New Mutants: Mister Sinister remains the X-Men movies’ most mysterious villain

Charlie Heaton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga and Maisie Williams in "The New Mutants" © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Charlie Heaton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga and Maisie Williams in "The New Mutants" © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation /

The manipulative Mister Sinister pulls strings behind the scenes in four X-Men films, including The New Mutants.

Mister Sinister has historically been one of Marvel’s most creative, atypical villains – being more stealthy and unnerving than visibly destructive or threatening, and using devious schemes to control others and achieve his goals. Mutant experimentation was always his modus operandi in the comics and even in the animated series particularly focused on exploiting Cyclops and Jean Grey. Sinister continues that line of work in the X-Men movies, although some viewers may not realize that he played a part in the series.

In the X-Men franchise, the first glimpse of Sinister’s real name, Essex, came during the X-Men: Apocalypse post-credit scene four years ago (though it feels like a lifetime in the X-Universe). In that film, Wolverine freed himself from the Weapon X program and left a lot of “samples” behind. Suits carrying Essex Corp. briefcases collected his blood, and that steers us directly to Logan, released the following year.

Logan takes place decades later, and in that time period Sinister made extraordinary scientific advances, perfecting the ability to clone Wolverine – our hero faces X-24 in the film’s centerpiece and climax. In Logan, we learn about further experimentation on child mutants as well as the creation of X-23, Logan’s test-tube daughter. Mister Sinister is not seen or mentioned as he remains hidden away while still being responsible for mutant genetic testing.

In Deadpool 2, released a year later, the teenage orphan Firefist was kept at the Essex Home for Mutant Rehabilitation, another location for Sinister to study adolescent mutants. The staff did not treat the occupants too nicely and Deadpool decides to help Firefist despite knowing that he becomes a killer in the future. Even with Deadpool 2’s extended mid-credits sequence, Sinister still does make an appearance.

Now, in the recently released The New Mutants, a group of young mutants are held captive at a hospital. Dr. Reyes tells them it is for their own good, as each have gone through traumatic experiences. She also references her boss throughout the plot and when the powerful Moonstar grows increasingly unstable and dangerous, Reyes consults with her employer, and this is when we find out that she works for the Essex Corporation.

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Mister Sinister wanted to determine if he can train these mutants to be his soldiers, but directs Reyes to put Moonstar down since she cannot be controlled. Sinister and Reyes only communicate via computer and his villainous moniker is again kept secret; only the Essex Corporation is revealed. The New Mutants marks four Sinister references in five years; alas he is destined to be a clandestine antagonist as the film is the final movie in Fox’s X-Men film series.

The sprinkling of Sinister Easter eggs in four X-films would have almost definitely led to the sadistic biologist being the primary villain in a mutant movie somewhere down the line. But with Disney swallowing up Fox’s movie branch, those plans will never come to fruition. X-Men characters will inevitably be introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point, however that would be in an entirely new context and narrative. If Mister Sinister does appear in a movie, it would not be in the same continuity as The New Mutants and the previous cinematic X-Men stories.

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Mister Sinister’s role in the X-Universe is forever cemented as a puppet master, operating from the shadows, never to be seen by the mutant heroes or the audience. He is one of the most enigmatic screen villains of the century, with only his name, Essex, surreptitiously sneaking into the X-Men movies.