In 2006, 20th Century Fox made a film called X-Men: The Last Stand. That movie was supposed to act as the final leg of the first X-Men trilogy. With the previous two films masterfully directed by Bryan Singer, and being critically acclaimed, hopes were high on this one. However, we all know what happened. The Last Stand, after a directorial change to Brett Ratner, failed to reach the heights set by its predecessors. Being critically panned, the film started the doom of the X-Men franchise. More than a decade later, the upcoming Dark Phoenix is treading the same footsteps as The Last Stand.
Dark Phoenix is the fourth film in the now semi-rebooted X-Men franchise. Set after 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, the film will follow the eponymous storyline from the comics where the X-Men must come together to battle one of their own: Jean Grey. While The Last Stand followed the same premise, it fundamentally failed to capture what made that particular story in the comics so engaging.
Dark Phoenix, set in the 90’s, has the cast returning from Apocalypse. The official synopsis, as revealed by 20th Century Fox, is as follows:
In Dark Phoenix, the X-Men face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.
Regardless to say, it seems to be clear that Fox is following the same story that they did in The Last Stand. This time though, long-time series writer Simon Kinberg is taking the helm of directing. Kingberg has been associated (as a writer) with the X-Men franchise for as long as they’ve been around. However, this is the first time he’s sitting on the director’s chair. That has got many fans worried as he was also responsible for writing The Last Stand, and the obvious parallels to it can be glimpsed at the recently released trailer for Dark Phoenix too.
The film was supposed to come out at the tail end of this year, but has since been pushed to February of next year. The film has also been undergoing extensive reshoots in the last few months. With The New Mutants also getting delayed, one doesn’t have to look far to see that Fox is having difficulties in making sense of what to do when it comes to their headline property.
With Singer out of the franchise, and the deal between Fox and Disney coming to an end, it’s safe to say that this will be the end of the franchise as we know it. Fox execs have given statements before about their renewed interest in continuing the Deadpool franchise, but when it comes to their mainline X-Men franchise things aren’t looking too bright.
It’s been promised that Dark Phoenix will be more comic accurate, as well as more grounded, than the previous installments. Comic accurate? Cool. “Grounded”? Now that’s something that fans have been debating about ever since Kinberg opened up about the movie months back when it was announced. You see, The Dark Phoenix saga is one of the X-Men’s grandest stories ever told. The comic book version also touched upon certain mythical and cosmic aspects, so to keep a story like that rooted in reality sort of takes something away.
As for another issue, we’ve only seen this version of the X-Men (at least the majority of them) once before, in Apocalypse.While the original Last Stand was flawed, it at least had a sense of engagement with its audience going for it. This one expects us to be emotionally invested in its characters with only one movie’s worth of context given to us. And it goes without saying that while it’s enjoyable to see younger versions of popular X-Men characters, it just doesn’t make sense to go in the same direction that the previous trilogy did. Isn’t that why the franchise was rebooted (sorta) ? So that we can get to see newer, more original stories?
That being said, I do believe that if the franchise truly has to end before Marvel Studios gets to take control, this story is right for it. Dark Phoenix has always been the kind of interpersonal yet apocalyptic story that a franchise ender can rely on. If you’re going out, it’s better to go out with a bang.
Fox has recently been smart enough to use their characters in telling personal stories. Logan & Deadpool proved that audiences can look past continuity errors and accept a movie if it’s made with the right intentions. Here’s hoping that this film gives us the quintessential X-Men story that we all deserve, but never got.