One thing that’s stuck out in the Dark Phoenix footage seen in trailers and at WonderCon Anaheim is that, at the start of the film, the X-Men are feeling themselves. They return home from successful missions to legions of adoring fans and live in the open, and Professor X has a direct line to the president. Everything’s coming up mutant. However, that's swelled the head of our once-earnest and humble Charles Xavier.
It’s his decision to risk Jean Grey's life that results in her encounter with the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force, and when Mystique points out how arrogant Xavier has become, he simply waves her off. His alienation of his own team is a huge red flag, mostly because he appears so blind to it.
Storm actress Alexandra Shipp made it clear to CBR that Mystique isn’t the only one bucking under Charles’ leadership. However, she understands how relationships have gotten to that point.
“I think you come into the movie seeing how his actions have frustrated the entire group," Shipp said. "I think the gets a little big-headed with the X-Men’s fame and sends us on all kinds of missions that could possibly put us in danger for the sheer fame of being a hero. Which I don’t think you have seen in any other superhero movie, which I actually really appreciated about this script was that yeah, even superheroes can get a little fame-hungry.”
Perhaps tragedy wouldn’t have struck if Charles weren't a key player in planetary defense, but he is. And, as Magneto has often pointed out, Charles’ intentions won’t keep all that power from going to his head.
CBR asked Dark Phoenix writer/director Simon Kinberg if there was going to be more of their rivalry based on Erik’s own predictions about his erstwhile friend.
“That’s a really cool way to describe that, which is that Charles has become the thing that Eric warned him he would be," the filmmaker said. "You’re absolutely right. Charles in this movie when we meet him is someone who has become prey to his own ego. That the notion of being now a public superhero team, which is something that we’ve never seen in these films before, they’ve always been oppressed, persecuted, hidden."
CBR: It’s like they have their own fandom.
Kinberg: They do, and he is not immune to it in the way that most of the world would not be immune to having fans. And, interestingly, I think we live in a time now where everybody has some version of fandom because of social media and having an online presence. That you have five followers, 10 followers, a hundred followers.
CBR: There’s an irresistible validation that comes with that.
Kinberg: And that’s just human nature. Human nature is like, we like validation and that’s a perfectly fine thing, but we now have technology that makes it possible for everybody to feel some measure of fame. and I think that one of the things I wanted to explore in this movie that’s contemporary, very contemporary is the seductive nature, the intoxication of fame.
It's difficult to think of Professor X becoming so entangled in his own ego that he makes a catastrophic mistake. However, when you consider the sheer amount of power and influence he had before he was famous, it’s a wonder he wasn’t corrupted before now. Given he has the ability to control minds, it’s almost ironic that fame is what eventually compromises his integrity and responsibility.
Written and directed by Simon Kinberg, Dark Phoenix stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters and Jessica Chastain. The film is scheduled to be released on June 7.