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X-Men’s Dark Phoenix movie gets untested director, and Jessica Chastain

The Oscar-nominated actress is in talks to play the film’s alien antagonist

20th Century Fox
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Unlike its counterparts on Fox’s upcoming X-Men film slate, Deadpool 2 and New Mutants, there’s been little news on Dark Phoenix, the only one of the three to centrally feature the classic X-Men lineup. Until today, that is, when Deadline announced that Fox has laid concrete plans in place to move the production forward.

X-Men scribe Simon Kinberg (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse) will direct Dark Phoenix. This will be the screenwriter’s first time in the director’s chair. Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Michael Fassbender (Magneto), James McAvoy (Professor X), Nicholas Hoult (Beast), Alexandra Shipp (Storm), Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler) will all reprise their roles.

The movie is expected to play out the Dark Phoenix Saga, an arc from the heyday of the X-Men series in the 1980s, in which Jean Grey’s powers expanded to world-threatening heights while her mind was consumed by a cosmic being of destruction and renewal known as the Phoenix Force. Jean and the Phoenix were eventually sentenced to destruction by the Shi’ar Empire, an alien race with prior experience with Phoenix-cased havoc, as the X-Men fought to save their teammate’s life.

The Phoenix was teased in X-Men 2, and became a major focus of the critically maligned X-Men: Last Stand, where the character was depicted as an alternate personality within Jean Grey that Professor X had helped her to suppress. Magneto manipulated Jean/Phoenix into supporting his anti-human cause, and eventually Wolverine was forced to kill her to save lives.

It’s expected that Dark Phoenix will hew much closer to the comics — which it can, because the modern X-Men movies all exist in a tweaked timeline from the first three — but perhaps not perfectly. Jessica Chastain is reportedly in talks for the role of Empress Lilandra, ruler of the Shi’ar, and will be the main villain of the film, a curious label when she and Professor X were quite the item for many years in the comics.

But either way, Lilandra’s inclusion implies the Shi’ar, and the Shi’ar imply that Kinberg, who also wrote the script for Dark Phoenix, will be taking the franchise cosmic, a setting of many of the X-Men’s most famous stories, but a new and interesting turn for the oldest still running franchise in our modern superhero trend.

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