The X-Men movies are going through a low-key reinvention — Logan was far riskier than any superhero film in years, Deadpool far quirkier, and New Mutants will tap into YA and horror in 2018. It all feels like a reaction to X-Men: Apocalypse, which was wildly divisive among fans and not the breakout hit Fox were probably hoping for.
But while the universe begins to expand beyond the main X-saga with Deadpool 2 and New Mutants, the biggest question mark hovers over X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which continues the "new" timeline first established in Days of Future Past and jumps forward in time once again to 1991 (let's just gloss over the fact that, by this point, the main trio of Mystique, Magneto and Charles are all supposed to be aged 50+).
The Dark Phoenix Saga, besides being arguably the best comic book arc of all time, is differentiated from the stories of First Class, Future Past and Apocalypse because its bad guy isn't a supervillain attempting to start a war with the X-Men — it's Jean Grey herself (or, technically, the Phoenix force inhabiting her body and distorting her mind).
That's murky territory because the audience still sees Jean as a heroine with a corruptive force trapped inside of her, so a secondary villain is also needed — her name is Lilandra, and she'll be played in Dark Phoenix by Jessica Chastain. Here's everything you need to know about the other redheaded bad guy who'll be giving Charles and the #XMen an epic headache in 2018.
Created in 1976 by the one and only Chris Claremont, Lilandra Neramani is not a mutant. She approached Professor X telepathically for help in overthrowing her power-crazed brother D'Ken as leader of the Shi'ar empire. Being Shi'ar, Lilandra is not a mutant — like the rest of her race, she largely resembles a human, but sports a feathered crest on her head, rather than hair. Of course, you don't cast Jessica Chastain and hide her hair, so it'll be interesting to see what director Simon Kinberg chooses to do with Lilandra's look in Dark Phoenix.
Lilandra is ostensibly not a villain at all in the traditional sense — after seeking Xavier's help with D'Ken, she establishes some heated chemistry with the telepath, and they might have been good together if not for Jean Grey. When the Dark Phoenix Saga begins and the Phoenix force takes hold on Jean, giving her an uncontrollable thirst for entire planets, Lilandra consults with the leaders of the Kree and Skyrull empires and gives the Shi'ar Imperial Guard the order to destroy Jean Grey. That's pretty much the textbook definition of a relationship-killer, and soon Lilandra and Charles are engaged in a Shi'ar duel of honor on which Jean's fate hangs.
Despite being a key figure in the history of Charles and the X-Men, Lilandra met her demise in Marvel's War of Kings arc and has yet to be resurrected (meanwhile, how many times has Jean Grey come back from the dead?). Her involvement in the Dark Phoenix Saga as a protector of alien species means Lilandra should be the most layered, multi-dimensional villain of the X-Men movies to date, and if anyone can capture that essence it's Jessica Chastain — just as long as her face isn't buried under a mountain of insane prosthetics. Yes, Apocalypse, I'm still mad at you.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix hits theaters November 2, 2018.