TRAILER DECODED – X-Men: Apocalypse: Important Reasons Why This Trailer Is Effective


Just recently, we’ve seen new trailers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. Yesterday, X-Men: Apocalypse gets its turn on the spotlight.

Let’s break it down frame-by-frame. To give us an in-depth view of what to come for these mutants this 2016.

“I could see the future” 

Trailer started off with an epic music that ran through the whole sequence – you’ll never go wrong when you use an uncanny song to an uncanny movie. This is to give you a feel of what’s to come. This frame shows a figure of what seems to be “Apocalypse” menacingly walking through “Cerebro” – as from what we learned from the past movies, Cerebro is used by Charles Xavier (Professor X) to locate mutants.

XMen-Apocalypse-FutureTrailer Song: The Hunted “Snow Ghosts”


To make it more effective, montages of an apocalyptic world view were shown in a fast cut manner for about 1.5 seconds. This gives you a feel of anticipation. Showing you what might (or might not) happen at the end of the movie. It creates build up to the whole sequence. Anticipation is the best form of promotion.

3M2bVRNQ“I could feel all this death” 

Jean Grey (played by Sophie Turner) being the powerful Jean Grey that she is, was depicted as if she dreamt of something. But in a viewers point-of-view, it shouldn’t be understood as dreaming – audience should realize that she was seeing ‘visions’. This is a great formula for character build up. Also, using a blueish color grading made it more effective. Aside from the color blue is somewhat the branding of X-Men it separates its tone from the previous X-Men: Days of the Future Past movie. Blue evokes mysterious yet calm emotions which made the scene perfect and even though she’s understandably upset, we are still looking forward for the following frames to come.

Side note: I commend Sophie Turner for using a different accent, it separates her from the bland Sansa Stark (the famous character that she is known for).

SophiePsychic Moment

The first connection we have to see should be from the main characters. It shows familiarity and whole lot of context. This frame shows a long-haired Charles effortlessly seeing the same vision of Jean.

Which makes one ask: Is he watching Jean while sleeping? Why is he awake when all his children (School of Mutants) were sleeping? Why is he in Jean’s bedroom? Was this scene creepy?

Again, connection.

XMen-Apocalypse-Professor-XavierSoft accent. Powerful God. 

This frame started the momentum. In this scene, you will hear Apocalypse speak in just a soft and mild tone. In building up antagonists, you should first depict them as calmly composed beings to make the wrath truly effective at the end.  What’s implicit about this clip is that it showed differentiation from the main character’s mood to the antagonist, notice the change of color grading? From the calm blue, they used a warm color to differentiate the location, emotions and characters – truly outstanding. For even more contrast, Apocalypse said:

“I’ve been called many things over many lifetimes, Ra. Krishna. Yahweh.”

– to talk about being God this old with a power as big as the universe in a calmly narrative tone is truly effective.

Sidenote: The “character look” of Storm sporting a mohawk and Egyptian-inspired textiles are on point. It’s just decent and effective, not too overpowering. Well done.

Xmen stormCaliban

To add to the excitement, one formula you should add in making installments is to put on familiar characters but not too mainstream for everyone to know. It creates hype and fuels much enthusiasm for fans and non-fans to watch out for the movie.

Yes, this is Caliban. Director Bryan Singer confirms in an interview by Empire

“Caliban’s bald and has funky eyes, he’s a great character. Really cool.”

Caliban is capable of detecting any mutant presence within a 25 mile radius, which made him the group’s prime recruiter in the lore.

“Caliban has also been a member of the X-Men, X-Force and X-Factor since being introduced in 1981, and was briefly transformed by Apocalypse into the Horsemen Death. However, since all of the Horsemen spots are taken in X-Men: Apocalypse(Storm, Magneto, Psylocke and Angel), we presumably won’t see him turn monstrous this time.”  via Cinema Blend


In depicting locations, don’t make the audience think twice. You have to give it as it is. In this frame it shows the Pyramid – it gives you a no-brainer idea that it was set in Egypt. Just like in any other films, you show the Statue of Liberty, busy streets and yellow cabs if its New York, Eiffel Tower if its Europe and so on. xmen apocalypse pyramid


Number one rule to build up an antagonist. DON’T REVEAL IT TOO EARLY. Just make use of voices, shots of body parts, wardrobes and gestures. It makes the audience think about a lot of things about the character. It makes them watch out for more. This frame shows control – by resisting the urge to reveal him too early. The strategically placed foreground is effective.




In this frame, you can see MacTaggert advising Xavier that the government have been tracking secret societies who have sprung up to worship these mutants.


XMen-Apocalypse-MoiraIn every mutant/fantasy/horror/unrealistic movie, you have to showcase the human side of the story – it makes it more relatable. In these frames she was talking about terrorists and possible criminal suspects of reviving a God (some like of a cult) which we all know is very relevant in our world right now.

Build up to End

In this span of seconds, you have to show some of the best scenes from the story. Not too good that you gave everything there is in the movie but too good they would look forward to watch for more. You have to show important characters and some revelations to add on to the momentum.

Why is the beast in pain?



Is Mystique retired?

Mystique XmenNightcrawler?

XMen-Apocalypse-NightcrawlerJubilee from the 80s?XMen-Apocalypse-JubileeDid humans awaken Apocalypse from this tunnel?XMen-Apocalypse-TunnelThen the Reveal


After you’ve gained an ample amount of anticipation from the build up, you should have a reveal. What’s effective about this frame is its simplicity, no laser lights, no glows, no explosion. Apocalypse simply pulling down the hoodie made it more appealing. If you compare it to minimal designing, less is more. Some trailers doesn’t show its antagonists, they just play around with the elements surrounding the character but for this one, they completely revealed him which is just as empowering.


XMen-Apocalypse-MagnetoOn this frame, it finally uncovered the most relevant accessory of all (in a bad way).

Magneto is of course the most effective thread that would weave the story, given the fact that he ended the previous installment in a bad light. The impression of revenge and deceit are good combinations of a successful antagonist.

Four Horsemen

In every trailer especially with movie installments, you have to showcase a distinct storyline that separates it from the others. In this trailer we have the four horsemen, as what Havok said:

“…The Four Horsemen.”

“He got that from the Bible…” 

“Or the Bible got it from him.” 

xmen apocalypse olivia munn psylocke
xmen apocalypse magneto without helmet
xmen apocalypse angel


xmen apocalypse storm


XMen-Apocalypse-CerebroThe X-Men’s leader stated the obvious:

“Oh God, he can control us all.”

In every trailer, you should show an impending threat for them to get a glimpse how powerful the antagonist is. This adds a great relief that the audience would feel after they’ve watched the movie.

Some good over bad action.



In addition to showing something new, welcome to the new look of X-Jet. (check out Quick Silver in the background)XMen-Apocalypse-Mystique-LeaderAnother question is, is this a mutant prison? Regardless, putting this scene makes the audience wonder what happened to the good guys and how will they overcome this struggle. XMen-Apocalypse-Mutant-PrisonTowards the end, action packed montages were shown…

xmen apocalypse sophie turner jean grey kodi smit mcphee nightcrawler tye sheridan scott summers

professor x apocalypse fight xmen

xmen apocalypse professor x apocalypse fightxmen apocalypse angel flying wings spreadxmen apocalypse storm lightningxmen apocalypse library firexmen apocalypse oscar isaac people cerebroxmen apocalypse destruction twin towers












in parallel to an epic monologue by the Apocalypse.

xmen apocalypse oscar isaac full costume

After the action-packed scenes, one thing you should remember is that you should let it breathe. Let all these montages sink in to the audience before finally revealing the most important part…

The Hook

xmen apocalypse james mcavoy cerebro black eyes


“I’ve never felt power like this” – Charles Xavierprofessor x wheelchair bald james mcavoy xmen apocalypsebald professor x james mcavoy xmen apocalypse charles xavier


On the final frames, a bald Charles Xavier was revealed. This might be the climax of not just this particular X-Men film but on all the six. Giving the audience more questions for them to watch the film is a vital part of any trailer. Remember that you can mix all the formulas of effectivity but never mix “The Hook” to anything else. You should always put it at the end.

In the same Empire interview, the movie director (Singer) said,

“He’s not looking at the camera,”

“He’s looking at something else. And that’s in the film. You’ll see it.”

Here is the must-watch trailer of the movie


xmen apocalypse evan peters quicksilver running

Always include a stand out character from the previous installment. It doesn’t just makes the movie more interesting but it certainly captures a pre-market before the movie opens.

xmen apocalypse hank ravenAdd a dose of inspiration, it’s a tested formula on all movies. It balances the good from the bad. This scene with a statement of Hank (Beast) is telling us why the world needs the X-Men – in a promotional subconscious context, why X-Men is important and why we should all watch this movie.

All screen grabs via 20th Century Fox UK l Director’s Interview via