X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be the 4th outing featuring the cast of First Class – and it's time for at least one of the major characters to die. It might be hard to remember now, but the franchise was in rough shape when X-Men: First Class arrived in 2011. The series had started strong with the first two movies, with the original X-Men being credited alongside Blade and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man will kicking off the comic book movie craze. While the first two entries are a touch dated now, they had great casts, exciting setpieces, and – most importantly - treated the source material with respect.
X-Men: The Last Stand marked a downward turn, with the threequel trying to cram too many characters, subplots and setpieces into a runtime too slim to support them all. The film also famously botched the Dark Phoenix saga – one of the most beloved from the comics. X-Men Origins: Wolverine only made things worse, with the studio taking a project that started as a darker, character-driven spin-off and turning it into a mess with terrible CG, pointless cameos and a story riddled with plotholes. The less said about Origins' take on Deadpool, the better.
Both The Last Stand and Wolverine made money, but the reputation of the series had suffered after two back to back duds. Fans were dubious when First Class was announced - a 1960s set prequel following a young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) establishing the X-Men. Thankfully a solid script and great cast helped salvage the series, with the relationship between Xavier and Erik providing it with an emotional core. The cast grew into their roles over the following two sequels, even though the most recent entry Apocalypse was another disappointment.
In the years since First Class most of the cast have become stars, including McAvoy, Fassbender, Nicolas Hoult (Beast) and Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique). Apocalypse marked the end of a multi-picture deal for all of them, yet they were convinced to return for Dark Phoenix. It obviously doesn't hurt having a line-up of acclaimed actors in the cast, but since this is presumably the last outing for this version of the X-Men, it's time to stop playing it safe and show these characters aren't invulnerable.
This Page: The Problems With The First Class Team
The Problems With The First Class Team
In hindsight, the actual class parts of First Class was the least interesting part. Both the filmmakers and audiences were drawn to the tragic friendship between Magneto and Charles, and the movie dragged when it cut to something else. It helps to have two actors of Fassbender and McAvoy's caliber sparing off one another, and Jennifer Lawrence quickly became one of the most in-demand actresses of her era following the movie. Since First Class explored the 1960's and the Cold War, it made sense for Days Of Future Past to jump to the 1970's, and the movie just about got away with the issue of characters being a decade older.
The real trouble came with Apocalypse, which again jumped to the 1980's. The first problem with that choice is it means most of the original team would be in their late 40's or 50's, which clearly wasn't the case with the fresh-faced likes of Lawrence, McAvoy and Hoult. Since Mystique is a shapeshifter an excuse could be made, but not so much with everyone else. The movie also recycled key beats seen in the previous prequels. It was yet another movie where the X-Men still weren't assembled when the story began, in addition to mining the troubled friendship between Xavier and Erik and the non-starting romance between Mystique and Beast.
Apocalypse tried to paper over the lack of fresh concepts with special effects, but it felt utterly hollow. While it was a disappointing note to end the First Class trilogy on, it felt like that version of the saga had naturally run its course, and maybe a fresh start was needed. Instead, director Simon Kinberg has managed to lure the key players back for a second swing at the iconic Dark Phoenix saga, however, which takes another credibility-straining time jump to 1992.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- Deadpool 2 (2018) release date: May 18, 2018
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020