Say the name Dark Phoenix to any X-Men fan, and you are bound to get an intense reaction. The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most famous comic book arcs of all time, and now, according to Entertainment Weekly, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is coming to the big screen. This is excellent news for fans of Jean Grey's meteoric rise to power, and people looking for more feminism in their superhero movies.
20th Century Fox attempted to adapt the storyline once before in X-Men: The Last Stand, but rather than draw on the pure power Jean possessed, they depicted the Phoenix as a separate entity driven by her id. The film didn't go over well with audiences, and now that the X-Men franchise has been rebooted, it is time to let the Dark Phoenix rise in all her glory.
The film is being billed as a sequel to X-Men: Apocalypse, and EW reports it's set for release on November 2, 2018. Possibly the best part of the news is that Sophie Turner is returning to play Jean. Turner was allowed to show Jean at full power at the end of Apocalypse, and it was a glorious moment for the film.
For so long, Jean had been afraid of her own abilities, and she worked hard to suppress them. When Professor Xavier begged her to allow herself to let go, she not only destroyed Apocalypse, she looked exuberantly free. It was an incredible scene that set up Jean's turn to the dark side beautifully.
At its core, The Dark Phoenix has always been a story about power, particularly the power that resides within women. The story made its comic book debut in 1980, after the most dramatic parts of second wave feminism had changed gender politics forever. The immensity of Jean's mental strength is such that she has been taught to repress it over the years, and when she truly lets go and embraces her gifts, she is transformed.
Once the proverbial girl next door, Jean is suddenly dangerous. Her journey is ripe with metaphors, and outside of a winning arc in the 1990s X-Men animated series, the story has never lived up to its full potential onscreen. Now, 20th Century Fox and Marvel have the chance to not only bring the Dark Phoenix to life with an actor who is uniquely up to the challenge, but to also put a modern spin on things.
The ultimate flaw in the story is that Jean sacrifices herself in the end rather than finding a way to make peace with the Phoenix as part of herself. Hopefully, the new movie will embrace the feminist message that has always resided within the Phoenix, and allow Jean to come out of the story as a changed woman capable of containing and using her power as she sees fit.
No matter how the story plays out, having Turner take Jean on this journey is only going to make the film all the more remarkable. Jean's story mirrors Game of Thrones' Sansa Stark's story in many ways. Both women see themselves as innocents who are not capable of doing harm, but when they need to protect themselves, or those they love, they discover reservoirs of strength they never knew they had.
For the most part, the X-Men movies have done a good job of depicting diverse, unique female characters with a variety of strengths, but done right, Dark Phoenix could be their most feminist story yet.