This Phoenix has risen… again. On Nov. 2, 2018, Dark Phoenix will arrive in theaters and finally deliver the storyline X-Men fans have wanted for years. Simon Kinberg previously attempted to tell the iconic Jean Grey tale — about the telepath’s battle with demons in her own mind — with his screenplay for 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, but studio pressure squeezed her story into a reductive subplot. Kinberg, making his directorial debut, felt in his gut that this was the story that he needed to tell once Bryan Singer, who directed the previous two sequels, stepped aside. “[The film] was so clear in my head, emotionally and visually, that it would have killed me to hand this to somebody else to direct,” Kinberg says.
Set in 1992, about 10 years after the events of last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix opens with the X-Men, including Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and Quicksilver (Evan Peters), in a new, unexpected role: national heroes. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) even lands on the cover of Time magazine. But his growing ego puts the team at risk. “Pride is starting to get the better of him, and he is pushing the X-Men to more extreme missions,” Kinberg says. After they’re dispatched to space for a rescue mission, a solar flare hits the X-Jet and the surge of energy ignites a malevolent, power-hungry new force within Jean (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner)— the Phoenix.
DARK PHOENIX GALLERY: Your First Look at 2018’s incendiary X-Men movie
Based partially on Chris Claremont’s comic, Phoenix will feature some of the series’ biggest set pieces to date, including the X-Men’s first trip to outer space. It’s also the most sinister, and somber, chapter in the saga and includes a massive twist halfway through that will irrevocably change the course of the franchise. “This is probably the most emotional X-Men we’ve done and the most pathos-driven,” McAvoy says. “There’s a lot of sacrifice and a lot of suffering.” The movie becomes a fight for Jean’s soul as Phoenix threatens to overtake her mind and divide the X-Men, particularly Jean and her mentor, Charles. “It’s about the butterfly effect of this thing happening,” says Turner, who studied schizophrenia and multiple personality disorders to prepare. “What happens when the person you love the most falls into darkness?”
All involved with the production of Phoenix last summer in Montreal wouldn’t know the answer as the experience on set was actually calm, an adjective not usually applicable to X-Men shoots. Ellen Page recently accused Last Stand director Brett Ratner of homophobic and abusive behavior on the set of that film. (Ratner’s lawyer did not respond to EW’s request for comment.) Singer faced sexual assault allegations in 2014. Those charges — which Singer called “outrageous, vicious, and completely false” — did not stem from anything on an X-Men production, but his sets do have a reputation for drama. (On Dec. 4, Fox dismissed him in the middle of directing Bohemian Rhapsody, and though he’s credited as a producer on Phoenix, he has not been directly involved with the film.) “I had heard stories of these sets,” admits Jessica Chastain, who plays an otherworldly shapeshifter who comes into contact with Phoenix. “But working with Simon and Hutch and Sophie was the most loving, strong, happy set.” Adds Lawrence: “It was unrecognizable. Everything was on time. Everything was organized. These movies have always been fun amidst chaos, and now they were fun with no chaos.”
Besides Dark Phoenix, EW’s First Look Issue has exclusive details on all of 2018’s biggest projects, including Ocean’s 8, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and The Incredibles 2.