Dark Phoenix is retreading a story the X-Men franchise already got wrong over a decade ago. X-Men: The Last Stand first tackled The Dark Phoenix Saga in 2006, directed by the disgraced Brett Ratner and written by Dark Phoenix writer/director Simon Kinberg. The movie was a moderate box office success, but was almost wholly rejected by fans, leading to an eventual timeline reset.
There's a lot of replication in the comic book genre as a whole, but one thing that's been fairly consistent is that a specific piece of source material typically isn't used more than once by each franchise. We've seen Spider-Man and Batman's origins more than once, and they've faced off against Green Goblin and Joker multiple times, but those stories still have some significant differences, drawing from a different bit of source material each time.
What makes Dark Phoenix so weird isn't just that it's drawing from the Phoenix Saga again, but that a lot of the trailer seems to revisit what we've already seen in the last telling - The Last Stand. With decades of comics to choose from, why is the Dark Phoenix Saga something Simon Kinber and Fox think is worth a second attempt to get it right?
- This Page: The Last Stand Got the X-Men's Best Story Wrong
- Page 2: How Dark Phoenix Will (Try) To Do The Phoenix Saga Justice
Phoenix is Bigger Than Phoenix Saga
Casual X-Men fans are very familiar with the Phoenix Saga, as it's one of the most popular arcs in the comics, it got a major focus on the popular X-Men The Animated Series, and the movies already attempted to adapt it once with X-Men: The Last Stand. What more casual fans might not know about the Phoenix Force is that it has a far more pervasive role in the comics than the initial classic Chris Clairmont run. In fact, considering the Phoenix Force's significance in the comics, it's shocking it hasn't been a bigger factor on the big screen.
The Phoenix Force may have only occupied Jean Grey on the big screen, but in the comics, it's been a central factor in a number of stories, possessing numerous characters at different points, including Professor X, Emma Frost, Captain Marvel, Namor, Colossus, Emma Frost, Magik, Cyclops, Hope Summers, and numerous others. It's also a central factor in numerous arcs, defining many of the X-Men's biggest stories.
With such a rich history, it's understandable why the franchise would continually want to introduce the Phoenix Force. Getting its introduction right could totally change what the X-Men movies could be, opening up a whole new realm of Phoenix stories. They just need to get the classic Dark Phoenix Saga story right first. And that's where The Last Stand went so wrong.
The Last Stand Got the X-Men's Best Story Wrong
The Last Stand got a lot of things wrong, but one of its biggest missteps was in its handling of Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force. Not only did it totally change the cosmic origin of the Phoenix Force, instead, but made it manifest from inside of Jean Grey, having always been attached to her. This change isn't unheard of, as a similar retcon also happened in more recent comics, but it's definitely a deviation from the original Phoenix Saga's telling.
Not only was the Phoenix Force's origin changed, but Jean Grey's character was basically taken entirely out of the story, essentially turning her into a zombie with supernatural powers, susceptible to the influence of Magneto. The Phoenix Force isn't just supposed to give Jean immense power, but she should still have character motivation. Using that power to essentially make her a MacGuffin is a disservice to both the character and the story.
Add in the backstory of the mutant "cure" from Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run and Magneto assembling the Mutant Brotherhood, and the only part of the Phoenix Saga even recognizable in the story is the presence of a nerfed version of the entity inhabiting Jean Grey. Considering the comics story involves a Phoenix possessed Jean Grey destroying an entire planet and wiping out 5 billion lives, a version of the story where Jean is basically a weapon for Magneto is a betrayal of the Phoenix Force should be.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020