This week, we were shown a new trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, providing more insight into what we can expect for the movie and the franchise as a whole. Although around these parts (“these parts” being my place of work, where a klatch of content marketers prattle on about genre flicks and TV shows on a daily basis) there has been a mixed response to the trailer, I think it looks pretty cool.
The latest trailer is the best indication that our mutant friends are in for the fight of their life, this time led by Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique (aka, Katmyst Everblue), who sports the kind of hairstyle all my high school crushes wore (so that gives you some indication of how old I am).
But to be honest, I’m more excited about the potential of what comes next and what the next trilogy of X-Men films might include. I’m pulling on the thinnest of threads to say that Fox’s X-Men Phase Three, to borrow a Marvel Studios term, could be the Dark Phoenix saga. And I’m not saying the next film will be the Dark Phoenix saga redux. I’m saying the next three films will be the Dark Phoenix saga.
Is ‘Apocalypse’ setting up ‘Dark Phoenix’?
Look, before we go too far, let me explain something. I’m a writer by profession with a passion for screenwriting, so I tend to tease out the simplest phrases with some gusto. If you think I’m making some pretty big leaps, well - I probably am.
For example, from the trailer only, can we make the leap that Mystique is inadvertently responsible for Jean losing control of her powers? Here’s how I’ve teased this out. In the trailer, Cyclops says, “Not all of us can control our powers.” To which Mystique replies, “Then don’t.” Later someone says, “It’s all of us against a god and the most powerful beings on Earth.”
My writer-sense (somewhat similar to having spider-sense) tells me this is foreshadowing. Mystique, the rebel, tells Scott (and Jean) that in times of trouble it’s okay to lose control of your powers. In other words, dig deep and let go.
And that line about “the most powerful beings on Earth?” Every X-Men fan knows Jean belongs near the very top of that list...
A peek at ‘Dark Phoenix’ in ‘Apocalypse’?
When you look at Mystique’s ragtag group of mutants, you kind of wonder how they’ll defeat Apocalypse. Until you remember that Jean is just as powerful - if not moreso. Could we see Jean take Mystique’s advice and tap into the Phoenix Force to defeat Apocalypse? I think so. And that “moment” - a little halo of flame, perhaps - will open up the franchise for a true Dark Phoenix adaption.
The Dark Phoenix Trilogy:
The original story is built perfectly for a traditional movie trilogy. Here’s I would love to see it might unspool:
X-Men: Hellfire Club
In which we meet our Giant-Size X-Men as they take on a rejuvenated Hellfire Club. In the original story, Jean is doing her best to control her newly discovered powers - telekinesis and telepathy - which have been enhanced (in very comic book ways) to their limit.
The villain is Jason Wyngarde, Mastermind, a mutant who uses telepathy to cause intense, realistic illusions in his victim’s minds. Determined to prove himself worthy of joining the Hellfire Club’s inner circle, Mastermind sets his sights on Jean. His illusions force Jean to turn on her fellow X-Men.
She eventually breaks Mastermind’s spell when Mastermind destroys a vision of Cyclops in a vision. The pain forces Jean’s hand and she turns total Dark Phoenix, destroying Mastermind and the Hellfire Club. Fearing she has no control, Jean says goodbye to Scott and flies into deep space. Professor X tells Scott and the other X-Men that they must be ready for her return.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
The second act in the Dark Phoenix Saga, finds Jean tearing through deep space, consuming stars and wreaking havoc on an alien race: the Shi’ar Empire. Possessed by the Phoenix Force, Jean destroys a planet and tears apart a fleet of Shi’ar starships.
We see Jean struggle to control her nearly limitless power, eventually returning to Earth, where she hides from her fellow X-Men in her small hometown.
Professor X senses her return and orders the X-Men to make contact and, if possible, capture her. A battle ensues between Jean and the X-Men. It isn’t until Professor. X can defeat her on the psychic plane that Jean’s powers are reduced to Apocalypse powers. The twist, here, of course, is that the Shi’ar arrive at the end and abduct Jean.
X-Men: Blue Side of the Moon
The final film in the trilogy takes place in the Shi’ar Empire (I’m saying let’s not do the Blue Area of the Moon, the location of the story in the comic). To get there, Cyclops and Havoc summon their father, who they know leads the Starjammers (a twist from the comics). The Starjammers battle their way through the Shi’ar in an effort to save Jean, but are eventually captured and brought before Lillandra, the Shi’ar Queen. Professor X and the X-Men agree to a duel to the death to save Jean’s life. The series ends the same as the comic, with Jean giving her life to save the universe.
And, yes, of course the after credits tag would be a throwback to Apocalypse, showing an unrevealed scene of Jean encountering the Phoenix Force during the final battle with Apocalypse. The Phoenix Force, as fans know, is the retconned alien entity that allowed Jean Grey to come back to life.
The scene would portray a similar moment, as Jean falls unconscious and the Phoenix Force takes on her appearance and memories. Leaving open Jean’s return in a future installment of X-Men.