Many fans were left disappointed with Fox's first take on "The Dark Phoenix Saga" in 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand." Brett Ratner's movie was overly focused on Wolverine, and shunned away from developing the other major players involved in this story. Illustrating this point, the film took key characters like Cyclops and Professor Xavier off the table early on, leaving the story threadbare.
Producer Simon Kinberg is rumored to be helming a fresh, new spin on this saga, with Sophie Turner's Jean Grey yet again at the forefront, following the studio's soft reboot. Given the codename "X-Men: Supernova," to keep its real title from prying eyes, the film is set to take up threads from the young team assembled in "X-Men: Apocalypse," fighting off this alien entity to save their teammate. That said, CBR decided to look at 15 ways Fox can improve and finally get this story right!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for various X-Men movies!
"Apocalypse" had younger depictions of Cyclops, Jean, Nightcrawler and a returning Quicksilver come together under seniors such as Mystique and Beast. It ended with them training to become full-fledged superheroes, but there's still a lot of room to expand the roster, and in a comic-loyal manner. We saw Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead in "Deadpool," so they should be incorporated into the X-Men movies proper, as fans are familiar with them.
Storm redeemed herself after her role as a Horseman and joined Xavier's team, so Angel could also return as he was last seen fleeing at the end of "Apocalypse." Given that Caliban also featured in that film, and in "Logan," he could also be brought in to help the Professor with Cerebro (the mutant-finding machine). Another big name that could be on the table is Emma Frost, who was killed off-screen in "Days of Future Past," and should be brought back in a bigger role than the lackey she played in "First Class." Magneto, Shadowcat, Rogue and Iceman are other contenders for recruitment, as well.
The Phoenix Force embodies the passion and fire of creation within the universe. It's about removing the obsolete and sparking life from the ashes, which resonated with a young Jean Grey and connected to her. Jean became corrupted after encountering the Hellfire Club and in an intergalactic trip, as Dark Phoenix, she destroyed a planet via a supernova. This galactic genocide is what led the Shi'ar Empire, under Empress Lilandra, to try to destroy her, as they were afraid she'd become a harbinger of death.
Imagine the Imperial Guard, the Starjammers (space pirates led by Cyclops' father, Corsair) and the X-Men all battling for Jean's soul, on Earth or in space. While Ratner's film went the schizophrenic mental route of the Ultimates universe, this is the perfect time for Fox to up their cosmic game and stick to the source material. The presence of a planet-devouring Phoenix or the M'Kraan Crystal being used to cage her (a la the '90s animated series) could also be the beacon that draws Galactus, his heralds and even Annihilus to Earth, for future "Fantastic Four" stories.
In "The Last Stand," Wolverine was the one who could put Jean down, and was a decent deviation from her being defeated by a Kree weapon in the books. This time around, we're hoping that some sort of resolve can be reached, without Jean dying. After all, she only just returned. Whatever the resolution, fans may find that Xavier's altruistic philosophies may not always be the best way.
The Dark Phoenix reboot could spark the lethal ideals of X-Force as a necessity, in case the killing of such entities needs to happen in the future. It could be commissioned with Psylocke and Archangel (as per Rick Remender's comics), as a dark response to groups like the X-Men and New Mutants. Maybe it could be pushed into existence by Cyclops, or even by Jean herself, knowing of the potential threats that lie ahead. It's widely believed that this team would include original founder, Cable, and the likes of Deadpool and Domino; but again, a proper reason is needed and this movie could be just that.
"AvX" saw the Avengers and X-Men clash over Hope Summers, the new Phoenix Force host on Earth. Everyone wanted to protect her, while ensuring a repeat of the Jean Grey fiasco didn't happen again. During the war, the Phoenix's powers were split and distributed into five avatars -- The Phoenix Five -- who were similar to the Horsemen of Apocalypse in that they were imbued with greater power but lost a measure of individual control. When Xavier and his team engage the Dark Phoenix again, there's a strong chance Jean's light side will join them to fend off the darkness. It would be a smart move to play the numbers game to combat this, and not use just one host.
Imagine this twist playing out with the Phoenix as a team, not just to fight the resistance, but to conquer the world, and even the galaxy. Xavier may be too strong to possess, but Fox could stick to the comic lore and swap out Namor for Jean, while adding Emma Frost as another psychic host, Cyclops as a commander, Colossus (now that "Deadpool" brought him back), and his sister, Magik (which could kickstart her "New Mutants" career).
In comics, the union of Scott Summers and Jean Grey is one of the top romances of all time. It came to a crashing halt thanks to Emma Frost, but fans will always remember their love in its purer days. The Bryan Singer movies didn't pay it too much homage, instead opting to focus on their love triangle with Wolverine. Here, we get a chance to watch them fall in love, which was hinted at in "Apocalypse;" furthermore, losing Jean to the dark side could be the test that makes or breaks them.
We've already seen how calming, guiding and endearing she was to Scott (played by Tye Sheridan) in the last movie, and it'll be interesting to see how their relationship evolves and is explored here. Fitting young love into this story won't be easy, especially as we haven't had much room to develop their affinity for each other. That said, time will be of the essence as she'll be claimed by the Phoenix, so when we do see them interact, their moments of joy (and despair) should be believable, organic and sentimental.
Xavier is set to feature in the "New Mutants" movie, so it's clear Fox wants to look at other mutant teams besides the X-Men. When it comes to the Dark Phoenix, she doesn't differentiate. Mutants, non-mutants, heroes or villains: all will be subject to her fury. Imagine seeing Xavier needing to rally the troops and ready to call in backup. Against such opposition, he'll surely need depth in his roster and this could provide a great opportunity for Dani Moonstar's team.
We could see Moira McTaggert being their headmaster, and sending them in as the second battalion, to work with the X-Men. Also, there's a distinct possibility that if the dark entity decides to take some X-Men off the table, or fracture the team beyond belief, this is what could spur Xavier to recruit a new batch of mutants to take up his mission. We'd prefer the first option, where they join the fray as the substitutes coming off the bench, but one thing's for sure, if they appear, it'll have mutant fans geeking out everywhere!
"Days of Future Past" gave us cool adaptations of Sentinels (mutant-hunting robots) over two eras. They were teased in "The Last Stand," but here, we got two versions: the classic one, and a sleek future version. The latter was particularly unique as they incorporated special powers into their systems (engineered thanks to Mystique's DNA), to fight mutants. Both sets of threats were stopped, but it begs the question: could Fox be willing to partner them with the mutants at some point?
By now, the world is aware that mutants have stood up for humanity against all kinds of apocalyptic threats and villains. This new movie could take an interesting route by painting humanity as less aggressive towards mutants, accepting them as heroes. Even governments could partner with Xavier's vision, as it would allow them to use mutants for justice. If that's the case, imagine seeing new Sentinels joining the X-Men against the Dark Phoenix. It would establish that Xavier's dream could come true -- albeit in a different way than he expected -- and redeem the robotic program as an ally instead of oppressor. This unity could even help change the entity's mind.
"Apocalypse" gave us a glimpse of psychic warfare between Xavier and En Sabah Nur, the first mutant. This needs to be a major component here, as Xavier will have to attack Jean's psyche if he's to wrest her free from the Dark Phoenix's control. Psychic warfare will be the team's best bet as it's likely they won't be able to contend in the physical realm. After all, there's only so much the muscle of Mystique and Magneto can offer against this kind of villain.
These battles in the astral plane could even see Fox go one up on Marvel Studios' "Doctor Strange." The mind-tricks of the dark entity, what she tempts our heroes with, and the overall mirage she can pull off mentally, can take her character up a notch, which is why Xavier and Emma Frost should be leading the resistance. Jean will be attacking the minds of all X-Men, so imagine seeing her offering Scott back his brother, Havok, who died in the last film. Or, what if she offered Beast a chance to be human again? It could top Wanda's mental assault in "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
In all of Fox's movies, there aren't that many memorable fight or action sequences. The exceptions lie in "Logan," Quicksilver's speedy moments and Nightcrawler from "X2." But apart from those, the other major battles may have been visually spectacular, but largely felt phoned-in. Nothing stood out like Marvel Studios' conflicts, or Warner Bros. with its DC vision. This new film needs to break that mold, and really put all the mutants and their abilities to work, to give us a true spectacle.
Remember in "The Avengers" how epic it was when we saw that continuous shot of them all fighting the Chitauri? We need that from Fox, because the X-Men are so much more dynamic in their power-set. Ratner's Dark Phoenix finale was also flat, so we're hoping they let her cut loose physically a bit more. She can be powerful without being murderous while unleashing her energies; we want to see some more of that, and not just a mental bargain like Strange against Dormammu. We want fluid fight scenes, team-ups, badass choreography and explosions, all with a purpose, and not gratuitous, as per that "Apocalypse" finale.
Every X-Men team needs a Wolverine, right? Sabretooth could fit the bill, especially with Hugh Jackman retired from the character. We haven't see Logan's frenemy since the end of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," so he could be an option for recruitment. It would be cool seeing Xavier and Magneto recruiting and rehabilitating him, which would be very much in-line with his newfound heroism in the wake of Marvel's "AXIS" event, which saw him become an Avenger.
Sabretooth is an even bigger wildcard than Logan, and fans would love for Liev Schreiber to reprise the role, especially after his "Logan" appearance got squashed. He and Magneto could forge a darker reflection of the relationship that Xavier and Wolverine had, adding another dynamic to the team in their fight against the Dark Phoenix. These are two villains who at best can end up being anti-heroes. They don't play by the rules, which is what makes them so beloved, especially in a post-"Deadpool" world. Sabretooth, in particular, would have the X-Men on edge, because they'd be expecting him to go berserker even worse than Logan. That tension and suspense alone is worth the price of admission.
The Phoenix Force deals with the order of creation and rebirth. Fox has an opportunity to not just paint her as a destroyer, but have the audience empathize with her. Comic fans can understand her purpose of purge and existence, so there can be an organic route to redemption, as opposed to making her an all-out villain. The studio needs to toe the line in how they do this, without making her come across too genocidal, a la Joss Whedon's Ultron.
Imagine if the entity were retconned as the true mother of mutants, and the essence that gave birth to Apocalypse. She could be returning to see her work through after his failure, which could tie in the concept of them having disciples. The idea of mutants being the result of alien advancement and genetic imprinting would be a major subversion to comic lore. As close as that may be to the Inhumans' "thing," it would smartly position the Phoenix as being responsible for our planet's evolution, which is why she believes mutants are the strong that need to survive. Our fan-fic aside, doing something to make Phoenix's hopefully large swathes of destruction meaningful will have to be something the creators focus on; the best villains are the ones who think they are heroes, after all.
Dafne Keen stole the show in "Logan" as X-23, the hotheaded clone of Wolverine, and it's hard not to want to see her on-screen again. As Laura Kinney, she matured in the comics, joining teams such as the X-Men, X-Force, and even the Avengers Academy, but Fox needs to take care in how they handle her. She shouldn't just be shunted into movies because of her popularity. It also would take some tinkering due to "Logan's" timeline, but then again, we all know Fox loves to fiddle with continuity. This is not yet mentioning the prospect of Cable and his beloved time-travel.
We actually endorse these routes of bringing her to the mainstream filmverse, but right now is not the time. If Fox wants a new Wolverine here, throwing her in would be cheesy and regressive. This plot is already an intricate one, and the cast wouldn't be small, so there's no need to complicate things by finding a way to include X-23. In fact, we want the character to be developed properly as a budding hero, and here she won't get that chance to properly continue her evolution.
How many times have we seen the X-Mansion under attack? Or destroyed for that matter? "X2" and "Apocalypse" immediately pop to mind, although in the latter, we assume it was rebuilt as we saw the new team training at the movie's end. That said, it's about time we get the X-Men relocated to Genosha, or even Utopia, so that they can establish themselves as a team with a true base to strike from, as opposed to a civilian headquarters that really isn't the sturdiest when it comes to collateral damage.
Fox already tinkered with the dream of Eden in "Logan," so why not move the mutants to a military base on the island of Genosha where they can have a bigger, more badass Danger Room in which to train? Even if it's on Utopia, the X-Men have room to breathe and be themselves. It would also be easier to defend from attacks as it would be segregated. This would show that even though they're separate from the world, they're not hiding anymore.
We've had Magneto as both a protagonist and antagonist on this mutant journey, as played by Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender, over the years. After "Apocalypse," it would be repetitive to have him as a villain yet again, so Fox should go the redemptive route like the comics, and have him (even if hidden from the public) as an official X-Men leader, like Mystique. The plus of such a move is that Fox can now kill two birds with one stone, and truly usher in the next age of mutant heroes.
Note, we're not campaigning to remove them for shock value, but to show the effects of war. If the Dark Phoenix has to claim someone, it shouldn't be budding heroes or future leaders. We need to look at who's expendable. These two have run their course, and it would be poetic if they sacrificed themselves or died for the good of mankind and mutantkind, bringing their redemption full circle. This could also be the start of the emotional distress that led to Xavier's problems in "Logan," as a form of PTSD from losing his best friend and sister.
When it comes to fighting the Dark Phoenix, there's no doubt the main man will be Professor Xavier. As seen when Apocalypse tried to possess him, he knows how to put up a fight, and will undoubtedly be crucial in saving Jean. Fox should reimagine the Phoenix as a demonic possession, thus making Xavier the lead exorcist. Having he and Jean mentally fighting it off should be a visual blast, as Xavier usually goes in headstrong when it concerns the welfare of his kids. However, in victory, a personal defeat for him could best define his future.
When they overcome the villain, Fox could make a bold statement by having damning and lasting effects on Xavier, as a sort of signature from battling this all-powerful entity. Whether it's him trying to absorb it as an avatar from Jean, or the trauma from separating it from her only for it to die with a mental burn left on Xavier, or from seeing teammates perish, it would be fitting for the movie to end hinting at his mental fracture. This would foreshadow "Logan's" big twist.
Let us know in the comments what you think Fox needs to do to pull off a Dark Phoenix reboot!