The ninth instalment of the X-Men franchise and sequel to 2014’s well-received X-Men: Days of Future Past is hitting Hong Kong cinemas this month. Anticipation is high as Bryan Singer once again takes the reins to direct X-Men: Apocalypse.
Raising the stakes even higher, filmmakers have decided to have the antagonist be the most powerful mutant villain in the entire X-Men universe. We first caught a glimpse of Apocalypse in the post-end credits sequence in Days of Future Past, where the mutant was seen telepathically building pyramids in Egypt while his minions looked on.
In Apocalypse, he wakes up from a 5,000-year slumber in Cairo, in 1983, and is shocked by what he sees – pollution, money worshipping, nuclear weapons – the signs of a world he believes he must cleanse.
While Apocalypse is huge in the comics, Singer refrained from making him a giant. “You’ll see him bigger than life, so there’ll be that satisfaction,” he says. “But I also felt Apocalypse needed to exert his powers of persuasion. That’s why I went with a really fine actor – Oscar Isaac – instead of just animating him.”
So the special make-up effects team had to transform Isaac into his character without hiding the actor himself. His make-up effects included a forehead piece, a nose and cheek piece, a chin piece, a head piece, a neck piece and even a helmet.
“The only body part that wasn’t covered was Isaac’s eyeballs,” laughs specialty make-up designer Brian Sipe. As well as the make-up, there were a headdress and neck piece, as well as a 20-piece costume. It took three and a half hours to get Isaac to look the part at first, although with practice this was cut down to 90 minutes.
The suit was stifling, so to keep Isaac cool, Sipe used a Cool Shirt system. “It’s a cooling system similar to what race car drivers use; Oscar was plugged into ice water whenever he wasn’t filming to maintain a comfortable temperature,” he says.
To make Apocalypse sound more menacing, three microphones were used to capture Isaac’s voice. As well as the standard mic, they added a bass mic near his right cheek, and a bass drum mic near his left.
“I could pull vocal tones that would not normally be heard by the human ear,” says Singer. “With three microphones on his face, Oscar always had to keep his head in the right spot!”
A powerful villain meant there was a lot of damage to be done. “The challenge of an apocalyptic plotline was making everything beautiful and then destroying it,” says supervising art director Michele Laliberte.
And there was even more to blow up than before: the X-Mansion was enlarged with a two-storey library, a lounge and extra bedrooms and bathrooms. For the first time, audiences will get a 360 degree view of the house – before the whole thing is blown up, of course.
Opens May 19