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When X-Men Apocalypse's end-credits scene ended with a reference to 'Essex Corp', X-Men fans thought we knew just who was going to become the next major villain — Nathaniel Essex, a twisted geneticist known as Mr. Sinister. As details begin to emerge, though, it's looking as though that assumption may have been wrong...
What We've Just Learned
#HughJackman has just revealed that Richard E. Grant is playing Doctor Zander Rice, a sadistic geneticist who played a major role in the ongoing Weapon X project over in the comics. Rice's assigned task was to clone Wolverine, and his repeated failures led to his agency recruiting a rival geneticist, Doctor Sarah Kinney. Kinney realized that the genetic samples were damaged, and that they could only reclaim one chromosome. Against Rice's orders, Kinney successfully created a female embryo, and it was ultimately implanted within her womb. The embryo was successful, and ultimately X-23 was born.
Where Sarah Kinney cared for X-23, Zander Rice saw her as nothing more than a weapon, and called her an animal. He programmed X-23 to respond to a 'trigger scent', a chemical that he could place in an area; when activated by this trigger scent, X-23 would go on a rampage. Rice's ambition (not to mention his affair with his boss's wife) forced him to go to ever greater lengths, and he even used X-23 to kill his boss in a power-grab. While Sarah Kinney successfully rescued X-23, in a cruel twist of fate, Rice hid trigger scent in Kinney's hair; under the influence of trigger scent, X-23 killed her own mother.
We know that Logan will tell a slightly different story — nobody's been cast for the role of Sarah Kinney, for example — but what's most fascinating is that this contradicts what we'd already guessed.
Where is Mister Sinister?
Fans had been convinced that Richard E. Grant was playing Nathaniel Essex / Mister Sinister, a twisted geneticist and notorious X-Men villain. That was set up by the end-credit scene of X-Men: Apocalypse, where Wolverine's genetic samples were picked up by representatives of 'Essex Corp'. Commentaries confirmed that this was setup for Logan.
The casting choice made perfect sense; after all, Richard E. Grant is a British actor, and Nathaniel Essex (who calls himself 'Mister Sinister') is an insane British scientist. By the looks of it, though, Logan has chosen to abandon this route in favor of a more comic-book-accurate origin for X-23. I'm hardly going to complain, but I confess to being very surprised.
In all honesty, though, avoiding using Sinister in Logan is a smart move. The character has rarely been particularly interested in Wolverine; instead, his focus is on Cyclops and Jean Grey. With Sophie Turner's Jean Grey set up for a major role in the X-Men franchise, it would be more sensible to use Sinister as an antagonist in these tentpole movies. Thus, the nod in X-Men: Apocalypse could actually set up Essex Corp as a recurrent threat. It's entirely possible that Nathaniel Essex was a major player in the company — but that, by the time of Logan, he's long since been defeated by the X-Men.
I don't mind admitting that it had seemed an odd choice to use Sinister in Logan. The character is an iconic one, but he doesn't have the ties to Wolverine that I'd expect from the film. In switching back to a more comic-book-accurate villain, and thus grounding the film a little more, Fox ensures that Nathaniel Essex could yet make a major X-Men debut. What's more, given X-23's comic book origin was such a tremendous arc, I'm excited to see Fox keeping a little more faithfully to it.