A decade after the fact, it’s not exactly controversial to say that there were a lot of problems with ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’. Fans have largely been content to lay those problems at the feet of director Brett Ratner (who, to be fair, turned in exactly the sort of uninspired hack work that audiences had come to expect from him), but there were also issues with the script. Chief among them being the fact that it takes a story that is fundamentally about a female character (indeed, thirty five years later, ‘The Dark Phoenix Saga’ remains, arguably, the definitive Jean Grey story) and places that character firmly in the background. Additionally, it jettisoned the cosmic elements that were integral to the original story, presenting as something akin to a split personality rather than a cosmic entity.
Now, a decade and a soft reboot later, the ‘X-Men’ films are revisiting ‘The Dark Phoenix Saga’. It represents a chance to redeem what many still hold has the franchise’s biggest misstep (especially now that has actually been allowed to play Deadpool, as opposed to whatever it was he was doing in ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘). Needless to say, this adds a certain weight to the proceedings, one keenly felt not only by audiences but by longtime producer Simon Kinberg. Kinberg, who in addition to directing and producing ‘Dark Phoenix’ also contributed to the screenplay for ‘The Last Stand’, has been keen to attempt a more faithful adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s comic book masterpiece for some time now, and understandably so. While we still have about a year to go before finding out just how ‘Dark Phoenix’ fares in that regard, Kinberg is already promising that the film’s female characters – not just Jean Grey – will be front and center, noting that he “really wanted to acknowledge the strength of the women in the comic and in the actresses that we have and the central storyline demands it.
The film’s stars agree with his assessment including Jean Grey actress Sophie Turner, who points to her own dual role as hero and villain as but one example of the film’s female focus:
It’s really exciting. I think there’s such a revolution in superhero movies. I feel like this movie is a revelation because of it being like a drama but the hero is a female and she’s also the villain. It really is about her relationships with the females in the film, especially Jessica Chastain’s character. It’s really interesting to have those two characters be kind of the two biggest characters in the movie and both be female and so layered and so complex.
For her part, Jessica Chastain (whose character has yet to be confirmed, but is rumored to be the Shi’ar Empress Lilandra) notes that the ‘Dark Phoenix’ script is what convinced her to finally take the franchise plunge, her prior concerns about the genre’s handling of women:
“I’ve always wanted to do a big comic book franchise-y film but I had some issues with the female characters in the films I was being offered. I was really pleased with this script because I think it’s a departure from the norm. This definitely passes the Bechdel test and I don’t know how many comic book films can say that.”
Directed by longtime producer Simon Kinberg, ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, Olivia Munn, and Jessica Chastain. The film is due for release on November 2, 2018.