In November of 2018, 21st Century Fox will attempt to rectify their past bungling of Jean Grey’s storyline in X-Men: The Last Stand in their rebooted X-Men universe. X-Men: Dark Phoenix will see Sophie Turner’s version of Jean Grey play out her character’s most famous storyline. With the recent success of off-kilter superhero hits such as Deadpool and Logan, fans of the Dark Phoenix Saga were hopeful. Fox has been blending the genre in new and interesting ways. That hope became more pronounced when Jessica Chastain was cast as Empress Lilandra, an indicator that Simon Kinberg’s directorial debut will lean-in on the intergalactic shenanigans at the heart of the Dark Phoenix saga.
Those hopes were called into question in a recent interview Kinberg gave to TotalFilm’s print publication. While speaking of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the writer/producer turned director tried to assuage any fears fans might have that the film will be too “out there.”
The important piece:
This time writing, producing and directing, franchise figurehead Simon Kinberg says he must “find a way to ground it so it’s not too intergalactic,” stressing X-movies are “human…and emotional.”
The superhero genre has proven it is a flexible scaffolding upon which just about anything can be grafted. Superheroes can be irreverent or dutiful, funny or stoic. But the one thing audiences seem to have outgrown lately though are dour, “gritty” heroes that are dark for the sake of it. In the years before Marvel created its own in-house studio, the best way to prove a superhero was worthy as a box office draw was to distance said hero from their source material. The failure of Batman & Robin scared Hollywood aware from anything remotely resembling campy fun. Into that void came The Dark Knight trilogy, but also a slew of bleak offerings from Catwoman and Jonah Hex to Elektra and, more recently, Man of Steel. Misery replaced heroics, with protagonists filled with angst and uncertainty about their place in the world. The dominant thread in superhero films was that “bleak and serious” were the only way to go.
Then came Guardians of the Galaxy and Wonder Woman, tossing those known facts out the window. Marvel created a story about a group of found-family goofballs and DC proved sincerity and a hero enjoying their powers is not the kiss-of-death. One would imagine Fox would want to ride this new wave of interest to box office gold, combining the psychedelic visuals of first seen in Marvel’s Guardians with the lessons learned making Logan and Deadpool to create something moviegoing audiences have never seen before. Can they do this while still keeping Dark Phoenix grounded? Absolutely. Fingers crossed that giving Jean Grey an emotional, humanizing arc doesn’t happen at the expense of an epic, intergalactic space opera.