Looking back, the X-Men franchise was key in the development of the modern comic book movie genre, and 18 years after it started it's as strong as it's ever been. While the Disney-Fox deal will certainly change things in the future, the franchise is generating interesting-looking spin-offs, and looks like it has some big plans brewing. Not to be forgotten, however, is the main series of films, and it's the next chapter that we're here to discuss today.
After a relatively quick production period, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is now a bit less than a year away from release nationwide. But what is it about? Who is making it? What characters can we expect to appear? We cover all of these questions and more in our What We Know So Far guide below, so read on and learn!
It's been a long road, but September 26, 2018 finally delivered the first trailer from the highly anticipated movie. As you can see above, it goes heavy on the stress caused to Jean by meeting with the Phoenix force, and the resulting toll that will take on her friends and the world around her. But, it almost completely leaves out any cool scenes of that meeting and most of the space action that would have led to it. It's good to have something from the film to sink our superhero loving teeth into, but we can't wait to see what subsequent trailers will show us.
In 2017, the Marvel Cinematic Universe achieved something never before seen in Hollywood: releasing three franchise titles in the span of one calendar year. Well, in 2018 the X-Men movies were ready to compete. January through June should have seen both Josh Boone's The New Mutants and David Leitch's Deadpool 2 unleashed on the world, with 20th Century Fox is saving X-Men: Dark Phoenix for the winter months, having set it to come out on November 2, 2018. That changed with some shakeups to scheduling in January and March of 2018, though. First, The New Mutants was pushed from April 13, 2018, to February 22, 2019 and then to August 2, 2019. Dark Phoenix retained its November release date through the first scheduling change, but late March saw the superhero film get pushed to February 2019.
But then, just two days after the first trailer was released in late September 2018, Fox did more shuffling and set Dark Phoenix down on June 7, 2019. With the exception of Deadpool and Logan, which hit theaters in the first quarters of their respective years, the X-Men movies have traditionally been spring and summer releases, which makes this new strategy fall more in line with what we generally see. While February is no longer a stranger to comic book blockbusters in the modern era, thanks to the aforementioned Deadpool and the recent, completely massive success of Black Panther, this release makes a lot more sense for the film. Rumors on the date change have suggested that the studio believes X-Men: Dark Phoenix will simply perform better then, especially in China, which went crazy for the trailer after it came out.
Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe, the X-Men franchise has been a bit more experimental when it comes to the ratings of their comic book movies -- and it's resulted in some incredible success. Even though audiences under 18 couldn't see them without a parent or guardian, the aforementioned Deadpool and Logan both managed to bring in tons of cash appealing to more mature audiences. Because of these wins, there are now ratings conversations to be had about ever developing X-Men title at Fox, but it doesn't look like X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be rocking the boat.
To date, all of the main X-Men titles -- including X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse -- have all been PG-13, and that trend will continue with X-Men: Dark Phoenix. It surely will have (mostly bloodless) violence and thrilling sequences that might be too much for young viewers, but don't expect tons of gore, nudity or profanity.
Simon Kinberg has been an important part of the X-Men world for years. He first became involved back in 2006 when he was hired to write the script for Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand, but has really been a key player ever since X-Men: First Class. Starting with that 2011 movie he has produced all of the franchises' features, and he is also a credited co-writer on X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse. He's also done script work on Dark Phoenix, but the bigger story is the fact that he's making the film as his directorial debut.
It's not often that you see a filmmaker dipping his toe into directing with a major superhero blockbuster, but he does have a good amount of experience within the industry in the last 15 years. We can't say much for the style we expect him to bring to X-Men: Dark Phoenix, but that's just another part of what we're anticipating to see in the film's first trailer.
The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most famous storylines in the history of Marvel Comics - which fully explains why this movie will actually be the second big screen attempt at adapting it. The franchise tried to put its own spin on the familiar narrative with X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006, but it's widely agreed that the job was botched. Following the continuity-changing events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the movies saw an opportunity to try and tell the story again, and that's what we're getting in Simon Kinberg's X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
Set a decade after the events of X-Men: Apocalypse (following a pattern set up by the previous two movies), Dark Phoenix is set in the early 1990s, and is set in a world that has changed quite a lot. In the 1980s people everywhere knew about the existence of mutants, but now the X-Men are basically rock stars. Under the leadership of Professor X (James McAvoy), the team is known worldwide for their heroics, and celebrated for them.
All good streaks come to an end, however, and the X-Men find theirs come to a conclusion in outer space. During a cosmic mission, an accident occurs involving a solar flare, awakening something within Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) in the process. It's found it greatly enhances her powers, but the team begins to witness some serious changes in her personality.
Those familiar with the Dark Phoenix Saga from the comics -- which is an arc big enough to span two feature films -- will recognize that this doesn't exactly match up with the source material, but it certainly is a hell of a lot closer than what X-Men: The Last Stand delivered. There is still a lot that we don't know about the story take and the adaptation, but we will obviously learn more as new trailers and stills are revealed.
Jean Grey has been an important character in the X-Men movies from the very beginning, originally played by Famke Janssen, but now she is in her second generation. While Jean was initially introduced as a teacher at Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters, X-Men: Apocalypse was the first film in the canon to show her as a student, brought to life by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner.
Like many of her fellow X-Men in that film, the young telepath/telekinetic was only just starting to get a handle on her special mutation when she was doing battle with Apocalypse -- but all the same still demonstrated some incredible power. We can assume that her abilities and her control over said abilities will be much better at the start of X-Men: Dark Phoenix (there's a lot Professor X can teach in a decade), but even those practiced strengths will be nothing compared to what she is able to do when imbued with the Phoenix Force.
As powerful as Jean is naturally, her abilities intensely escalate when she is transformed into Phoenix, to the point where she becomes one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Opening stargates, destroying matter at the subatomic level, and generating cosmic fire are only a few of the scary skills in her arsenal, but also certainly not helpful is the way that the power tends to corrupt the user.
Going back to X-Men: First Class, we've watched Charles Xavier a.k.a. Professor X come a long way. He earned his doctorate at the age of 30, shortly thereafter establishing Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters, and through X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse we've watched him evolve into the legendary leader we've always known that he would become.
By the time we catch up with him in Dark Phoenix, Professor X will have 30 years of leadership under his belt, but evidently he somewhat becomes a victim of his own bravado. He is very proud of the students that he has taught, and blissful with the reputation and popularity that the X-Men have received. There are obvious positive sides to this, but unfortunately the confidence also leads him to send his team into outer space for a mission that they aren't prepared for, leading to Jean Grey's accident.
As a leader and a teacher, Professor X has a very important responsibility when it comes to the X-Men, and one can imagine this mistake having a crucial impact on his arc in X-Men: Dark Phoenix. That said, he shouldn't have a ton of time to devote to self-reflection and self-flagellation if he's properly responding to the threat that the titular force represents.
It's no secret that the X-Men movies don't have a great track record of doing right by Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops. The character has been a fan favorite in the comics for decades, but on the big screen he was totally sidelined by a Wolverine-centric approach that painted him plainly as a romantic competitor for the heart of Jean Grey. It's partially because of this shortcoming that the franchise hit the restart button on Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse, and now they'll have the chance to properly explore the character in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, portrayed by Tye Sheridan.
Cyclops was only shown wearing his famous visor in the final moments of X-Men: Apocalypse, still learning how to control his optic blasts, but he should be a seasoned veteran with the equipment when we catch up with him. Not much is known about the specific role he will be playing in the Dark Phoenix storyline, though his romantic bond with Jean Grey must surely be a factor in the narrative.
Within the post-X-Men: Days of Future Past continuity, we don't have much experience watching Ororo Munroe a.k.a. Storm as a hero. Portrayed by Alexandra Shipp in X-Men: Apocalypse, we got a glimpse of her upbringing in Egypt, but the titular villain was able to get to her far faster than Professor X. She was enlisted as one of the Four Horsemen, but the all-powerful blue mutant's Svengali-like hold over her was shattered when she saw her hero, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in battle. Following her change of heart, Storm started fighting alongside the X-Men, and at the end of the movie we saw her suited up as a full-fledged member of the team.
Unfortunately, that's basically where details stop in regards to what we can expect from Storm in X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Like everyone else, she will be 10 years older and wiser, and have much greater control over her abilities to control the weather, but we don't really know much more than that. Given how limited the character's time on screen has classically been -- going back to the Halle Berry era -- hopefully a nice chunk of narrative will be devoted to her.
We first got to see the fan-favorite teleporting mutant known as Nightcrawler up on the big screen in X2: X-Men United... but his run didn't exactly last long. Despite putting on a fantastic performance, Alan Cumming didn't return to reprise the part in X-Men: The Last Stand, and in the movie world Nightcrawler was ultimately put on ice for 13 years. That unfortunate trend ended in 2016 with Kodi Smit-McPhee playing a younger version of the character in X-Men: Apocalypse, and next we'll get to see him perform his advanced circus-like antics in Dark Phoenix.
In X-Men: Apocalypse, Nightcrawler was basically used to demonstrate that the world was accepting of his odd appearance -- but we didn't really get to learn much about him. Hopefully Simon Kinberg is able to successfully balance X-Men: Dark Phoenix as a true ensemble, and give Kurt Wagner the proper moments to shine that fans want to see, and that his legacy deserves.
The last seventeen years have brought as an endless list of ridiculously awesome big screen superhero moments, but the usage of Evan Peters' Peter Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver in both X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse are certainly near the top. Bryan Singer made impressive use of modern filmmaking technology to craft sequences unlike anything we've ever seen with a speedster character, and in doing so also happened to create two of the most memorable movie music moments of the young century. He's an exciting presence in this franchise, which is why we're stoked that he will be back in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
The full details regarding Quicksilver's development as a character have not yet been revealed, but we can probably take a few guesses regarding where he is at. Given his personality type, one can imagine that he is absolutely loving the celebrity status that the X-Men have earned, and is happy to take advantage of it every moment that he can -- which is pretty often given the way he moves. We'll have to wait and see if he winds up reaching out to Magneto to reveal that he is his son (if that hasn't already happened in the last decade), but that situation is made tricky given the status of Magneto at the start of Dark Phoenix, which we'll get into a bit later.
Fans were initially disappointed when Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast didn't make the roster for Bryan Singer's first X-Men movie, but ever since X-Men: First Class he has been a key player. Portrayed by Nicholas Hoult, we have watched the character undergo some serious change -- some quite literally -- but he's certainly developed into the hero that Marvel readers have loved for decades.
Beast will once again be back fighting the good fight in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, serving alongside Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Quicksilver, and Mystique under the guidance of Professor X. We can't say for certain if he will still have control over his appearance, or be totally blue and furry the whole time, but that's something a first look image may reveal (something we don't have just yet).
Similar to Wolverine, Raven Darkhölme a.k.a. Mystique wasn't always a core member of the X-Men character lineup in the comics, but the films have certainly treated her that way. Rebecca Romijn was certainly memorable in the original X-Men trilogy, but the fact that she has been played by A-lister Jennifer Lawrence since X-Men: First Class has kept her in the franchise's spotlight. At the end of X-Men: Apocalypse she was firmly established as one of the good guys, and apparently that's exactly where she starts at the beginning of Dark Phoenix as well.
Mystique has classically been an enemy of the X-Men, but the new movie will evidently firmly establish her as a hero, still fighting with the titular team. She is older than most of her teammates, putting her in a leadership position, but we can only speculate at this point how she'll handle Jean Grey's transformation into the Phoenix.
At the end of X-Men: Apocalypse Michael Fassbender's Erik Lehnsherr a.k.a. Magneto aided in the reconstruction of Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters, but he made the decision not to stick around. Having lost his wife and daughter, and nearly aided in the destruction of the planet, he decided that it was best that he leave and start a life for himself elsewhere in the world. It's noteworthy that X-Men: Dark Phoenix will address the question of "Where?" and it turns out the answer is super interesting: the island of Genosha.
While Genosha has a bit of a spotty history in Marvel Comics, in Dark Phoenix it will be portrayed as a safe haven for mutants who can't find a home anywhere else in the world -- and it's where Magneto has worked to try and rebalance his life. He finds himself involved with the main narrative because Jean Grey seeks him out for guidance in the midst of his transformation.
Yes, that's a super vague heading, but the reality is that we don't have much to work with in this area. It's been confirmed that Jessica Chastain will be playing the central villain in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, but in a move that seriously increases our curiosity, the folks behind the film will not identify her character. It has been said that she is an "otherworldly shapeshifter" who is out to control the power of the Phoenix, but nothing else is known beyond that.