This article consists of lots of X-Men: Dark Phoenix spoilers. We have a spoiler free review here.
The X-Men Cinematic Universe has reached the finish line. After three initial core movies, four core movies from a rebooted sequel timeline, three Wolverine movies, two Deadpool movies, and a New Mutants fiasco that may or may not see the light of day, it’s time to pack it in. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the last big showing of Fox’s genre-defining and, in all honesty, fascinating line of movies.
As always, being a superhero movie, there are a ton of comic book references throughout. Being an X-Men movie, that also means that throwaway heroes and villains are named after obscure comic book characters that they have very little to do with. Man, remember when “Psylocke” was in X-Men: The Last Stand? Yeah…
So let’s take a look at the various Easter eggs in Dark Phoenix before we have to rewrite a bunch of it for looking too much like our Captain Marvel Easter Eggs and Reference Guide. I’ll be here all week.
Dark Phoenix Villains
VUK AND THE D’BARI
The villains of the movie may be underdeveloped and feel tacked on, but they are actually a part of Marvel Comics’ history. The D’Bari are mainly remembered for their very brief and tragic appearance in Uncanny X-Men #135. After scuffling with the X-Men, Dark Phoenix flew off to space in need of a recharge. She ended up feasting on a star, which destroyed an entire solar system. The D’Bari were a race completely wiped out by the gesture.
This is also the reason why it was later retconned so that “Jean” in the Dark Phoenix Saga comic was not the real Jean Grey but the Phoenix itself after copying her appearance and personality. Before the retcon, Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter believed that Jean could never be allowed to live or come back to life as a hero after all that blood on her hands. This was a loophole to get past that.
Their appearance in the movie is far more reminiscent of the Skrulls between the shape-shifting and the desire to take Earth as their new home. That was kind of a big thing after Galactus ate the Skrull homeworld in the comics. It’s more than likely that these guys were supposed to be Skrulls from the beginning until legal issues screwed things around and the MCU got the rights to the characters. After all, before Captain Marvel, it was accepted by many that Skrulls were a Fantastic Four property, also under the Fox banner.
Jessica Chastain’s character is referred to as Vuk. Vuk, later known as Starhammer, actually appeared in the extremely notable Avengers #4, otherwise known as the issue where Captain America is thawed out and joins the team. Vuk, a male in the comics, used human disguises to sneak around and used his technology to turn most of the Avengers into stone. He’s appeared very sporadically since, eventually explained to be the last surviving D’Bari due to being off-world during the events of Dark Phoenix Saga. He’s since become obsessed with finding and killing Phoenix for her actions.
No longer a straight-up villain yet again, Magneto runs a refuge for mutants around the world. The credits list one actor as “Genosha Sentry,” confirming that, yep, this plot of land is the cinematic version of Genosha. In the comics, Genosha started as an island that captured and enslaved mutants. After it was toppled, Magneto took over and ruled it like his own mutant-only country. Even after its eventual destruction at the hands of Sentinels, Magneto has used it as a hideout from time to time.
Kota Eberhardt’s telepath character is Selene. Created by Chris Claremont and Sal Buscema in New Mutants #9 back in 1983, Selene has been a long-running antagonist for the X-Men. Mainly remembered for being the OTHER Black Queen from the Hellfire Club (and also the boss of the Gambit stage from that awful Arcade’s Revenge game for SNES), Selene is possibly the oldest known mutant in Marvel history, predating even Apocalypse. While she is a telepath in the comics, she also has a ton of other abilities, making her way more powerful than she is in the movie.
Andrew Stehlin’s hair-puncher mutant character is listed as Ariki in the credits, who is not an existing X-Men character before this. During the making of the movie, he was identified as Red Lotus, an obscure martial artist mutant from X-Treme X-Men. Considering there are absolutely no similarities between the two, it makes sense that they’d change that part for once.
OTHER X-MEN REFERENCES
– During the party in the woods, Halston Sage plays Dazzler. The disco queen superhero made her comic debut in Uncanny X-Men #130, notably during Dark Phoenix Saga, albeit not having a major role. Funny that she finally got to make her movie debut considering she was originally created for the sake of starring in her own movie in the early ’80s, which would have featured various Marvel heroes, high-profile musical acts, Robin Williams, and Rodney Dangerfield. Crazy stuff.
– The narration that Jean gives at the beginning is the same one Xavier did at the beginning of X2: X-Men United.
– The movie takes place in 1992. The same year when X-Men jumped into the mainstream with X-Men: The Animated Series. Coincidence? Probably! Maybe! Maybe not! Why am I yelling?!
– The shot of the jet flying out through the school’s basketball court is an exact copy of the same shot from the first X-Men movie, right down to the loose basketball being discarded.
– The cracks on Jean’s face are very similar to the weird scars on Rachel Summers’ face. Rachel herself a wielder of the Phoenix Force in the comics.
– Mystique complains to Xavier about how they have to “wear matching costumes and smile.” After Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s legendary run on New X-Men had the team wearing the black leather that the original movies were so fond of, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men brought back uniforms with Cyclops citing the same concept that Mystique bemoans. The team’s costumes are also reminiscent of the original issues of Uncanny X-Men from the 1960s.
– Anyone else think it’s weird that they sell naked Mystique action figures in this reality? I guess Mystique is really, REALLY against uniforms more than anyone realized. Coincidentally, in real life, Jennifer Lawrence put the kibosh on them releasing a nude Mystique figure with her likeness.
– During Xavier’s speech at the White House, Chris Claremont makes a cameo. While Claremont didn’t create the X-Men, he was the one who made them a household name and added the defining minority dynamic to the comic. Plus, you know, he wrote Dark Phoenix Saga.
– John Grey’s hatred for Jean is a product of the movie only. In the comics, he loved Jean and didn’t even know about her abilities or the truth of the Xavier School for a long time.
– During the X-Men confrontation with Jean by her house, there’s a truck in the background labeled “BISHOP POWER.” A sly reference to Bishop, the X-Men member with the ability to absorb energy and use it against others.
– Mystique is impaled thrice through the midsection. Probably a bookend to her fake death in the first movie at Wolverine’s hands.
– Xavier’s role in the movie ties into how the mid-00s treated him in the comics. Various incidents were uncovered, which painted Xavier as a man who went too far due to the ends justifying the means. When a rescue team of mutants failed a mission and seemed to die, he mind-wiped everyone to make them forget they ever existed (this included Cyclops’ brother Vulcan, so Cyclops was understandably pissed when this came to light). He also forced a confused, sentient AI to act as the Danger Room against its will. Like in the movie, this eventually cost him his spot as the school’s headmaster.
– By the end of the movie, Phoenix is straight-up dusting her enemies, which is how she took care of business in X3: The Last Stand.
– When Jean flies off to space to blow up, Cyclops says, “She’s gone.” In X-Men 2, when Jean died, Wolverine said the same line, only for Cyclops to immediately and tearfully yell at him for saying that.
– Jean’s narration at the end: “This is not the end of me or the X-Men. This is a new beginning.” That sounds…very meta considering the future of the cinematic X-Men.
– Naming the school after Jean Grey is also from the comics. Wolverine renamed it the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning after he took over. If they’ve truly cut ties with Xavier, it’s probably for the better. For one thing, it’ll sidestep the X-Men’s fate from Logan.
Hopefully, when the MCU starts dealing with X-Men stuff, they can refrain from all the chess. I never want to see another chess game in a superhero movie again as long as I live.
– The song that Jean wants to change on the radio is Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I get to Phoenix.” Funny enough, she changes it to Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” a nod to the duality and dangerous nature of Jean and the Phoenix Force.
– Jean trying to scrub Mystique’s blood out of her shirt is the lamest, most on-the-nose Macbeth reference in recent cinematic memory.
– Jean opening her eyes as a new fire being and flying off into the cosmos is pretty intentionally evoking David going “Star-Child” at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
See any other fun references? Sound off in the comments below!