Fox’s X-Men franchise experienced a positive resurgence with the release of X-Men: First Class back in 2011, which was bolstered by the successes of The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool and Logan (X-Men: Apocalypse received polarizing reviews). The studio is intent on continuing their success by taking a page from Marvel Studios’ book and branching their films out into other genres, such as The New Mutants being approached as a straight-up John Hughes meets Stephen King teen horror film. The film following will be X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and it’s set to shake things up in a major way.
First off, Simon Kinberg (who wrote X-Men: The Last Stand and also wrote and produced X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse) has officially signed on to direct, following months of rumors. The plot will take place in the 1990s and be a reimaging of “The Dark Phoenix Saga” storyline from the comics written by Chris Claremont (hence the subtitle), which was loosely adapted in X-Men: The Last Stand, which omitted all of the extraterrestrial-related plot elements and filled the gaps with parts of Joss Whedon‘s “Gifted” story arc involving a mutant cure, much to the chagrin of fans and critics.
Additionally, it’s been confirmed that James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, and Kodi Smit-McPhee will be reprising their roles from previous films. Previous speculation points to this entry of the franchise “going cosmic” and opening up Fox’s X-Men universe into its space storylines and characters, similar to what Marvel did with Guardians of the Galaxy.
A key character of “The Dark Phoenix Saga” was Lilandra Neramani, a member of the Shi’ar alien race who was integral to the original story arc. Her absence in X-Men: The Last Stand is set to be addressed in this film, and according to an exclusive Deadline report, the studio is looking at Jessica Chastain (The Martian, Zero Dark Thirty) for the role, which will be the main antagonist.
In the comics, Lilandra was a Grand Admiral who fled her people after being branded a traitor for opposing her power-mad brother and Emperor D’Ken’s plans to use the M’Kraan Crystal to increase his power, which would inadvertently destroy the universe. Due to the help of the X-Men, he was defeated and banished, allowing Lilandra to ascend to the throne as Empress, or Majestrix, with Xavier as her consort. She later returns to Earth to destroy the Phoenix after it causes billions of deaths when it absorbed the energy of a distant sun, resulting in it going supernova. Since she will be the villain of the film, we can assume that she will serve a similar function here minus the whole killing billions of intelligent lifeforms angle; potentially seeing the Phoenix’s power (and, by extension, Jean Grey) as too dangerous to be allowed to live.
Lilandra has often been portrayed as a pivotal secondary X-Men Character, as well as one of Professor X’s most cherished loved ones. These have variously played significant parts in the development of both characters, as well as many of the plotlines and story arcs over the years; particularly their annulment due to Jean Grey becoming Phoenix again and Xavier’s twin, Cassandra Nova, taking control of his body and wrecking havoc across the galaxy and her assassination by the mind-controlled superhero Darkhawk. It’s currently unknown if the film plot will include their romance, as Kinberg has stated multiple times that he regrets not making Dark Phoenix the focus of The Last Stand and is keen on correcting that.
Another unaddressed plot point is also that of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, warriors from various alien races who collectively serve the rulers of the Empire by both enforcing Imperial law on all planets within the Shi’ar Galaxy and as the Emperor or Empress’ personal guard. They have been allies and opponents of the X-Men multiple times over the years and have become deeply entrenched in the lore, with their leader Kallark, aka Gladiator, currently serving as Emperor.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is scheduled to release November 2, 2018.