The X-Men: Dark Phoenix trailer is here! While the future of the X-Movie franchise is uncertain now that 20th Century Fox is about to be absorbed by Disney, what we have here is our first look at the twelfth movie in the cinematic multiverse, the seventh straight-up X-Men movie, and the fourth X-Men movie of the current timeline. This is the direct sequel to X-Men: Apocalypse, which featured Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) unleashing her full power to take out the titular villain. Now the defeat of the last threat led to the looming threat of Jean meeting her full potential.
This sounds very, very familiar…
Anyway, check out the trailer right here if you haven’t already. Or watch it again. Or don’t. I’m easy.
Now let’s break down this two minutes of teasery goodness and hope that it distracts me enough from having the Doors stuck in my head.
THE CURRENT ROSTER
Wearing the Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely uniforms, we see Xavier leading the team of Quicksilver, Nightcrawler, Beast, Cyclops, Storm, and Mystique. Get a look at the costumes that inspired these, though…
Of course, as we’ll get to down the line, this won’t remain the lineup for long.
REWRITING THE WHEEL
The basic storyline here, at least in terms of what the trailer shows us, is extremely similar to X-Men: The Last Stand. We’re shown that Jean Grey was troubled and too powerful as a child, so Professor Xavier did what appears to be a mind whammy on her to keep her in check. Now she’s reaching her potential and not only is she edging closer to the dark side, but Magneto appears to be helping her out… at least from a cautious distance.
And she’s got those weird vein cracks all over her face too. This other than a brief flash is our one hint of the actual fire in her Phoenix force powers. It is also evocative of the images released to EW of Ms. Grey at her most vulnerable and fire-breathing.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing a cinematic mulligan with a comic character. This is a year that’s shown the second attempt at Deadpool fighting the second attempt at Juggernaut while the second attempt at a Venom origin story is about to hit theaters. It’s just so weird to see them trying to tell an entire comic arc all over again.
One of the big changes this time around appears to be Jean’s childhood trauma. Rather than simply being too powerful than one little girl should be, we see that her powers accidentally led to the death of her family. Xavier seems to have repressed that memory and that’s surely one of those things that will bite you in the ass down the line.
It is also evocative of one of the most defining aspects of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s original Dark Phoenix Saga, which in the comics involved Jean briefly regressing to her childhood mental state and running home. It is, ahem, also a sequence referenced in X-Men: The Last Stand, and one of the few scenes in the 2006 movie that came close to touching Phoenix’s potential. It looks like we’ll be headed that way once more here… but maybe with more follow through?
HEY, LOOK! SPACE!
There are a couple shots in the trailer of the team flying around in space, even if it’s limited to just outside of the upper atmosphere. This is mostly a way to show off Mystique’s snazzy new makeup job, but the comic version of The Dark Phoenix Saga (X-Men #129-138) is very much linked to the team having space adventures. That’s a major thing that Last Stand didn’t involve, though the movie was too busy as is to include it.
While several X-Men members are shown in the background, there’s no sign of Jean in there. With that said, we imagine given what we’ve seen of previous concept art that they’ll be building early in the movie to this iconic moment from comicdom’s original introduction of Phoenix via X-Men #101 (re: not The Dark Phoenix Saga), which introduced Jean Grey’s cosmic powers during a space flight mission where she had to unleash her power to save her teammates, like so:
We get a hint of that right here:
JESSICA CHASTAIN IS A MYSTERY VILLAIN
While Magneto appears to be doing his umpteenth turn of egging on mutant villainy only to feel really bad about it later, Jessica Chastain is shown briefly as pushing Jean toward evil. Her role isn’t officially known, but considering this is a Jean/Cyclops story and we know that Chastain plays an alien in the film, we still have a hunch she is Lilandra, the empress of the Shi’ar Empire in the comics who plays a prominent role in deciding Jean Grey’s fate during The Dark Phoenix Saga. However, Chastain and Kinberg have denied she’s Lilandra, so either she’s an original villain or some amalgamation of bad guys.
We do know via early press for the movie that Chastain’s character is a shapeshifter, which might suggest she is a Skrull, an alien race also appearing in Marvel’s Captain Marvel next year. However, we’re more inclined to believe she’d be some original combination of the Skrulls, the Shi’ar, and possibly Emma Frost. In the comics, Emma Frost was also a major player in The Dark Phoenix Saga and an icy blonde at that. She tried to tempt Jean to join the Hellfire Club/Inner Circle. But since they killed Emma Frost off off-screen in X-Men: Days of Future Past (there played by January Jones), we’re wondering if this is a hybrid version of her and Lilandra. Not that we’re complaining at having Jessica Chastain in any movie!
BEAST IN THE BROTHERHOOD?!?
At one point we get yet another Xavier/Magneto face-off. Xavier has the X-Men backing him up and Magneto has his own crew. I don’t know who the two on the right are, but Beast has decided to throw in with the Master of Magnetism. Various parts of the trailer show Hank portraying concern over Jean’s increasing power and disgust at Xavier.
There is probably one other thing that would send him over the edge…
FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND
Somebody dies. We see the funeral and everything. Unless it’s a big swerve, all signs point to Mystique getting taken out. Not only does she have a very limited amount of screen time in this trailer despite, you know, being Jennifer Lawrence, but she’s Jennifer Lawrence and she’s still in these X-Men movies, and she pretty much mailed it in during X-Men: Apocalypse. She’s getting the Force Awakens Harrison Ford mercy treatment here.
Plus, look at the way it’s framed. Xavier and Beast on opposite sides and thrown into conflict due to these events.
It also helps that there’s this shot of Beast embracing her that very much looks like he could be hugging her lifeless body.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix opens on Feb. 14, 2019. Bring a date. The full schedule of X-Men movie releases can be found here.
Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and was excited about a Phoenix-based X-Men movie until realizing it’s not about the video game lawyer. You can check out more of his stuff here. Follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L