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Dark Phoenix: We’ve Seen 13 Minutes of Footage from the X-Men Sequel

Written by marcie on October 09 2018

As part of the 20th Century Fox panel at New York Comic-Con, 13 minutes of footage from Dark Phoenix were revealed, and we got an extended look at the upcoming sequel. Written and directed by Simon Kinberg, who makes his directorial debut on the film after years of writing and producing X-Men movies, Dark Phoenix is set a decade after the events of X-Men: Apocalypse and puts the focus squarely on Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey. This is a retelling of the titular iconic comics arc, albeit with a bit of a twist. The crux of the story finds Jean Grey struggling with her powers, as she’s also caught between Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). The film also brings Jessica Chastain into the fold as a mysterious character.

It’s clearly been an interesting run thus far for Dark Phoenix. We’ve heard about reshoots and release date changes, but ultimately, all that matters is the finished product and based on the 13 minutes of footage screened this afternoon at NYCC, it seems as though the movie is in good shape. No, a solid 13 minutes doesn’t guarantee a stellar full feature but it’s still an undeniable uptick in anticipation and hope for the movie that’s due out on June 7, 2019.

Kinberg was on hand to introduce the footage and did stress that some of the visual effects and score weren’t finished. Sure, you could tell if you really looked, but the sequence has such a powerful build, it’s impossible not to get swept up in it all. Right now I’m going to roll into a bit of a play by play of the action so if you’re curious, do read on, but if you’d rather not know the details of these 13 minutes from early on in the film, be warned, spoilers to come. 

The footage begins with a NASA liftoff countdown. Almost immediately after the shuttle blasts off, the control room starts to catch curious anomalies on the radar. The X-Men are alerted to the issue, calling into question whether or not the X-Jet can even reach the necessary altitude. But when the President of the United States utilizes a direct phone line to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to call for help, the team assembles.

Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) explains to the team – which includes Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) – that this is a simple extraction. The plan is to get the astronauts home safely. The group expresses similar concerns about the X-Jet’s capabilities, but Mystique assures them it’ll get them where they need to go.

A solid set-up right there, but it’s the follow-up conversation that really starts to add some depth to the Dark Phoenix storyline. Jean has a private moment with Mystique and asks her how she really feels about the mission. Jean can see right through her; Mystique has some serious concerns. Regardless, Jean warmly tells her, “If you tell me it’s good, it’s good.” Mystique assures her that if anything goes wrong, they’ll turn right around. It’s a moving, honest moment of trust that sets up the sequence especially well.

The group takes off, breaks through the Earth’s atmosphere and makes their way out into space where the shuttle is spinning wildly out of control with a fiery cloud of sorts looming right beside it. There are some moments here when it’s evident that the visuals aren’t finished, but there are a couple of framing choices that are stunning regardless, a favorite of which is an overhead shot of the X-Jet flying steady on the left side of the screen while the shuttle spins in circles on the right.

Charles communicates with NASA using Cerebro and he confidently assures them that there’s no need to worry; help is on the way. It’s a beat that may seem insignificant at first, but similar to the conversation between Jean and Mystique, this moment winds up enhancing another scene a little later on in the footage.

Back in space, the action set piece begins. Mystique takes charge, dispatching each of the X-Men as needed. Cyclops uses his optic blast to stop the shuttle from spinning. Once that’s taken care of, Nightcrawler can see through a window so he transports himself over to the shuttle with Quicksilver to quickly collect all the astronauts and get them back to the X-Jet safely. At this point this will probably come as no surprise, but yet again, Quicksilver’s ability is especially cinematic. And so is Nightcrawler’s in this instance for that matter.

All is going well aside from one issue – the shuttle commander is missing. Even though the heat signature is rising and Mystique insists it’s time to turn back, Charles demands that no man is to be left behind and that Jean can hold the shuttle together. He asks Jean how she feels about it but not before putting a little extra pressure on by telling her, “You know you can do anything you set your mind to.” At that point, what choice does she have? You’re well aware of the risk but also know she won’t say no and, sure enough, she doesn’t.

Nightcrawler teleports back over with Jean so that she can keep the shuttle from disintegrating while he tracks down the commander. Nightcrawler is successful, but Jean doesn’t get out in time and is completely consumed by that fiery cloud. The pain is visceral; you can see it on Turner’s face. But Nightcrawler manages to teleport out into space and bring her back into the X-Jet. Eventually she wakes up, but it’s abundantly clear that something isn’t right. And that remains true even when they arrive back on solid ground and are greeted by a grateful crowd of admirers.

Back at the mansion Mystique basically says as much. Jean shouldn’t have survived that encounter. That’s when Charles reveals what really motivated his risky decision – another wrinkle to the situation that adds some very interesting dramatic conflict and completely changes how you view that initial assurance to NASA that the X-Men will save the day. Yes, Charles’ ego likes medals and attention but it’s not just that. He also likes not being hunted and despised. This is all about keeping mutants safe. They’re only ever one bad day away from humans starting to see the mutants as the enemy again. Mystique calls into question the fact that Charles is basically risking their people to stay safe and that’s it; Charles says that’s really his intention. That’s when we get Mystique’s mic drop moment, a line that highlights why Lawrence can be a stand out and bring even more to the words on a page. She tells Charles, “It’s funny, I can’t actually remember the last time you were the one risking something. And by the way, the women are always saving the men around here. You might want to think about changing the name to X-Women.”

If this is the inciting incident of Dark Phoenix, the rest of the film is absolutely brimming with potential. As Kinberg, producer Hutch Parker, Turner and Sheridan described during the Q&A, this is a movie that has the thrill of seeing a beloved group of characters come together, but it’s also a deeply intimate character story, covering the deconstruction of Jean Grey, and I felt that in these 13 minutes. Between Turner’s performance and the rift that’s clearly starting to form within the X-Men leadership, you really do feel the weight of what’s at stake for the team and also for Jean. And when it comes to Jean in particular, it’s borderline heartbreaking. 

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