(Release Info London schedule; June 5th, 2019, Odeon Luxe, 22-24 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7LQ, United Kingdom, 11:45 AM, 18:00 PM)
"X-Men: Dark Phönix"
From director Simon Kinberg comes the most radical 'X-Men' film ever made. "X-Men: Dark Phönix" tells the iconic story of Jean Grey’s (Sophie Turner) transformation from gifted mutant into the most powerful force in the universe. The culmination of a superhero saga nearly two decades in the making, the spectacular new blockbuster is part science-fiction thriller, part character-driven drama, posing intriguing questions about identity and destiny. During a life-threatening mission to outer space, Jean Grey is nearly killed when she absorbs a cosmic entity that leaves her with powers far beyond anything she or any other mutant has ever possessed. Once she returns home to Earth, she struggles with these near-godlike abilities, but the force inside her is too overwhelming to contain. Spiraling out of control, Jean hurts the ones she loves most. Her actions tear 'The X-Men' apart, and the heroes find themselves deeply compromised at a time when they must face their most dangerous enemy yet; one of their own. The emotional story of a divided hero, a divided family and a divided world.
When "X-Men: Dark Phönix" opens, it’s 1992. "The X-Men", now widely beloved superheroes who enjoy celebrity status, are called upon by 'The U.S. Government' to save imperiled astronauts whose mission has gone horribly wrong. Over the objections of Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), the team climbs into 'The X-Jet' and heads out on a life-threatening rescue mission. Among the stars, a mysterious cosmic entity targets Jean Grey, overwhelming her body and, at first, appearing to claim her life. When she does awaken, Jean initially feels strong, recharged. But back on Earth, she begins to realize that she’s attained powers beyond her understanding, or her control. As she uncovers long-held secrets about her past, truths kept from her by Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), she becomes increasingly destructive, lashing out at those closest to her in paroxysms of anger and despair. What happens with Jean when she comes back from space is that she has a power she can’t control inside of her, and it’s escalating and intensifying everything inside Jean, which can unleash or liberate aspects of her personality. That’s power, emotion and rage, and that’s passion. Desperate to help Jean regain her equilibrium, Raven reaches out to her as a mentor and friend. But Jean turns her fury on Raven, killing her. That shocking event rips apart 'The X-Men'; some of the mutants insist that they must go to any lengths to save their friend, while others believe they need to stop her before any more lives are lost.
At it's core, this is a tale of a woman struggling with her personal demons, and only the love of her family, 'The X-Men', can save her soul, and the world. The thing about the Jean Grey's story is that she’s not a villain, but she’s not a superhero who’s going to save the world and everything’s fine. She’s one of the few characters that’s very tormented and broken. There’s a realism to her, it’s painful and her experiences remind you of mental illness. It’s not too fantastical for people to comprehend. There’s no black or white with her, it’s a very gray area. It’s a struggle that’s very true to a lot of people and that’s why people love her. This film is a much more thorough investigation and much truer to Jean as a character. This feels very different, with a different tone and a different sense of cinematic style that's appropriately suited to the story. The character essentially becomes schizophrenic, starts to lose her identity and ultimately it coalesces into two identities, which is Jean, who’s getting smaller and weaker, and 'Phoenix', who’s becoming stronger and stronger.
Charles Xavier is the leader of 'The X-Men' and the inadvertent catalyst behind Jean’s transformation. When the film opens, Charles is relishing his privileged status as the leader of the mutants; something he enjoys, Raven rightly points out, even though he’s rarely the one on the frontlines. He’s a guy who lives in a mansion, who doesn’t leave that mansion and throws a whole lot of other people in harm’s way, many of them who are quite young. The film examines that and problematize that. There’s an ego attached to that and a very patriarchal, paternalistic quality to it. We live in an age now where that doesn’t go without notice, and it has gone without notice for decades of the comic book and for now two decades of the movies. Charles in this movie, he starts to believe his own hype. He’s on the cover of 'Time Magazine'. He's very much the public face of 'The X-Men', he’s congratulated for all their work. He’s the guy on the red carpets, shaking hands with presidents. He's very much like a father who loves his children and believes that they're capable of anything.
That all sounds positive, but the downside of it's that, if they don’t achieve everything, if they fall short of the very lofty expectations the world and Charles has put on his team, he feels that somehow reflects badly on him. When Charles ignores Raven’s misgivings about the interstellar rescue mission and sends the team into space, Jean’s fate is sealed. What’s more, when she learns that Charles has erected barriers in her mind to protect her from painful truths about her past, she feels deeply betrayed, further fueling her violent leanings. She comes back to Earth with a nagging curiosity and desire to find these missing parts of her life that Charles has hidden from her. When she realizes what he’s done, there’s a sentiment of justified righteous anger there; instead of allowing her to process a difficult childhood, Charles disrespected her by locking her memories away. When that trauma reemerges, it galvanizes that dark power within her. Those events lead directly to the confrontation that result in Raven’s demise.
Raven is the one who’s most willing to confront Charles and his belief system and peel away the veneer a little bit. Raven is the character who first seizes on that idea of his hubris, is the first to challenge him about it, and subsequently, she’s the one who’s sacrificed. Her very alarms are part of what propel her forward to reach out to Jean and that's part of what leads to her death. Losing Raven devastates Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), who turns against his mentor, Charles, and is determined to seek revenge. He’s lost his soulmate. That takes Hank to a very different place than we’ve ever seen him in any of the other movies. He’s filled with this rage and desire for revenge to kill Jean for what she did. It's crucial to telling 'The Dark Phönix' story properly and to set up the conflict between Charles and Hank and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). Erik and Hank had both had romantic relationships with Raven. For Charles, she's like a sister to him. Killing her has the greatest impact emotionally on the most characters. What that does for the audience is indicate that anything can happen. Nobody is safe.
Smith (Jessica Chastain), an alien in human disguise who covets the force that has amplified Jean’s already extraordinary abilities, soon takes Jean under her wing, becoming a very different sort of mentor than either Raven or Charles ever were. She encourages Jean to act on her dark impulses, to subjugate the lesser beings around her. The character’s end goal? To rid the planet of human life, paving the way for her alien race to inhabit Earth as their new home. She’s 1,000 times smarter than anyone on this planet. She comes to the planet, explores mankind, realizes that, in her mind, they’re bacteria. They’re a cancer. Not only are they a harm to themselves, they’re a harm to the planet. They consume everything with greed. She realizes she needs to eliminate the bacteria. She doesn’t see it as malicious. It’s not something she does based on revenge. It’s something she does for the good, in her mind, of all. It's finally time for an' X-Men' movie to have a female lead. After nearly 20 years, "X-Men: Dark Phönix" is squarely focused on the journey of Jean Grey and the women who surround her including Raven and Smith, a villainous new presence who encourages Jean to abandon her humanity and give in to her darkest urges.
Jean goes back to the modest street to solve a mystery about her past, but the trip becomes the site of an explosive standoff between Jean and 'The X-Men', resulting in Raven’s untimely death. One of the favorite sets is Jean’s neighborhood. It’s six small houses with a little bend at the end and a rickety bridge. Each house has a different identity created for the people that live in it; there’s the fisherman, the truck driver, the angry married couple. The neighborhood street is constructed entirely from the ground up. The film creates a neighborhood that's very lower-middle class. There's a bridge to show that people drive by, but they don’t stop there. At the other end of it, there's a field of electrical devices with pylons and towers and wires. All the houses are prebuilt in the shop, and the film assembles them on site. 'The Community' is about an hour outside of downtown Montreal. It’s a refuge for mutants who don’t have anywhere else to go. It has a classic commune vibe; people living off the grid, being self-sufficient. That tranquility is interrupted when Jean arrives, seeking Erik’s counsel on how best to manage her newly acquired powers in the wake of Raven’s death.
'The Dark Phoenix' side of her is enjoying hurting people, enjoying this violence, and she thinks that Erik might feel some kinship to that. She comes to seek permission of a sort. But of course, Erik’s history is a lot different. He partakes in violence because of a vengefulness that’s in him. It’s not that he gets much satisfaction out of it. When the authorities trace Jean to 'Genosha', the refuge becomes the site of a battle of wills between Erik and Jean, and Erik is stunned to see the full range of Jean’s abilities. The sequence includes what's essentially a psychic tug of war over a military helicopter, much of which is staged practically. 'The Phoenix' effect shows up in many different forms and many different levels of intensity. The first little hints of 'The Phoenix' effect are quite subtle. Toward the end of the film, when 'The Phoenix' effect is in full force, it’s much, much bigger. It affects Jean's skin, it affects her eyes, it affects really all aspects of her emotions. It also affects the air around her quite considerably. There are shock wave-type components. There are particle components. There are smoke and fire and flames, almost an internal lava effect. There are a lot of pieces to it that come together to create 'The Final Phoenix' effect. But it’s all tied with Jean’s emotion.
As 'The X-Men' struggle to come to terms with what Jean’s done, with what she’s become, allegiances are fractured and new alliances formed. But in the end, to save both Jean Gray and the galaxy, 'The X-Men' must find a way to set aside their differences and work together for a common cause. "Dark Phönix" asks profound, primal questions; if you love someone, at what point do you let them go? Or do you hold onto them forever, at all costs, even at your own peril? There's something about the splitting apart, then the coming back together, of the family of 'The X-Men' that hopefully offers an optimistic message about our ability to survive and unify through the most extraordinary and shattering challenges. Whether it’s the surrogate families that we build in our lives or the real families we've in our lives, it’s the coming together that makes us strong. The goal is always to create a bolder, edgier, more intense, more emotional 'X-Men' film, one that's far more character-driven and deeply human than any that had come before.
What do you do when the person you love becomes the world’s greatest threat? It’s the question at the heart of one of the most enduring storylines in the decades-long history of 'The X-Men' comic books, 'The Dark Phoenix' saga. Written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by John Byrne in 1980, the story in many ways represents the ultimate 'X-Men' tale. Jean Grey is transformed into a force that not even her mutant family can comprehend. She becomes an outsider among outsiders, a being beyond the reach of even those closest to her. 'The Dark Phoenix' saga is one of the most beloved of 'The X-Men' series in it's long lineage, primarily because it’s not a story where you've heroes and villains, black and white. It's important to tell 'The Dark Phoenix' saga on the big screen in a way that truly do justice to it's distinguished legacy. The 2006 film included aspects of 'The Dark Phoenix' story, but more than 10 years on, the time is right for a darker, grittier, much more faithful adaptation that serves as a capstone to nearly two decades of superhero filmmaking. 2016’s "X-Men: Apocalypse" told a disaster story writ large with elaborate set pieces and eye-popping special effects, which left less time for exploring the ever-evolving relationships among the mutants. By that point, 'The X-Men Franchise' has progressed to a place where the series could easily accommodate something less stylized and more daring; comic book movies as a genre also has proved time and again that they could serve up substantive themes and compelling character work inside mass entertainments.
Who are we? Are we simply what others want us to be? Are we destined to a fate beyond our control? Or can we evolve, become something more? This movie’s very different from the previous 'X-Men' movies. The source material is different from the other 'X-Men' comics that we’ve drawn upon in the past. It’s more psychologically complex and emotionally volatile. The emotions it gets into are rawer than a lot of the other 'X-Men' comics. What's most intriguing and why this story has spoken to so many people is that on a very human level, it’s about someone you love starting to unravel psychologically. What happens when people lose themselves in real life is that their loved ones hold on and want to help or save them. Sometimes you get dragged down with them and there are others who, at a certain point, give up on them. This movie is about that question of, when do you let go and give up on someone you love. "Dark Phönix" crafts an adventure that would offer a much more nuanced depiction of good and evil appropriate to our turbulent times. The film emphasizes the duality that can exist within the same person, the darkness and the light.
Just as "X-Men: Dark Phönix" is thematically and tonally different from all the previous 'X-Men' films, the look of the movie is equally distinct. After almost twenty years of making a certain style of 'X-Men' film, it's time for a change. This 'X-Men' movie feels more real, more relatable hopefully to audiences. The film is darker, not as colorful as the previous films. To that end, the film includes a great deal of handheld camerawork, a first for any installment in 'The X-franchise'. In previous 'X-Men' movies; and this is true for a fair amount of large-scale Hollywood movies and comic-book movies, they tend to use very smooth photography, crane moves and dolly moves, everything’s slick. Here, instead of the camera being still and the characters being the motion, the characters are moving, but the camera is also moving a little bit. The action is where the audience feels it most, but even in dialogue scenes, you’ll feel a bit of breath around the characters.
We’ve gotten to a place where audiences are ready for a disruptive, radical story where a good guy goes bad, where a hero loses control and becomes destructive, even homicidal. Comics, and even comic book moves, tend to tread in good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains. When the hero does something villainous or when a good guy does something bad, it’s shocking. You’re not sure what you’re rooting for. Right now, we’re living in a world that's a little upside-down politically and socially. Everything’s not as binary as it used to be. There’s not a lot of unity. Everybody feels like they’re splitting apart. A story about a character who's herself splitting apart, and as a result of that, is splitting apart the family of 'The X-Men', it feels very relevant.