Despite the cosmic implications of the Phoenix Force, Dark Phoenix is a surprisingly small film. The latest installment of Fox's X-Men franchise focuses less on the Phoenix's destructive powers and more on the team's struggle to come to terms with Jean's new reality. Under the influence of the Phoenix, Jean's actions tear the team apart, launching a fall from grace that makes up the movie's main conflict. During an interview with CBR, writer-director Simon Kinberg explained why he shifted away from world-ending stakes to a more personal conflict for Fox's final X-Men film.
"To me, what was always most intriguing about the Dark Phoenix story in the comic was the struggle that Jean's character was going through -- the personal struggle, the inner struggle that she was going through -- and the notion that the person who becomes the most powerful creature in the galaxy can't control that power and what it does to the people around her, the family members, essentially, around her," he told CBR. "That's what was always the most emotional and compelling to me."
"So I felt like, to tell that story in a where you wouldn't lose the emotionality, you wouldn't lose that inner struggle, you would actually feel what she was going through," he continued. "I wanted to make it more intimate, more raw, more dramatic maybe than we've done before in these X-Men movies, which isn't to say there isn't spectacle and action and all that. Obviously there is, but really the focus for me was on making a grittier, edgier, more raw film where we could really let the performances be showcased."
"I also felt like I wanted to do something different with this film than we've done with other X-Men movies. It's been 20 years of making X-Men movies and I'm incredibly proud of the films that we've made and this obviously is very much part of the lineage of that and in many ways the culmination of the X-Men storytelling to date. But I felt as though it was time for a little bit of a freshening up of the tone and the aesthetic of the movie. It happened to match the needs of the story, so that's just the reason why it ended up being a more intimate, raw kind of film," he concluded.
He also addressed why the comic book storyline's popularity endures today, almost 40 years later. "I think there's so many things! The Dark Phoenix story was my favorite storyline when I was a kid growing up voraciously reading X-Men comics," he shared. "I remember at the time, because I was trying to think back what it was at the time that made me love it so much -- one is, I just was not prepared for a hero to do villainous things. That was so radical, and I still think it's pretty radical as an idea. The level of emotion, like real tragic, traumatic struggle, turmoil, raw emotion in the comic, just felt so much more real and sort of tangible and visceral than other comics. That really gripped me."
"I think the idea of someone from the outside looking at Jean, someone that you know that you love, who's part of your family, starting to lose control, sort of the question of what you do when someone loses control like that was really intriguing, you know, as someone who was a kid -- or a grownup! -- thinking about those issues," he added.
Directed and written by Simon Kinberg, Dark Phoenix stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Holt, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters and Jessica Chastain. The film is out in theaters now.