The cast and crew of X-Men: Dark Phoenix did a wealth of mental health research to bring Jean Grey’s dark side to life. Dark Phoenix is the second time that the X-Men franchise will attempt to bring the iconic comic storyline to the big screen. The first attempt was during X-Men: The Last Stand which was a movie stuffed to the metaphorical gills with plots - that also happened to include Famke Jansen’s Jean Grey being resurrected and possessed by the Phoenix Force. It was so negatively received it nearly killed the X-Men franchise.
Dark Phoenix, meanwhile, is arriving at a strange time. A merger between Fox and Disney is imminent and the possibility exists for the X-Men to join the MCU, making it possible that Dark Phoenix will be an end of era of X-Men films. Even if Dark Phoenix is another finale, the movie is hoping to avoid the previous adaptation's problems by really delving into Jean Grey on an emotional level.
At New York Comic Con, Screen Rant spoke to Dark Phoenix star Sophie Turner about the film. Turner, who played Jean Grey in X-Men: Apocalypse and will reprise the role in Dark Phoenix, revealed that the movie is taking her character’s transformation very seriously. The actress explained that in order to understand Jean better, she researched a lot of mental health issues:
As soon as Simon [Kinberg] kind of told me what the movie was about we just started straight away sharing ideas, sharing materials. Simon gave me a big, big book on schizophrenia. I actually found this thing online, on YouTube. And it was just kind of repeating, repeating, repeating, what it sounds like being a schizophrenic. So I used to walk around town with all these voices in my head. Kind of feel it out. And see what it felt like. We also explored Multiple Personality Disorder as well. And what that feels like to kind of wake up and not know what you did, What happened and that shear panic and how that affects you. Jean is just... this movie... She's so, so, layered. She's so complex in this movie. I really don't think that I've done more research for a role than for this one and I loved every minute of it.
The first trailer for X-Men: Dark Phoenix gave a pretty good idea of the tone of the movie. Understandably the teaser painted a picture of a dark and tortured Jean giving Dark Phoenix a bit of a horror movie feel. Taking the trailer at face value, Dark Phoenix will have a psychological thriller vibe with Jean slowly being consumed by the Phoenix. Turner’s comments double down on that ominous tone. It appears that the antagonist of Dark Phoenix won’t just be a possessed Jean wreaking havoc but also deeply exploring the evil force controlling Jean.
This route is the right way to go because one of The Last Stand’s (many) problems is how simplified Jean’s transformation was in the movie. The Phoenix in Last Stand was used more as a weapon by Magneto than her own character with any agency. Jean was completely trivialized. An element of the Dark Phoenix story involves Jean Grey becoming consumed by a force beyond her control and power. Yet there’s still a way to present that story that doesn’t lose the character or make her into plot device. Approaching the possession as an allegory for mental health would be effective and emotional manner to do it.
It also wouldn’t be the first time that the X-Men franchise has used real-life metaphors for supernatural stories. The movies, even more than the comics, have embraced the idea of mutants as stand-ins for the disenfranchised. The current X-Men continuity even began with X-Men: First Class, a movie set in the 1960s to further underline mutants' connection to the civil rights movement. If executed correctly a mental health metaphor could add a much needed new dimension to the classic story.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020