Trailer Breakdown: “Dark Phoenix”

The long awaited new “X-Men” trailer is here as the first look at “Dark Phoenix” premiered last night giving us a peak at the second big screen interpretation of the Dark Phoenix Saga from the comics. After the failure that was “X-Men: Apocalypse” a few years ago that actually teased the Phoenix at the end of the film fans have eagerly awaited the next move for the franchise. Originally we weren’t supposed to wait this long. The film was initially slated for a 2018 release. However the release got pushed back, reshoots were done, Disney succeeded in its acquisition of 20th Century Fox’s movie properties and now we finally get our first peak at what we can expect from the final product. So let’s break down the first trailer for what could possibly be the last film in the 20th Century Fox era of “X-Men” features. Let me know you’re thoughts on the trailer for “Dark Phoenix” and as always you can view the trailer at the end of this breakdown.


The trailer opens fittingly enough with a young Jean Grey asking Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) if he thinks he can “fix” her and Charles telling her she’s not “broken”. Immediately this is another one of the many redux moments this prequel series has implemented. In “X-Men: The Last Stand”, which now exists in an alternate timeline thanks to the events of “Days of Future Past”, we saw that Xavier and Magneto recruited Jean from her home together but here she looks like she is dropped off and Xavier tries to comfort her. The trailer then incorporates a cover of “The End” by The Doors which adds to the perfect mood, providing a sense of foreboding and possibly even hints that this could be the final film in this rebooted “X-Men” series before Marvel brings a new approach to the franchise.


We fast forward to the movie’s present day where Nicholas Hoult’s Hank McCoy, clearly still using something to maintain his human form, is performing experiments on Jean likely trying to understand her powers a bit more. We know from the movie’s synopsis that Jean is expected to lose control of her powers after an incident in space, similar to the comic book story. This could take place after that incident as McCoy tries to ensure Jean’s health. It could be where both Hank and Jean discover she has hidden powers. We then hear Raven/Mytique, again played by Jennifer Lawrence, and Xavier having a conversation about Jean’s powers. I would expect this exchange happens after the space incident as Mystique would need some kind of trigger to bring up the subject and she clearly sounds like she is concerned about what Xavier did to Jean. Since Jean’s hidden powers are expected to surface through the space incident we can assume that any conversation about her powers is later in the film. We learn from a quick edit that Jean is an orphan having seemingly killed her parents by losing control of her powers and causing their car to crash violently. This is presumably why we find her at Xavier’s school. Raven is forward with Xavier as he says he “protected” Jean and she responds that “there’s another word for that”. She doesn’t say the word but we can only assume she means “lying” or a more powerful term along those lines and recalls the rocky relationship these two characters had early on in the reboot series.


Then we get for me what is one of the coolest new additions to the film. Jean, for whatever reason, goes to the island of Genosha which is prominently featured in the comics and in the context of this film is being used as a refugee island for mutants. So who runs this island? Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto of course once again portrayed by Michael Fassbender. Jean tells Erik she came “looking for answers” presumably concerning how to cope with her new powers. If she discovered that Xavier has been hiding something from her it would make sense that she would go the professor’s polar opposite, Magneto, for help or advice. Jean probably distrusts Xavier now or doesn’t feel he will give her the answers she wants. Also, don’t forget Magneto was the one who inspired Raven to embrace her powers and image rather than hide behind one of her transformations.


One of the biggest reveals in the trailer is Jessica Chastain’s villainous character for now simply named “Smith”. A lot of mystery surrounds Chastain’s involvement in the project. All we knew coming into the trailer is that she would be an antagonist, would have some involvement in the Jean becoming the Dark Phoenix and that she wouldn’t be sporting her red hair but instead a blond look. All of that is confirmed in our first peak at her character who tells Jean that “she doesn’t belong here”. Now this is an interesting statement from Smith because in the comics the Dark Phoenix is abducted by Lilandra and the Shi’ar who threaten to execute her for performing genocide. Many thought that Chastain would, in fact, be playing Lilandra and that’s still possible. It would be an interesting take on the character to make her a villain seeking the power of the Phoenix. The great thing is this trailer gives us few answers we didn’t already have leaving her character’s identity a surprise but affirming that she sees the Phoenix as something truly special.


We get a few solo shots of the numerous X-Men we’ll see in the film. Scott Summer/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), who will likely once again serve as Jean’s romantic interest, sports the comic-accurate visor even in normal cloths. Alexandra Shipp’s Storm sports a shorter hairstyle than in the previous film. Evan Peters is still involved as Quicksilver. After all that Xavier tells Raven that Jean is changing while we see Magneto telling Jean something very important. Magneto deduces that Jean is not looking for answers but instead is looking for “permission”. This implies that Jean wants to explore her potential and who wouldn’t especially when you discover you have as much power as Jean has. Once again the trailer addresses that Jean doesn’t want to hide who she is anymore. She knows Xavier obviously doesn’t want her to embrace the Phoenix Force so she goes to Magneto, a mutant known for wanting mutants to be proud of who they are to seek advice. She wants to now if this is something she should or shouldn’t do. But look at this picture above. That’s Jean talking to Magneto with her glowing yellow eyes (we are reminded that jean’s natural eye color is blue) and a smirk. That’s the Phoenix. This is a good creative choice by the filmmakers to help us differentiate between Jean and her alternate personality.


That brings us to what I think will be the first major battle of the new film. We see the X-Men team, Xavier, Beast, Mytique, Storm, Nightcrawler, Quicksilver and Cyclops, in uniform staring down Jean. Are they there to protect her or retrieve her? Do they think she’s in danger or do they think she IS the danger? I think this scene takes place after she potentially destroys Magneto’s island sanctuary. That’s a big enough event to draw attention to the mutant right, especially from the X-Men. Clearly they arrived ready for a fight and it looks like they’re going to get one. Jean uses her powers to crash a few police cars, flipping them in place and destroying the front end of at least one of the vehicles. This is the moment in the film where the X-Men will likely realize one of their own is now one of their greatest foes. We do see Cyclops say Jean’s name apparently trying to reason with her obviously to no avail and he already had a battle scar on his cheek. I’m hoping this all leads to something epic and I predict we will see an X-Man die here. What better way to raise the stakes than having Jean kill someone she once considered a friend? Plus we get a tease of a potential death later on, but I’ll get to that soon.


We see shots of Jean exercising her powers including this really cool shot of her effortlessly destroying a helicopter with a look on her face that screams confidence in her ability. I love this shot because it shows a lot of promise for actress Sophie Turner who I wasn’t very impressed with in “Apocalypse” and have never found to be the most charismatic actress in the world. Here, in this moment, Jean looks awesome even though it’s probably the Phoenix personality in control at this point. Actually throughout this whole trailer I feel like there’s more energy in Turner’s performance than in the entire “Apocalypse” film. She just LOOKS powerful and intimidating here with a blank death stare that shows little emotion simply because her character is so powerful there’s no need to. She looks at others as inferior and not worth any emotional reaction from her at all. Chastain reportedly served as a mentor to Turner on set which, if that translates to a better performance, should make for an AWESOME big screen version of the Dark Phoenix.


In the next few clips from the film we see the X-Men flying into space and Cyclops saying that “Jean lost control, but she’s still our friend” which is a pretty blunt statement of the sentiment these heroes are going to have to juggle as they take on the Dark Phoenix. It makes sense that he’s the one making this statement because, well, he loves her. A lot happens in the next few seconds including a few cool small details. We see Charles get a glimpse of the Phoenix while attached to Cerebro likely as he tries to track Jean’s whereabouts. We also see Raven in the spaceship reacting to a bright light with little concern which is likely a scene from the space journey at the beginning of the movie. This may or may not be the incident that leads to the Phoenix being awakened within Jean. We also see Hank and Xavier talking as a kitchen table where Hank bluntly tells Charles that he is at least partially to blame for the Phoenix being released. It appears Xavier is trying to drown his guilt through alcohol because Hank smashes what looks like a bottle of booze as Xavier tries to reach for it.


Magneto will apparently play a bigger part in this film than I personally anticipated since we hear an exchange between the two frenemies where Xavier apologizes that he couldn’t stop the Phoenix sooner and Magneto berates Charles for always having a speech. If the Phoenix does obliterate Genosha it will be another blow to Magneto’s attempts at a peaceful life and it does sound like he’s just had enough. One thing you’ve probably noticed by now is Xavier takes a beating in this trailer. Raven, Hank, possibly Jean, and now Magneto have all thrown Charles’ attempt to help protect Jean and the world from the Phoenix by hiding and lying about it. I get the feeling Xavier is going to have to come to face to face with a lot of demons over the course of this movie. I hope the film delves into this as much as promised because after decades of trying to do the right thing it would be interesting to see how a younger Xavier acts when faced with the consequences of his actions when they backfire. We’ve seen this explored many times in this series so far, most prominently in “X-Men: First Class”, but I’d be interested to see how Xavier responds when friends and foe are piling in the guilt.


Next we get a pair of shots that caught my attention in a big way. After Magneto berates Charles for “always having a speech” he dawns his familiar helmet and we see him standing with Selene, a popular mutant from the comics, and another mutant named Red Lotus but also Hank in his Beast form. Charles says “don’t do this” as he stands against this small group with Storm, Nightcrawler and Cyclops by his side. I don’t think he’s talking to Magneto in this moment. I think he might be talking to Beast. Hank is clearly irritated that Charles about the situation with the Phoenix so it would make sense if he wanted to jump ship and work with Magneto to stop the Phoenix’s rage.


Another important snapshot shows the X-Men at a funeral and like I said earlier I wouldn’t count it out that one of the X-Men die in this film. You want to know who I think it’s going to be? Sure you do…but I’m so confident in who I believe dies that I won’t even spoil it here. Let’s just say we only see this character a select few times in this trailer. In fact we see them in the standoff against Jean. However, then they just disappear from the trailer altogether. It would be a big name to kill off and a fan favorite at that which would up the ante and solidify the threat that Jean presents. It would also help create that divide among the X-Men and maybe even play into Magneto’s urge to take on or control the Phoenix. We’ll see, but this scene pretty much confirms not all of the X-Men will make it out of this conflict alive.


The trailer ends with more scattered shots and Jean saying that people have the right to fear her. The trailer further implies that Magneto isn’t looking to control Jean but stop her by having him say that he has seen evil before and is “looking at it now”. Of course we don’t know if he’s actually talking to Jean but that is implied. The final shot of the trailer shows the Phoenix fully taking over Jean not with flames but with glowing eyes and energy pulsing through her head. I just think it’s a cool shot that leads right into the title card which is fitting because it’s a snapshot of the Dark Phoenix before the title “Dark Phoenix” arrives on screen.

And that’s the trailer for “Dark Phoenix” and I’ve gotta say it does have me intrigued. There’s promise of high stakes in the film with a teased character death and Charles Xavier being faced with the consequences of trying to do the right thing. Sophie Turner looks like she’s a more polished actress this time around and just from what I’ve seen in the trailer I have faith she can pull off a more gritty Jean Grey and bring the Dark Phoenix to life. I like that a lot of unanswered questions were left in this trailer because it gives me a reason to want more and, obviously, to see the film. After “Apocalypse” sidelined this franchise once again there’s a lot riding on the success of this movie to keep the franchise going and relevant even if there might be plans for Disney and Marvel Studios to reboot the franchise for a second time. Can the Dark Phoenix Saga finally work on the big screen? We’ll have to wait until February 14 June of 2019 to find out for sure.

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