We’re still months away from the release of X-Men: Apocalypse in theaters, but the film’s trailer, along with comments by director Bryan Singer, may already be hinting at the franchise’s future.
The trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse opens with an out-of-focus silhouette entering the Cerebro chamber of the Xavier mansion. We speculated at the time that it was a female figure, likely Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), and Singer confirmed as much to Empire Magazine, though he was coy about what Jean was getting up to.
“That’s actually Jean,” Singer said. “Her hair makes her a little strange looking! But I don’t want to explain why she’s doing what she’s doing…”
That scene was followed by one of Jean waking up from a terrible dream. She tells Professor X (James McAvoy), “I saw the end of the world. I could feel all this death.” Xavier assures Jean that it was “just a dream,” but we speculated that Xavier may just be offering Jean false comfort. Again, Singer confirmed as much in his Empire interview, explaining that the take that made it into the film has Xavier appearing much more worried than he does in the trailer.
“The take I used for the movie is a less sincere take,” said Singer. “In the movie it’s an intense moment, a psychic moment happens between them and the take is a much more suspicious take.
Breaking this down, it seems that Jean is housing great power. Her psychic abilities are giving her visions of the future, even as she sleeps. Professor Xavier seems worried that Jean may not be able to control the power within her. It all sounds like a buildup to a familiar X-Men story, The Dark Phoenix Saga.
For those unfamiliar with the tale, it tells the story of how Jean Grey, in attempting to sacrifice herself to save the lives of the X-Men, became possessed by a cosmic power capable of destroying worlds. The X-Men were first forced to fight their friend, while she was in her Dark Phoenix persona, and then defend her against the cosmic justice of an alien empire once she broke free of the entity’s hold. In one of the most tragic endings of any superhero comic, the saga ends with Jean committing suicide in order to prevent herself from becoming possessed by the Phoenix again.
(Note: Yes, continuity nerds, we know that a later retcon rewrote the story so that the Phoenix took Jean’s place, meaning Jean was never actually present for the bulk of this saga, but we’re going with the original intent of creators Chris Claremont and John Byrne for this one.)
This story was adapted, rather poorly, as part of the film X-Men: The Last Stand. In that film, the Phoenix persona was not a cosmic entity, but the full realization of Jean’s own innate power. It seems that we may be returning to that idea with the young version of Jean.
“It’s all about their potential,” Singer said. “Jean has a special connection with Xavier, she has a special connection with the psychic world and she has enormous untapped power that’s growing.”
That brings us back to the scene where Jean enters the Cerebro chamber. It’s early for theories, but here’s one: after Xavier falls to Apocalypse, something the trailer suggests may happen, Jean is only one with the power to use Cerebro. In a moment of desperation, she does just that, but the power amplification provided by Cerebro unlocks the Phoenix within. Maybe she doesn’t transform completely, but it leaves the door open for the Phoenix to emerge in films to come. After all, the franchise is pivoting to focus on this new crew of young mutants.
No story could possibly put more of the focus on Jean Grey than The Dark Phoenix Saga. Also consider the popularity of space opera in cinema right now, with the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Space stories are a staple of the X-Men comics, one that Fox has yet to touch. A more faithful retelling of The Dark Phoenix Saga would allow them to get in on space zeitgeist, possibly introducing the Starjammers, including Chris Summers, a.k.a. Corsair, a.k.a. Havok and Cyclops’ father, further shifting focus onto the young mutants.
A straight adaptation of The Dark Phoenix Saga is the kind of film that would have seemed unthinkable in the era of Fox’s original trilogy of more grounded X-Men films, but after the time travel of Days of Future Past and the epic, god-like villainy of Apocalypse, I’d say anything is possible.
Check out when X-Men: Apocalypse and other movies are coming out in ComicBook.com's Movie Release Schedule.