X-Men: is there a Dark Phoenix movie in the works?

Ben Bussey
UK Movies Writer
Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (credit: 20th Century Fox)

Take this with a big pinch of salt right now, X-Men fans – but one of the most beloved storylines in the history of the iconic Marvel Comics series may be getting a movie adaptation, hopefully getting it right this time.

Things are not exactly quiet on the ‘X-Men’ front at present, with two new entries in the franchise – ‘Deadpool 2’ and ‘The New Mutants’ – gearing up to go into production later this year, plus murmurs that ‘Deadpool 2’ may set the scene for the long-anticipated ‘X-Force.’

However, rumours are also circulating that a new movie in the 20th Century Fox series is in the pipeline under the title ‘X-Men: Supernova.’ While the studio has not publicly announced this title, a number of film industry professional sites have listed it as an upcoming production.

Now, Comicbook.com have reported that ‘X-Men: Supernova’ may in fact be ‘Dark Phoenix,’ citing this as a working title under which the film is listed at subscriber-only site Production Weekly.

The birth of Dark Phoenix, 1980 (credit: Marvel Comics)

X-Men fans will automatically recognise this title from 1980’s ‘Dark Phoenix’ saga from writer/artist team Chris Claremont and John Byrne – the same duo behind the original ‘Days of Future Past’ storyline, which was liberally adapted for the 2014 movie. The ‘Dark Phoenix’ storyline saw Jean Grey lose control of her developing psychic powers and evolve into an entirely different person, the Phoenix. She becomes a potentially world-ending threat, forcing her X-Men colleagues to do battle against her.

Of course, fans will also remember that the ‘X-Men’ movies have ventured into this territory before, in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand,’ which – despite the best efforts of actress Famke Janssen (who has played the role twice more with very brief cameos in ‘The Wolverine’ and ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past) – is generally regarded a less than satisfactory adaptation of a classic story.

Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey goes Dark Phoenix in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ (credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Jean Grey mantle has since been picked up by Sophie Turner, who played a younger incarnation of the role in 2016’s ‘X-Men: Apocalypse.’ However, Turner’s take on the character proved divisive, and the film’s allusions to a future Dark Phoenix storyline felt a little shoe-horned in.

Given that Turner is without a doubt contracted for further films as Jean Grey (not to mention the fact that the ending of ‘Days of Future Past’ essentially deleted ‘The Last Stand’ from the timeline), it is inevitable that it will be this younger Jean Grey who features in ‘X-Men: Supernova/Dark Phoenix.’ Turner herself has addressed the possibility of tackling the tale, telling EW at the time of ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’s release, “the seeds of Phoenix are definitely planted in there… I think in future movies to come we’ll definitely see a bit more of that.” In addition, writer/producer Simon Kinberg, who also wrote ‘The Last Stand,’ has professed the desire to give it a second shot.

All well and good – but at this point, isn’t it a little too soon? A huge part of what made the Dark Phoenix saga work in the comics was that it played out over the course of almost a year’s worth of issues, and traded heavily on an emotional attachment both the characters and readers had developed with Jean Grey. However, we’ve barely even had a chance to get to know Turner’s Jean Grey yet.

Sophie Turner in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (credit: 20th Century Fox)

Then there’s also the fact that adapting the ‘Dark Phoenix’ saga would mean yet another gargantuan spectacle of mass destruction, with the X-Men called on to avert the end of the world – and audience exhaustion with this plot device was a big part of what made ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ go down so badly with many fans and critics. As such, is it really wise for the next X-Men movie to go straight back to that sort of terrain?

Of course, given that 20th Century Fox has made no official announcement on the subject, we shouldn’t take it as written just yet that such a film definitely is in the works at this moment. But if it is, we certainly hope that all concerned behind the scenes have some big ideas to make it stand apart from what came before.

The next ‘X-Men’ universe movie to hit screens will be Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine swansong, ‘Logan,’ opening 3 March.

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