Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Dark Phoenix, in theaters now.
As the final installment in Fox's long-running X-Men series, Dark Phoenix features plenty of twists and turns for its returning cast, as Jean Grey risks losing control to the Phoenix Force. However, one of its biggest developments was revealed in a trailer, months ahead of the film's premiere.
The second trailer, released in April, depicted the death of Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique at the hands of an out-of-control Jean Grey (Sophie Turner0, leaving the X-Men mourning one of their own before they decide their course of action regarding the Phoenix-possessed teammate.
With such a major death spoiled by marketing, fans were initially unsure whether Mystique's loss was mere misdirection. However, writer/director Simon Kinberg quickly confirmed the shocking moment was indeed real, and shown early to signal that Dark Phoenix is different from previous X-Men movies. However, given how the film actually plays out, revealing the death of Mystique was a glaring mistake, robbing audiences of any sense of surprise rather than subverting their expectations.
Occurring relatively early in the film, Mystique's death comes soon after a heated confrontation with Professor X about the escalating risks the team is taking, and the toll it may exact. As Jean lashes out with her powers in an emotional moment, Mystique's concerns prove prophetic, at the cost of her own life. With such a fan-favorite, and prominent, character killed in the first act, the tone and stakes are established. But, because of the trailer reveal, there's no surprise, and the moment is robbed of emotional resonance.
There really aren't any other surprises in Dark Phoenix to compensate for that one, either. As with virtually every adaptation of Marvel Comics' "The Dark Phoenix Saga," Jean sacrifices herself rather than succumb to the Phoenix Force's destructive impulses. Jessica Chastain's character is revealed to be a rather one-note villain, a member of the extraterrestrial D'Bari. While there are certainly some thrilling set pieces and emotional moments, the story unfolds according to expectation.
Since her debut as Mystique in 2011's X-Men: First Class, Lawrence has gone on to become one of Hollywood's biggest A-listers. Her character has progressed from someone initially following the lead of her surrogate brother to an independent figure in X-Men: Days of Future Past, to stepping up into an active leadership role in X-Men: Apocalypse.
Her death should be a major gut-punch -- particularly considering she's brutally cut down by one of her proteges. But, with Mystique's end spoiled, it's not. The only lasting feeling audiences will have is disappointment at how little fallout there is from that act during the remainder of the movie.
The trumpeting of Mystique's death in Fox's final X-Men film implied that many other recurring characters would also bite the dust. However, they don't. If anything, the biggest surprise is that so many characters survive the film's subsequent confrontations with Jean and the D'Bari rather than endure more losses in an epic conclusion.
Mystique's death theoretically raises Dark Phoenix's stakes. and yet nothing particularly catastrophic outside of the obvious loss of Jean Grey impacts the team.
Dark Phoenix should have been an epic farewell to the Fox era of X-Men movies. Just as X-Men: The Last Stand ended the original trilogy with several major deaths and earth-shattering revelations about the team's hidden history, Dark Phoenix teased an ambitious closing chapter in which all bets were off about character survival.
However, it turns out the death of a fan-favorite character so early on in the film is the only true surprise the movie has going for it, with the rest of the story playing out in a rather perfunctory manner .
The marketing campaign gambled on emptying its bag of tricks to promote Dark Phoenix as something different. But, as it turns out, that gamble didn't pay off.
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.