HEAT VISION

What the 'Dark Phoenix' Trailer Was Missing

If you were expecting a full 1970s/80s sci-fi drama — maybe wait for trailer No. 2?

The first trailer for Dark Phoenix has arrived, giving fans the first look at the presumed swan song for Fox's X-Men film franchise that launched in 2000 thanks to the pending Fox/Disney merger. The team at Heat Vision is taking a closer look at the trailer and what it all means and asks the big question: where are the outer space elements? 

Graeme McMillan: If nothing else, the trailer for Dark Phoenix definitely wants you to believe that it’s playing for keeps. You don’t bring “The End” out for a movie that is intended to be just another chapter in the ongoing saga, after all. But, is it just me, or did nothing in this trailer actually land? Like, as someone who’s read the comics, I get what’s supposed to be happening, but it feels like the trailer itself forgets to actually explain why Phoenix (or Dark Phoenix, or simply Jean Grey) is meant to be scary beyond people saying that she is.

Aaron Couch: One question every trailer needs to answer is "why?" Why does this movie exist? Sometimes that answer is obvious. With this week's Creed II, it's that Adonis and Rocky must confront what happened three decades ago. With Logan, we are getting the last Wolverine story that'll ever be told. With Avengers: Infinity War it's nothing as deep as that — it was just, "Hey, isn't it cool that we have all these guys together to beat up Thanos finally?" Dark Phoenix doesn't properly answer the "why" for me. Ostensibly, the answer should be that we're getting a Dark Phoenix story onscreen that will make up for 2006's The Last Stand, and look! Here's evidence that this is the first X-Men movie that will take the team to outer space. Neat, right? But this trailer doesn't show us anything that feels new, other than Jessica Chastain's mystery character. As audience members, we are several steps ahead of the characters as they slowly begin to deal with the fact that Jean is transforming into something else. But we've already seen that before in The Last Stand. That's not a compelling hook to hang a trailer on. What's funny is the movie actually has those space elements I'm hoping for, it just seems like the trailer is underselling the film by not including them. As writer-director Simon Kinberg told IGN, "there's a fair amount that takes place in space." I just wish the trailer had leaned into that hard, more than just giving a shot of the X-Men in a space shuttle. 

McMillan: Look, we need the shuttle to crash into the ocean, and have Jean levitate out while monologuing. Give me that one thing, Kinberg! On the subject of the trailer maybe not being representative of the actual movie ... While I understand the idea that, as this is almost certainly the last chapter in the series, filmmakers want to provide closure to the characters and stories that have led to this point, it was nonetheless jarring to see Xavier and Magneto and Mystique in so much of this trailer. It’s called Dark Phoenix, but thankfully everyone really knew that we’d rather see more of Jennifer Lawrence blankly say platitudes and occasionally look shocked than, you know, the title character.

Couch: It's actually a shame that the Dark Phoenix team didn't know this would be the final chapter ahead of time (after all, the Fox/Disney merger was likely a mere twinkle in Rupert Murdoch and Bob Iger's eyes back when production began). How cool would it have been if they'd pulled a Logan and really been able to lean into the idea that there are no more X-Men (at least, Fox X-Men) after this chapter? We do know that Kinberg oversaw reshoots to help with the film's third act — and those took place after news of Disney's impending acquisition of Fox was out there — so perhaps there was some nod to closure for these characters. Graeme, you are the comics expert. Who is Jessica Chastain playing? Kinberg has only said it's an alien but is not saying more. 

McMillan: She almost certainly has to be Lilandra, the Shi'Ar Empress whose alien race worships the Phoenix ... but her character in the trailer seems far more in tune with the Ultimate X-Men incarnation of the character, who was a human who ... also worshipped the Phoenix. Well, they had that in common, I guess. Maybe they're splitting the difference this time around ... ? That would definitely make me happier than what was in this trailer, because this looked like the second time that filmmakers have not actually attempted to really bring the original story to the screen, but instead just gone with the idea that Jean Grey is super powerful and that’s really dangerous, instead. Am I the only one mad that we’re not headed into space to get the full 1970s/80s sci-fi drama that the comic showed?

Couch: After the underwhelming Apocalypse, leaning into the sci-fi drama would have helped cleanse the palette. And Graeme, I too thought from the trailer that Jean's powers were intrinsic in this movie.  But Kinberg says that's not the case, as he told Empire that her powers come from something that happens in space and that the film opens with the team going to space. That's what I want to see! The other exciting tidbit Kinberg touted in the Empire piece included confirmation that Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has begun founding the Mutant island of Genosha. So there are things to be excited for ... in trailer No. 2 perhaps, or when the film opens on Feb. 14.

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