WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Fox's Dark Phoenix, in theaters June 7.
There are few film franchises that have lasted as long as Fox's X-Men, which endured almost two decades. In that time, it helped cement superhero films in mainstream cinema, introduced an unforgettable depiction of Wolverine and led to the wildly successful Deadpool films. Now, after Disney's acquisition of Fox, Dark Phoenix ends the X-Men franchise proper.
Dark Phoenix is Fox's second attempt at adapting "The Dark Phoenix Saga" from the comics, so while the X-Men do play a large role in the film, it's centered on Jean Grey and her struggle against the near-omnipotent Phoenix Force. The powerful psychic and the cosmic force were bound together after a space mission went awry, causing Jean to turn against her friends and allies in episodic fits of uncontrollable rage, made worse by her discovery of Xavier's lies. It leads to a lot of destruction and a couple of deceased characters, as you'd expect with the Dark Phoenix.
THE PHOENIX FORCE
In the third act, in order to help Jean contain the power of the Phoenix Force, Xavier is forced to admit what he did: He tampered with the young Jean Grey's mind to save her from the trauma of the car crash, which she accidentally caused with her emerging telepathic powers, that took her mother's life. Her father, John, survived. Unfortunately, John became fearful of his daughter and gave her up to Charles Xavier. The mutant professor thought that he was sparing Jean from pain when he lied and told her that her father had also perished in the crash. That one lie would come back to haunt him.
It takes a while, but in the end, Jean understands, in his own reckless and clumsy way, Xavier acted out of compassion. She then realizes the X-Men are her family and that she wants to protect them. Unfortunately, her first attempt at doing so results in Vuk, a member of the shapeshifting alien race known as the D'Bari, acquiring the awesome cosmic power, at least in part.
After a lengthy battle between the X-Men and the D'Bari on an armored train, Jean rises to confront Vuk, who seeks to take the rest of Jean's power. Having learned from her mistakes, she comes to the realization she must embrace everything she is and everything she has to save the X-Men and the world. Jean overwhelms Vuk, flies her into space and, in the process, destroys both the last of the D'Bari and herself. As for the mysterious cosmic power, it's implied Jean continues to live on through it in a way, as shown when we see a fiery phoenix soaring across the sky in the very last shot.
When Jean sacrificed herself for the sake of the world, she became a more heroic figure than anyone else: a prime example of how one should embrace who they are and do what they can to fight their demons and better themselves. It's fitting that in her memory, the school is renamed, The Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters, with Hank McCoy acting as headmaster after Xavier retires to France.
FOR OLD TIME'S SAKE
The films shifts to a charming little cafe on the Rue de la Paix in Paris. Xavier sits quietly with a cup of coffee and is soon joined by his old enemy and even older friend, Erik Lehnsherr, who approaches with a chess set. Erik offers Charles a game and is rejected. What's significant about this moment is that it was their tradition; throughout the franchise, Erik and Charles enjoyed a game of chess while arguing about the future of mutant/human relations and espousing their conflicting views on society.
But the franchise is over now and it's time to say goodbye. No more conflicts, no more chess games. Of course, it'd be wrong for the last film not to carry on that tradition, so it gives it to us. "For old time's sake," Erik says, and as the camera pans away, we see them playing against each other as they always have and always will for as long as the two exist in each others' stories.
Directed and written 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 arrives June 7.