With the recently announced X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Jean Grey might finally get the storyline she deserves.
20th Century Fox just announced the release date for two upcoming X-Men movies, both of which are set to premiere in 2018. X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be released some months after spin-off movie New Mutants!, on November 2, 2018.
X-Men: Apocalypse already gave us a glimpse at the upcoming story, with Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey revealing the full extent of her powers in the closing battle, leaving many questions unanswered and much story to explore. The magnitude of her powers is actually greater than those of Charles Xavier, which puts her in an interesting position going into the next film.
“She can’t control her powers unless she either fully stops them or lets them all loose,” Turner told Entertainment Weekly, hinting at a possible plot for the movie. As the most powerful among the X-Men, Jean will probably be grappling with a sense of responsibility and terror at the danger her powers could pose.
The original X-Men trilogy already tackled Jean’s storyline little over a decade ago. 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand featured Jean struggling to control the mysterious power inside her, The Phoenix. However, The Last Stand is universally acknowledged as the worst movie of the trilogy, and its mistreatment of Jean’s character is definitely one of its worst points.
In the original movies, Jean was reduced to little more than a love interest that bounced back and forth between Logan and Scott in an odd, childish love triangle. Stuck between two overly-possessive men, much of her time was spent placating both sides — a role she definitely didn’t deserve, given that she was more powerful than either of them.
But the movies followed Logan as a lead character, and so her role was that of a love interest, even going as far as making her death a plot move, more for the benefit of inducing pain in Logan than valuing Jean’s actual agency in the matter.
And oh, they actually managed to kill her off twice — resurrecting her and promptly killing off her longtime romantic partner, Scott; a handy move so that she would be available to Logan.
So is Dark Phoenix finally a chance to get Jean’s storyline right? Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men movies but was unable to direct Last Stand, seems to think so. In an interview with Fandango, he implied that there’s a chance to fix the failings of the third movie — namely, the Phoenix storyline and the relationship between Jean and Scott. “I know X-Men 3 was quite rushed and I didn’t complete it,” he said. “And I felt a little like it was probably my responsibility to do that as a filmmaker, and I didn’t.”
We saw Turner’s portrayal of Jean Grey in Apocalypse, but it was a little underwhelming. In such a crowded movie, she was hardly given space to develop. Instead of giving us insight into her mind and her motivations, we only saw her through the eyes of other characters, like Charles and Scott (the latter of which is a perplexing point-of-view choice; between Phoenix and Cyclops, it’s obvious who the most interesting person is). The story might have greatly benefitted from placing Jean at the forefront.
With Dark Phoenix, we might finally see that happen. Although no one has explicitly stated that we’ll be following Jean’s point of view, it would be ridiculous if we didn’t; the movie is literally named after her. And this might actually be the first time we see a female mutant take on the leading role.
Turner is a very skilled actress, evidenced by her work on Game of Thrones, and she has the ability to make Jean the empowered female character she deserves to be. But she needs to be given a space to do so, with a script that develops her motivations and keeps the audience rooted in her story. It would be all too easy to reduce her to a tool to move the franchise along, like the original trilogy did.
With Wolverine out of the picture, things might go very differently this time. And Apocalypse pointed towards an eventual relationship with Cyclops (hopefully a less possessive and more constructive one than in the original movies), although the movie may be better without any romance at all.
The time it would take to properly establish something significant between the two of them would take away from time that could be invested in showing off Turner’s emotional range as an actress and Jean’s awesome, incredible powers. After the injustices done to Jean Grey in the past, it’s about time she got a movie where great part of the plot doesn’t revolve around her relationship with a man.
If the writers are adamant to have a relationship there, maybe they can make it a slow burn, giving it enough time to develop properly by producing more Phoenix movies.
We can only hope that Logan’s success has taught Fox the value of character development and transcending some of the clichés that are common in superhero films. While Dark Phoenix clearly won’t be anywhere near as bleak as Logan, what we know so far certainly points to an intense film — one that could really shine if given the script and the focus it needs.