ByTom Bacon, writer at
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Tom Bacon

Next year, Marvel's merry mutants embrace the cosmic side of the X-Men comics in X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Inspired by the classic "Dark Phoenix Saga," this epic promises to see Sophie Turner's Jean Grey cut loose like never before. What's more, we're set to see Jessica Chastain's Lilandra enter the scene — the empress of an alien race that fear the Phoenix's power.

Now, director Simon Kinberg has just dropped a bombshell on fans. To fans' surprise, he's insisted that this cosmic adventure needs to be carefully managed. Speaking to Total Film, he explained:

"[We must] find a way to ground it so it's not too intergalactic."

Many X-Men fans seem to be reacting with outrage, and worrying that this is the exact mindset behind 2006's disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand, which Kinberg co-wrote.

After all, this is the story of the Phoenix Force — a cosmic entity that famously saved all reality when its unfathomable power that was used to bind up the M'Kraan Crystal. Aren't Fox adapting a storyline that introduced the Shi'ar, the Imperial Guard, and the space-pirates known as the Starjammers?

Actually, no, they're not.

Why Simon Kinberg Is Right

Kingberg added that the X-Men films are known for being "human" and deeply emotional. That needs to be the focal point of the story.

In 1976, legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont launched "The Phoenix Saga." This was a bold attempt to redefine the X-Men by taking them to a cosmic stage, and as part of it Claremont redefined Jean Grey's power levels. As he explained at the time:

“Our intent was to create an X-Men analog, if you will, to Thor – someone who was essentially the first female cosmic hero. We thought at the time we could integrate her into the book as well as Thor had been integrated into the Avengers.”

The Phoenix's phenomenal power was set against a cosmic backdrop like nothing X-Men fans had ever seen before. We were introduced to the ruthless Shi'ar Empire, and to its tyrannical ruler, D'Ken. The X-Men wound up allying with Lilandra Neramani, D'Ken's sister, who was attempting to end his reign of terror. Along the way, they also crossed paths with the Starjammers — a group of space-pirates who turned out to be led by Cyclops's father.

Original designs for the Phoenix. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
Original designs for the Phoenix. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

That's 'The Phoenix Saga,' and it ran from 1976 through to 1977. "The Dark Phoenix Saga," the spiritual successor to that story, is a completely different tale. It's a haunting, emotional narrative in which the incalculably powerful Phoenix falls prey to the psychic influence of Mastermind. She's corrupted by her own infinite power, and destroys an entire inhabited star-system before returning to Earth.

Horrified at her crimes, the Shi'ar pursue Phoenix to Earth, and insist she be killed. It all comes to a head in the unforgettable Uncanny X-Men #138, with Jean choosing to commit suicide rather than risk unleashing the evil of Dark Phoenix once again.

The bulk of "The Dark Phoenix Saga" is actually set on Earth, with the final issue taking place on the surface of the Moon. It's not an intergalactic adventure; it's a deep, traumatic and human tale, one that centers on Jean Grey's humanity. It's a story of corruption and redemption, played out as tragedy.

The focus isn't on the Shi'ar; it's on Jean Grey, on a god who's struggling to remember what it is to be human, and on her heartbreaking decision to take her own life rather than fall to the darkness once again.

I realize that many X-Men fans are wanting to see "The Phoenix Saga," feeling this arc needs to be set up. But Fox believes they've already laid the groundwork at the tail-end of X-Men: Apocalypse. After all, that film was essentially the "apocalypse" (or "unveiling") of Jean Grey.

This film is X-Men: Dark Phoenix, inspired by "The Dark Phoenix Saga." Yes, it's a cosmic tale, but it's fundamentally an emotional one, exploring what it means to be human. This film will stand or fall on its emotional core, not on its intergalactic action.

Simon Kinberg is right.


Which of next year's X-Men films are you most excited about?

[Source: X-Men Films]


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