So, at long last there is a trailer for the Dark Phoenix movie. Now, for those who know me or who are frequent followers of my social media, y’all know that for me, the Dark Phoenix saga is my Very Most Favorite Thing™. I’ve wanted a Dark Phoenix movie since the tease that was the X2 movie. (X-Men 3 was ridiculous. That was not a Dark Phoenix movie.) Anyway, now that we have a trailer…am I happy?
So, the Dark Phoenix Saga—written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne—is from the old days at Marvel and debuted in January of 1980. Prior to the events of the DPS, Jean Grey had sacrificed her life for the team. However, she was protected and resurrected by a cosmic being known as The Phoenix Force. Jean Grey then goes by the alias, “Phoenix”. During the events of the Dark Phoenix Saga, Jean’s mind is manipulated by a man named Jason Wyngarde (aka Mastermind). He and several elite members of the Hellfire Club are working in concert to compromise Jean Grey’s hold on her mind, and unleash the raw powers of the Phoenix Force. Only after she is totally overwhelmed by the Phoenix’s power does she rebrand herself as “The Dark Phoenix”, switching her costume from green to red. After she goes on a flaming spree of destruction, she blasts off into the cosmos. However, this took a lot of energy, so she ate a star. That’s right. A whole star. She just devours the energy from the sun, causing a supernova that killed an entire planet of broccoli people. A ship from an alien race, the Shi’ar, tries to stop Dark Phoenix, however, they too are killed. A distress signal reaches Empress Lilandra, sovereign of the Shi’ar. She, along with delegates from the Kree and Skrull empires, determine that the Dark Phoenix is a threat greater than Galactus, and must be destroyed. Naturally, the X-Men and Dark Phoenix don’t like that plan, so much incineration ensues.
What we’ve seen in the past with live action screen versions of the Phoenix character has strayed quite far from her origins. In X2, the Phoenix Force is teased, but not explored. In X-Men: The Last Stand, however, we see a new narrative given to this character. In that film, Jean was born with a split personality, one of great and dangerous power. To protect her, Charles Xavier placed strong telepathic bonds on that other personality (Phoenix.) When they broke, that dark power was free to try to kill everything and rip off Wolverine’s clothes (only part they got right in that movie.)
Based on IMDB and the Entertainment Weekly spread from earlier this year, we know Jessica Chastain is playing a character named Lilandra. There’s a possibility in the trailer that she’s in the Mastermind role trying to tempt Jean to embrace these powers for some reason. Other than the addition of Lilandra, and the possibility of cosmic entities, this movie seems to be taking from the same playbook as X3: Jean is a creepy kid and Professor X binds her, Nancy, from doing harm. Harm against others, and against herself.
Except here’s the problem: That’s not the theme of Dark Phoenix.
The Dark Phoenix has never been about suppressing something evil that lives within Jean. It’s never been about this idea that Jean would be a monster if it weren’t for the protective interference of Professor Xavier. This re-telling takes away the massive power that is within the Dark Phoenix Saga. And that power is Jean Grey.
Jean Grey is mentally raped by the Hellfire club, and not out of some protection, but because they want that power for themselves. They psychologically twist her because she is already powerful. She can hold back the beams of Cyclops’ optic blasts! When she is Phoenix, she is confident, exuding a quiet, demure strength. Because she has a conscience, she does not stretch that power to its seemingly infinite levels. When she realizes what was done to her, she loses her shit. She becomes a being of rage and destruction. She is fire incarnate. She blasts the mind of the man who assaulted her. She destroys. She murders.
And when it comes time to understand what she did…? When the Shi’ar call for her head? Jean Grey is contrite. She understands, and once more sacrifices herself for the betterment of the universe.
Why is this story not told this way?
Why is every live-action version of Jean Grey secretly creepy and evil?
Rather than telling the story of a woman scorned, why are we always telling the story of Charles’ Hard Choice™?
Why are we afraid to show a woman’s rage at what has been done to her, but instead, choose to show her as too weak to hold back the evil within herself?
This movie might be a better foray than the abortion that is X3, but it will not be a Dark Phoenix movie. We won’t have a good Dark Phoenix film until we fully explore the fact Jean Grey is powerful in and of herself. That the darkness in her is not something natural, but something that was heaped upon her maliciously and callously. We won’t have a good Dark Phoenix film until we address a woman’s rage and pain as valid.