X-Men: Dark Phoenix writer-director Simon Kinberg has explained why he cut so much of the Dark Phoenix comic book story from the film. In addition to serving as the conclusion to the X-Men prequel series that started with First Class, Dark Phoenix marks the culmination of Fox's run on the larger X-Men franchise, pre-Disney purchase. As such, the movie will aim to pay-off the plot threads left dangling by the last entry, X-Men: Apocalypse, while at the same time providing a fitting sendoff to nearly twenty years of mutant adventures on the big screen. And what better way to do that than by adapting one of the most famous X-Men comic stories ever?
Of course, Dark Phoenix wasn't always meant to end Fox's X-Men movies. It's not even the first time Kinberg's adapted Chris Claremont and John Byrne's famous Dark Phoenix Saga comics. The filmmaker previously wrote the script for 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, which included the Dark Phoenix story as a subplot in a larger narrative about the creation of a mutant "cure". Kinberg has long expressed his frustration with how that film turned out too, which is why he was extra determined to keep the focus squarely on Jean Grey's evolution into the Phoenix in his X-Men directing debut.
However, in order to do that, Kinberg had to cut a good deal of the Dark Phoenix Saga's story from his Dark Phoenix script. In our exclusive interview with the writer-director, he spoke about the approach he took to trimming the Dark Phoenix comics down for his movie:
Early on, I felt like I really wanted to focus the movie on our main characters and I really wanted to focus upon Jean's struggle. I wanted the movie to feel grounded and I wanted it to feel emotional and intimate, and not have too many things that would distract or take away from Jean's evolution, deevolution, struggle, final decision in this film. I wanted that arc to feel like it was a really emotional experience for the audience. And so things like the Hellfire Club [and the] Shi'ar Empire felt as though they were such huge subplots or plots from the original saga that they could potentially take away from the focus on Jean and the X-Men. And so instead of doing Lilandra as a character, which would require the relationship with Charles and all what comes with that, I made Jessica's character sort of an amalgam of different alien characters that are part of, in a way, resembling this Shi'ar storyline but not going all the way there.
These comments are largely in keeping with Kinberg's comments about Dark Phoenix in the past. Two years ago, for example, he described the film as being "not too intergalactic", and thereafter referred to it as being "a little less operatic" than X-Men adventures past. The trailers has further painted Dark Phoenix as being much more narratively focused than The Last Stand or even Apocalypse, with Jean Grey's transformation into Phoenix impacting every scene glimpsed so far. Similarly, as Kinberg mentioned, Jessica Chastain's mysterious shape-shifting character appears to be the only alien presence in the entire movie (assuming she isn't the Dark Phoenix Force itself, as some fans have theorized). That's a major simplification of the Dark Phoenix Saga, which included an entire subplot about the Shi'ar Empire's response to Jean becoming the Phoenix.
Overall, though, there's a fair argument to be made that Dark Phoenix's changes from the comics have hurt the film, as far as pre-release buzz goes. Many fans have been waiting for the X-Men series to go fully cosmic, so Dark Phoenix's grounded approach is a missed opportunity in that respect. News of the movie's revamped third act climax (which shifted from a battle set in outer space to a fight aboard a military train) has generated an equally unenthused response from X-fans, for the same reason. Of course, there are other factors impacting the lack of hype around Dark Phoenix, ranging from Disney's plans to reboot the X-Men afterwards to Apocalypse's middling reception three years ago. Still, time will time whether Kinberg made the right call adapting the comic story the way he did.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020