OK, X-Men fans, buckle up — or should I say, Fassbend your seat belts. We're entering rumor mill territory, and as we all know, these here roads are bumpy! Next year will see the X-Men franchise head into the cosmic in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, with the villain of the piece apparently none other than the Empress Lilandra.
As details emerge about the production, though, fans have been increasingly puzzled about it. What role does Magneto play in the movie, when he's not part of the comics' Dark Phoenix Saga at all? Why are leaked casting breakdowns introducing so many new mutants?
According to Nerdist, a "source close to the film" has reached out to them with an intriguing possibility...
A New Direction For Magneto
Michael Fassbender's Magneto has been a central figure in the #XMen franchise since X-Men: First Class, and Fox has been reluctant to go all-out in using him as a villain. X-Men: Apocalypse is a perfect case in point, with the character switching sides at the very end and even helping rebuild the X-Mansion. That may be about to change; Nerdist's source tells them the costume design for Magneto in Dark Phoenix is "meant to suggest the imagery commonly associated with cult leaders."
Given that Dark Phoenix is set in the '90s, it's an appropriate direction for the character. The '90s comics saw Magneto set up a satellite base known as Avalon, where he gathered a quasi-religious cult of Acolytes around himself. The Acolytes were brutal and dangerous, pushing matters further than even Magneto was comfortable with. They were essentially a mutant terrorist group, and one horrific issue saw them launch a bloody attack on a school-bus because they thought a mutant was associating with "Flatscans" (humans).
Meanwhile, if Nerdist is right, this arc will be blended with a concept from the 2000s; it seems Magneto will be tied to the island nation of Genosha. Created by legendary X-Men scribe Chris Claremont, Genosha was originally a metaphor for Apartheid, with mutants treated as "property of the state." Into the 2000s, though, Magneto claimed Genosha as a mutant nation, and the threat of his powers forced the world to accede him control of the island.
While this is only a rumor, it does make sense of the strange character breakdowns we've seen so far; they've hinted at a whole host of new mutants, as well as a surprising international aspect to the plot. Now imagine that, in the aftermath of Apocalypse, Magneto has founded a mutant nation. As in the comics, the world would fear his power; hadn't he just proven he could literally the planet?
As the years have passed, then, Magneto's island country has increasingly become the home of a sort of mutant cult, oriented around Magneto's doctrine of mutant-human separation.
It doesn't take much to intertwine this concept with what we know of Dark Phoenix. In the comics, the Hellfire Club were responsible for brainwashing Jean Grey, and unwittingly unleashing the power of Dark Phoenix. It's possible that, in Dark Phoenix, Magneto and his Acolytes will play this role — after all, the films have already used the Hellfire Club in X-Men: First Class, and we surely don't need a third cinematic version of Emma Frost. Meanwhile, Magneto knows Jean's power, and would surely want to have her join his cause.
Let's be clear: this is a rumor, nothing more or less, and as yet it's unconfirmed. I'm only paying attention to it because it dovetails intriguingly with what we already know, specifically with that strange casting call that included so many different characters. The idea may be unexpected, but it's actually strangely feasible. I'll keep you in the loop as I hear more...
Do you think this would be the right direction to take Magneto?