We don't know who the villain of X-Men: Dark Phoenix is, but based on the characters involved and other inspirations, there's a chance it could be bizarre 1990s foe Onslaught. Time was, 20th Century Fox's X-Men movies were notorious for still conducting their superhero business the 90s way: while Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies made fidelity to the more whimsical visuals of the comics "cool" again in 2002, the Mutant heroes stuck with their black rubber body-stockings until well into the early 21st Century. When the Marvel Cinematic Universe turned building whole franchises around famous superhero storylines straight from the four-color source, Wolverine and company were long content to merely nod in the direction of their more esoteric comic-book adventures - with even the (originally) galaxy-spanning Dark Phoenix Saga being reduced to a pair of lackluster earthbound brawls in the woods and a prison yard.
That all changed with Matthew Vaughn's continuity-rewriting prequel X-Men: First Class, which dropped a more classically youth-oriented team into a candy-colored retro adventure (complete with the old-time "yellow spandex" uniforms the first film had openly mocked) featuring a clash with The Hellfire Club. The success of that film was followed by sequels that openly embraced the most "out-there" elements of the property, like time travel (Days of Future Past) and ancient god-like nemeses (Apocalypse), along with The Wolverine and Logan allowing Hugh Jackman to finally portray the most true-to-source version of his star-making role possible.
Now, with a deal that could complete this transformation by reunifying the X-Men with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe apparently in the offing, the upcoming Dark Phoenix feature aims to keep the trend going with a "do-over" adaptation of possibly the most famous (and famously bungled by the films) X-Men story of all.
The Real Villain of Dark Phoenix Is A Mystery (This Page)
But while fans have thrilled to the news that Dark Phoenix will indeed feature a trip to outer space and big-scale alien action setpieces (both hallmarks of the original comics storyline, which saw Jean Grey transformed into an unstable super-powered alternate-persona after a battle in outer space), the production has been largely mum on what the rest of the plot will involve - including whether or not there will be an additional villain separate from Phoenix herself. Many believe this to be Jessica Chastain's yet-unnamed blonde character recently teased by EW; a mystery player who some believe will be a leader of The Skrulls, a shape-changing alien race who are uniquely available (with some caveats) to turn up in both the X-Men and Marvel Cinematic Universe continuities.
But the same Entertainment Weekly preview of the film that has now cryptically confirmed that the film will feature a "massive twist" at its midpoint that will "change the direction of the franchise" may also contain the first clues to what the twist itself could be - with many fans zeroing in on key details looking for subtle hints or "easter eggs." The word "sinister" pops up in a quote, possibly related to a famously bizarre X-Men nemesis called Mr. Sinister whose presence was teased in post-credit scenes from Apocalypse and may have been connected to the possible-future events of Logan. But the report also makes a point to describe the X-Men as being put in danger by the actions of their leader, Charles Xavier... specifically "his growing ego."
On one level, that could be a fairly benign statement: if Professor X is experiencing a touch of egomania, his decisions could be framed as causing whatever disaster will lead to Jean Grey's transformation (in the original X-Men comics, "Phoenix" was originally presented as an extreme evolution of her original Mutant powers but later revealed to be the manifestation of her possession by a godlike cosmic entity - thus far the film versions have focused only on the first part). And it would jibe with the story's inciting incident apparently being the X-Men getting hit by a "solar flare" while undertaking a highly-publicized rescue mission in space. But for a certain stripe of longtime X-Men fanatics, any talk of trouble coming from the dark side Professor Xavier's powerful mind is going to call to mind a single word: "ONSLAUGHT."
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020
- Deadpool 2 (2018) release date: May 18, 2018
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- Gambit (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020