If what fans saw in the long-awaited Dark Phoenix trailer seemed awfully familiar, it's because it was eerily reminiscent of X-Men: The Last Stand. Writer-director Simon Kinberg is taking his second stab at adapting The Dark Phoenix Saga for the big screen after previously writing Brett Ratner's The Last Stand with Zak Penn, which was a financial success but failed to impress fans or do justice to the source material. Since then, Kinberg penned X-Men: Apocalypse, where he re-introduced younger versions of the original X-Men and set up Jean Grey's (Sophie Turner) latent psychic powers that will transform her into the Dark Phoenix.
Dark Phoenix has been a gigantic question mark since its inception. Originally scheduled for release in November 2018, it was pushed back to February 14, 2019, to accommodate reshoots that are expected to fix issues with the third act and ending. Then, just two days after the first trailer was finally released to eager fans, Fox pushed Dark Phoenix's release date back a second time to June 7, 2019. This seems like a vote of confidence from the studio; it effectively makes Dark Phoenix a summer tentpole film. But while there are high hopes that Dark Phoenix will finally deliver a worthy movie version of one of the most beloved X-Men comic stories, it also feels like a lame duck release. With the rights to X-Men sold to Disney, Marvel Studios will soon control and probably reboot X-Men entirely to incorporate the mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Dark Phoenix is very likely the end of this cast and the overall vision of the franchise that has endured since the original X-Men in 2000.
Related: Dark Phoenix Trailer Breakdown
Putting aside the business side of the X-Men and its MCU future, there's still the upcoming movie itself, and judging from the trailer, Dark Phoenix's story beats seem to hew very closely to X-Men: The Last Stand, the least popular of the original X-Men trilogy and one of the worst entries in the overall saga. There are so many similarities that fans have even edited the Dark Phoenix trailer with The Last Stand's footage. Let's take a close look at whether Simon Kinberg is making the same mistakes all over again or if the filmmaker is actually setting the Phoenix up to rise from the ashes of X-Men 3:
- This Page: The Similarities Between Dark Phoenix And The Last Stand
- Page 2: Dark Phoenix Can Improve Upon X-Men 3
All The Similarities Between Dark Phoenix And X-Men: The Last Stand
Since it's the same filmmaker behind both, perhaps similarities between Dark Phoenix and X-Men: The Last Stand are unavoidable. Both are adaptations of The Dark Phoenix Saga, though X-Men 3 split its screen time by also adapting Joss Whedon's Gifted comics story about a mutant cure, whereas Dark Phoenix is all about Jean Grey's fall from grace. However, this time, there is a cosmic element drawn from the comics. The X-Men travel to outer space where Jean encounters a power that changes her and unleashes the Phoenix Force within her (the same level of power that helped destroy Apocalypse). Still, despite veering into the cosmic, the action in Dark Phoenix is decidedly Earthbound like The Last Stand's, rather than the comics' intergalactic conflict with the Shi'ar Empire.
X-Men: The Last Stand and Dark Phoenix both begin with the mutants in a better place than the ending of the previous films. In X-Men 3, mutants enjoyed political protection thanks to a mutant-friendly U.S. President and the Beast/Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammer) serving as Secretary of Mutant Affairs. Dark Phoenix will reportedly start with the X-Men riding high as national heroes after saving the world from Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) a decade prior. However, the good times don't last and Jean Grey's transformation into the Dark Phoenix soon becomes a threat to the entire planet.
Once more, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) comes under fire for how he has kept Jean's potentially world-breaking power subdued since her childhood, just like when Famke Janssen's Jean met Patrick Stewart's Professor X. In both instances, Xavier is resented for his efforts. In Dark Phoenix, members of the X-Men, notably Beast (Nicholas Hoult) take the Professor to task and even join Magneto's (Michael Fassbender) new Brotherhood of Mutants, along with Storm (Alexandra Shipp). In The Last Stand, Ian McKellan's Magneto also assembles a new Brotherhood and he takes advantage of Jean's growing insanity to recruit the power of the Phoenix for his final war with humans.
Both films feature major character deaths involving visiting Jean's childhood home. In The Last Stand, Jean murders Professor X in her house, and this is after she kills Cyclops (James Marsden) offscreen at Alkali Lake. Dark Phoenix's trailer shows a funeral scene that also teases a major death, though Charles Xavier mourns at the gravesite so he's not the victim this time. Rather, clues point to Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) as the most likely doomed mutant who visits Jean's house (in contrast, Rebecca Romijn's Mystique is "cured" and abandoned by Magneto in X-Men 3.) However, since Jean dies in the comics and in The Last Stand, history may repeat itself and Dark Phoenix could also conclude with her demise.
The Big Differences Between Dark Phoneix & The Last Stand
Despite all of the repetition, Dark Phoenix is still unlike X-Men: The Last Stand in some key ways, such as new comics-accurate costumes for the X-Men. However, the most notable divergence is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is not in Dark Phoenix. In X-Men 3, Logan was the main character trying to save Jean and he eventually sacrificed her to save the world. In fact, Jean's ordeal was seen through Logan's eyes as the hero trying to save the love of his life before being forced to make the tragic choice.
Without Wolverine in the film, Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) takes his place as Jean's love interest, as he is in the comics. Cyclops had a perfunctory role in X-Men: The Last Stand; the team leader was ordered to be killed off by Fox because James Marsden followed director Bryan Singer to Warner Bros. to make Superman Returns. Dark Phoenix's Scott Summers plays a central role and he apparently survives the film. According to Kinberg, Scott Summers' love story with Jean is fittingly the heart of Dark Phoenix.
In Dark Phoenix, Magneto has set up a mutant refuge on the island of Genosha, where he is visited by Jean. It's not clear if Jean joins Magneto's new Brotherhood but the trailer does show that, unlike Magneto's effusive and seductive praise of the Dark Phoenix in X-Men 3, Michael Fassbender's Magneto labels Jean as "evil."
Finally, the biggest and possibly most important difference between the two films is Dark Phoenix has aliens. The X-Men travel to outer space at the start of the film and Jean is imbued with some kind of cosmic power that turns her into the Phoenix. However, the true villain of the film is a mysterious alien shapeshifter (who could be a Skrull) played by Jessica Chastain. Kinberg stated that Chastain's Big Bad is a mix of a few different comic book characters, but she definitely manipulates Jean for her own nefarious ends.