and then burrowed through smaller and smaller passages and molecules until it arrived at a glowing ball of light, which revealed the title. Then the camera backed out at super speed until it came to rest in front of the X-marked door to Cerebro, the X-Men’s mutant tracking device.
With each new movie (except X-Men: First Class), the sequences grew in complexity. X2 incorporated imagery from inside Cerebro; X-Men: The Last Stand wandered through a teenage mutant’s bloodstream, out into a syringe, then down into a strand of DNA. The basic format, though, remained the same: Traveling through some kind of vaguely defined CGI space, arriving at the title, zooming out in reverse, landing on the Cerebro door.
That same formula remains in the X-Men: Apocalypse, but with the weird factor amped up about 800 percent. The setup here is that an all-powerful mutant named Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) lives in ancient Egypt where he rules like a god or Beyoncé. There’s an assassination attempt, and while it’s unsuccessful, it does result in Mr. Alypse getting buried beneath millions of tons of fine Egyptian rubble. There Apocalypse lies for centuries until he’s rediscovered in the 1980s by a bunch of movie extras pretending to be members of a religious cult. The title sequence is meant to convey literally thousands of years passing in the span of about 54 seconds.
Admittedly, the video above is a little grainy. There are higher-res versions on YouTube, but they’re all from Chinese dubs of the movie that removed some of the religious iconography — and trust me you need the religious iconography. A few time-coded highlights:
4 seconds: The tunnel of rubble gives way to an X-shaped tunnel, which then zooms into an X-shaped door or portal or something. Who has doors like this? (The answer, clearly, is Bryan Singer.)
8 seconds: There’s an almost subliminal flash of the Eye of Horus.
11 seconds: We go through another door, and now we seem to be on a literal roller coaster through time. Also, someone is shooting arrows at us for some reason. And there are coins in the air? If this is meant to represent something specific, I don’t know what it is.
16 seconds: Jesus Christ makes a cameo. In an X-Men sequel. That guy needs a better agent.
19 seconds: The Mona Lisa! Wait, was she a mutant?
22 seconds: The camera now passes through one of the chambers of a spinning revolver. I guess while we’re traveling forward in time, someone else is traveling back in time to shoot Jesus and the Mona Lisa. This is the worst Dan Brown adaptation yet.
23 seconds: Aaaaaand now there’s a train traveling back in time too. Possibly Doc Brown’s train from Back to the Future Part III? Have we confirmed the BTTF/X-Men Cinematic Universe? Someone please try to confirm this with Bryan Singer.
26 seconds: Planes are dive-bombing us! How did they get into the time tunnel?
30 seconds: Going by the Nazi imagery, we appear to have arrived at World War II. From Jesus to World War II in approximately 14 seconds. That’s got to be some kind of a record.
32 seconds: A swastika just got blown up, guys! I’m no historian, but I feel like some of these world events are being slightly condensed.
37 seconds: Now dollar bills are flying at the screen, perhaps as a symbol of the vast sums of money that were wasted creating this bananapants sequence.
42 seconds: At last, we arrive at the title. To recap, the only works of art specifically cited in this sequence are the Mona Lisa and X-Men: Apocalypse. That’s how I have it in my personal ranking of the greatest works of art of the last 5,000 years, too. I’ve got the Mona Lisa at number 1, X-Men: Apocalypse at number 2, and then I have War and Peace at number 3 and The Bachelorette Season 8 at number 4.
51 seconds: There’s the Cerebro door. Sadly, our trip out of the time tunnel didn’t include return visits to Jesus, the Mona Lisa, or the exploding swastika.
And then it’s over, and the movie proper begins, which is nowhere near as awesome and nutty as the opening credits. Sure, there are a few deranged moments (future historians will probably ponder the scene where Olivia Munn wanders around Auschwitz in a ninja bathing suit too) but X-Men: Apocalypse was mostly a by-the-numbers superhero sequel. But that opening sequence, man. That was one for the ages — all 54 seconds of them, including the part where the time train nearly ran over the Mona Lisa and Jesus.