The next film in the main X-Men movie series has been given a title: Dark Phoenix. While the X-Men series is moving an eclectic range of directions, from serious meditations on the idea of a superhero like Logan to goofy riffs on genre tropes with Deadpool, it’s still going be having some focus on Professor Xavier and School for Gifted Youngsters.
The direct follow-up to last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse has been in pre-production since that film’s release, with a rumored production start date of June 2017. For a long while it was operating under the title X-Men: Supernova, leading to speculation it would take the baton from its predecessor and dramatize the famed Dark Phoenix arc, although that has since been debunked by producer Simon Kinberg. Now a proper title has been reported and it definitely steers into that story.
Although Kinberg has – along with denying the Supernova title rumors – played down the notion of Apocalypse‘s sequel tackling the Dark Phoenix arc, in which Jean Grey becomes possessed by the all-powerful, genocidal Phoenix force, this title would seem to suggest that’s exactly where the movie’s heading. This isn’t too surprising; Apocalypse already established that Sophie Turner’s Jean was wrestling with some deep, hidden powers which she embraced to defeat En Sabah Nur in the film’s final act, and the suggestion that the team will head to space this go around chimed with the comic source.
Dark Phoenix will, of course, not be the first time that the comic story has been brought to the big screen. It was seeded through Bryan Singer’s initial two films and realized by Brett Ratner in X-Men: The Last Stand. That film is regarded as one of the weakest of the series, and Ratner’s butchering of Singer’s setup and the source story is one of its biggest crimes. Apocalypse suggested the new timeline (which wiped out those earlier events) was going with a similar origin story – the Phoenix power is something deep inside Jean rather than an external force – but hopes are high that Kinberg (or whoever ends up directing) can handle it a bit better.
Of course, the bigger task of Dark Phoenix is in relation to a more recent failure. Apocalypse received a savaging with critics and its box office was a major step down from previous main series entry Days of Future Past, putting a lot of pressure on its successor to show there’s still interest in the core series.
Not much else is known about the film beyond its basic premise; in terms of concrete details, the only real facts are James McAvoy’s hinted return (albeit perhaps without Michael Fassbender’s Magneto) and Jubilee likely playing a bigger role. It is expected that this film will see the run started with First Class move into the 1990s in an homage to the classic X-Men: The Animated Series.