WARNING; The following article contains major spoilers for Dark Phoenix, in theaters now.
The trailers for Dark Phoenix didn't exactly paint James McAvoy's Charles Xavier in a flattering light. From the moment footage spoiled the death of Mystique, it was obvious Professor X had something to do with Jean Grey's fall. The civil war within the X-Men became all too clear as we saw Beast (Nicholas Hoult) align with Magneto to presumably hunt down Jean (Sophie Turner), and Michael Fassbender's Master of Magnetism chide Xavier for playing "god."
But if writer/director Simon Kinberg proves anything with his reimagining of the seminal "Dark Phoenix Saga," it's that Kitty Pryde was right 36 years ago when she famously declared, "Professor Xavier is a jerk!" In Dark Phoenix, we finally see him for the narcissist he is.
Charles' ego and selfish behavior in Dark Phoenix cast him as a pseudo-villain. The term may seem harsh at first glance, but when you look at the character's history in Fox's X-Men film, it's actually on brand with the hubris previously displayed. In 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, he mentally repressed the Phoenix persona within Jean, which caused her to snap and go on a killing spree. Here, he follows a similar approach, building "scaffolding," as he calls it, to shift around memories in her mind.
He doesn't want Jean to know she caused her mother to fall asleep at the wheel during a tantrum, leading to a car crash. The accident results in her mother's death and Jean's father telling Charles to take the girl. Rather than explain the situation to young Jean, Charles says that her father died. He tries to deny his duplicitous nature, even after this deceit is revealed. After all, Charles is so arrogant he thinks he's doing Jean a favor, never considering that her budding powers would ever latch onto her father. Sadly enough, that occurs, and results in her losing control, attacking her own teammates and killing Mystique in a fit of rage.
But what does Charles do? He deflects blame when confronted by Beast, and resorts to drinking, which seems to be his go-to move. He continues to consume whisky throughout the film, but not out of grief or depression; he's toasting himself for all the good he's done for mankind. Lauded for rescuing astronauts from space, having a direct line to the U.S. president and, in general, being treated as a celebrity have gone to his head. So much so even Mystique admonishes him, reminding Charles he's using children as soldiers in a war, yet never serving on the front lines himself.
He admits he's using them, but only as a means to an end -- to create a better world for mutants. Unfortunately, pride comes before the fall, and it's only when they're all taken prisoner that Charles finally confesses to Beast he was wrong. He accepts the lion's share of responsibility for Mystique's death and for Jean's breakdown, but by then, it's too late. Magneto has already called him out, reminding his rival they're all done listening to his speeches and apologies; they've seen through his facade.
With the real Professor Xavier exposed, it's obvious he's been the X-Men's worst enemy all this time. They're merely his puppets, and rather than continue to integrate them into mankind once peace has been achieved, he keeps them at a distance. That's because he wants to control them and place them above humanity. Saving mutants her now become secondary; his main ambition is to be viewed as the savior of humanity, no matter the cost.
The debate is the breaking point in his sibling relationship with Mystique, but even after her death, Charles appears to feel no remorse. Maybe he buried the guilt, but ultimately, the impression Charles gives is that he lost a general to war. But with Jean's turn, he's about to lose a firm grip on the person more powerful than him. In that sense, he's not a father, mentor or teacher: Dark Phoenix's Xavier is nothing more than a manipulative tyrant and military strategist who's willing to sacrifice anyone to achieve his goals.
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.