The X-Men might not get to hang out with the rest of Marvel’s heroes on film, but since their first appearance in 1964 they’ve been one of the most popular groups of characters the comic book company has ever created. In 2000, the very first X-Men movie paved the way for all modern superhero films in its wake, and save for some time-traveling weirdness the franchise has mostly continued along the exact same path since then.
Now, the X-Men will return with yet another installment that’s inspired by the most important comic in the characters’ history: The Dark Phoenix Saga. This film was first announced in April after months of rumors (previously the film was codenamed X-Men: Supernova), and will serve to put beloved heroine Jean Grey at the center of the X-Men franchise. Here’s everything we know so far:
What is the Dark Phoenix Saga?
The Dark Phoenix Saga ran from Uncanny X-Men #129 to 138 in 1980 (and from #101 to #108 in 1976-77, if you want to count the earlier Phoenix saga as well), created by Chris Clairmont and John Bryne. It’s one of the most well-known and beloved comic book arcs of all time, and served loosely (very loosely) as the basis for X-Men: The Last Stand, the third film in the original series.
This episode of Nerdist’s Dan Cave gets into more detail, but the basic plot is that the telekinetic mutant Jean Grey is imbued with the power of a mysterious being called the Phoenix Force, which, over time, begins to commit terrible atrocities that threaten the entire fate of the cosmos; the X-Men must figure out how to stop the Phoenix Force without killing their friend in the process. Reports already suggest that the villain of the film will be a (usually good) character known as Queen Lilandra of the alien Shi’ar Empire, which means that the X-Men will also finally be going cosmic for the first time in its cinematic history.
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Who’s Handling the Movie?
Longtime X-Men screenwriter and first time director Simon Kinberg will take on the challenge of adapting the Dark Phoenix Saga for the big screen. He will also be producing the film along with Bryan Singer, who’s directed four of the franchise’s 10 films; also producing are Hutch Parker, who also produced X-Men: Days Of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Logan, and Lauren Shuler Donner, who’s produced every single X-Men title since the very beginning.
Kinberg also wrote X-Men: The Last Stand, Days Of Future Past, and Apocalypse, so he’s got plenty of X-perience under his belt. See what I did there? Ehh? Ehh? In any case, he knows that there’s a lot riding on this film. “I think the challenge of Dark Phoenix is to be true to the comic. It’s one of the most popular sagas in the history of the X-Men or any comic book,” he told Nerdist back in March. “But also, to find a way to ground it so it’s not too intergalactic. One of the things that Bryan Singer did from the beginning of the franchise, and I think that you see us doing now and continuing and maybe even deepening, is making these movies as human and grounded and emotional and relatable as possible.”
Who is Returning to the Franchise?
Per Deadline, the returning cast for the includes Game Of Thrones star Sophie Turner, who plays the young Jean Grey; Tye Sheridan, who plays Cyclops; Alexandra Shipp, who plays Storm; and Kodi Smitt-McPhee, who plays Nightcrawler. All five made their debut to the franchise in X-Men: Apocalypse.
In addition, a few now-veteran performers will also return: James McAvoy, who plays Professor Charles Xavier; Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Mystique; Michael Fassbender, who plays Magneto; and Nicholas Hoult, who plays Beast. All four originated their roles in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. And yes, McAvoy is ready to shave his head for the role again, judging from his Instagram:
Of course, everyone’s favorite dual-franchise speedster is back for more: The Hollywood Reporter noted in June that Evan Peters is returning as Quicksilver, who made his on-screen debut in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. And in the interest of full disclosure, while there is no official confirmation yet, rumors have also circulated in recent days that Olivia Munn will reprise her role as Psylocke from X-Men: Apocalypse, as she recently uploaded a picture to her Snapchat of her arriving in Montreal, where the movie is filming.
Who is New to the Cast?
As I mentioned before, Queen Lilandra will serve as the villain—and Jessica Chastain is currently in talks to play her. Be still my heart. It’s also been confirmed that the disco-loving mutant Dazzler will be making a brief appearance in Dark Phoenix, although her role has not yet been cast.
As for other characters who’ll be arriving to the franchise, a casting breakdown uncovered by The Hashtag Show also suggests that Rogue, Sunfire, Mimic, Harry Leland, Sauron, Jason Wyndgarde, Lani Ubanu, Mentor, and Oracle might make appearances in the film:
If the breakdown is true, Rogue will be portrayed as a six-year-old girl; Sunfire and Mimic will be teenagers; Leland, Sauron and Jason will supporting villains; Lani Ubanu is… well, proof that the movie might visit the Savage Land from Marvel Comics, I guess; and Mentor and Oracle will be heroes of the Shi’ar Empire, and possibly antagonists to the X-Men. The veracity of this breakdown, however, has not been confirmed, nor has The Hashtag Show’s guesses as to which character each role is supposed to represent—although they did get Dazzler right, so who knows?
Finally, there’s one actor who’ll be in the movie but whose part is being kept under wraps: Lamar Johnson, who previously turned heads in the BAFTA-nominated Canadian program The Next Step. Again, if the rumored breakdown is accurate, it’s unlikely that Johnson will be playing any of those parts (reportedly Mimic is being cast as a white actor), which means that there must be more X-Men characters in play who haven’t been revealed yet.
Update, 7/30/2017: ScreenRant is reporting that an actress is reportedly in talks to play an even younger Jean Gray — Summer Fontana, who also appeared in The Originals. Does this mean there might be a flashback scene in X-Men: Dark Phoenix? Given how much the original comic story revolves around Jean, it seems pretty likely to me!
Update, 8/8/2017: According to The Hashtag Show, two more actors may have been added to the movie’s cast: Kota Eberhardt as Lani Ubanu, and Scott Shepherd as Dr. John Grey, the daughter of Jean Grey. The website also suggests that iconic Brotherhood of Evil henchmen Toad, who’s appeared in two different movies before as played by two different actors, might also make an appearance.
How Will This Movie Be Different?
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For one thing, Magneto and Mystique never appeared in the original comic book arc (neither did most of the characters included in the character breakdown shared by The Hashtag Show), so their roles will be very different than what longtime X-Men fans might expect. In fact, Nerdist News recently revealed that Magneto’s new costume will “have sort of a cult leader vibe,” and that the the fictional island of Genosha will feature prominently in the film’s plot. It wouldn’t be an X-Men movie if they didn’t throw some part of canon completely out the window, I guess!
Wait… But What About Mr. Sinister?
Remember the end credit sequence of X-Men: Apocalypse, which featured a bunch of creepy businessmen with Essex Corps labels on their briefcases storming the Weapon X facility? That’s the company led by a villain named Mr. Sinister in the comics, and his machinations are usually directly tied to Jean Grey and Scott Summers (specifically, their future child) — except I guess not this time. Cinemablend seemed to think that he’d be the villain of Logan way back in 2016, but that ended up not panning out either, so it remains to be seen how he’ll factor into the franchise—perhaps in Deadpool 2 somehow? (Jean Grey and Scott Summer’s future kid has already been cast in that movie, after all. Comics are weird.)
When is the Movie Coming Out?
X-Men: Dark Phoenix seems to have already begun filming in Montreal judging from this photo taken by Simon Kinberg on his Instagram (hi, Justin Trudeau!), and is currently scheduled for a November 2, 2018 release date. Until then, keep checking back here for more up-to-date Phoenix news, and let us know what you’re excited to see from this movie in the comments!
Images: Marvel Comics, 20th Century Fox