SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains SPOILERS for X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Procced at your own risk.
According to X-Men stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, the ending of Dark Phoenix went through extensive changes because of similarities to an unnamed Marvel Cinematic Universe film.
That film, in case you’re wondering, is probably Captain Marvel, which hit screens in March of this year ahead of Dark Phoenix’s June release date. Dark Phoenix had originally been slated for a March 2018 release.
Magneto actor, Fassbender, meanwhile, said that “spies” on set “basically stole our ideas”, with McAvoy revealing that they were “trawling through the same source material, it seems.”
With Disney having acquired the rights to the X-Men via their Fox buyout, the Dark Phoenix team were clearly in no position to argue. However, Jean Grey actor Sophie Turner, whose character is front and centre of Dark Phoenix, also told Yahoo that the film is better for the reshoots. With that in mind, we asked producer Hutch Parker to talk through what their intentions were behind the film’s coda. He obliged.
After the film’s climactic final battle sequence, we see Hank having taken over the X-school, followed by a final scene set in Paris in which a retired Charles Xavier is sitting outside at a café. He’s joined by Erik, who is carrying a chess board. Erik invites Charles to a game, and offers to save his life.
“Just one game, for old times’ sake,” says Erik, as Charles picks the white pawn in Erik’s closed fist. “I’ll go easy on you.”
“No, you won’t,” responds Charles. The camera moves upwards, and in the distance, we see a flaming phoenix shape in the sky.
“We had different iterations,” says Parker. “After the climax of the action sequence as Jean really becomes full Phoenix, we found ourselves feeling we need a way to check back in with the world. And so that sequence is actually something we came up with later in the process, where we go to the school and we see what’s happening there — the fact that clearly Hank has taken over that [Professor X] role — and similarly it felt important, and poetic, to come back to Charles and Erik and to see the latest iteration of what that [relationship] might be. And we love the idea that – and I think this is something that Michael and James really responded to – the notion that Erik might extend a hand in the same way that Charles had extended one to him.”
So much of the X-Men series has been about the fractious, complex and sometimes heartbreaking relationship between these two giants of the franchise, so it makes sense to have this concluding chapter end with a look at the two of them essentially having come full circle.
“It felt like a beautiful postscript on their relationship and a kind of marker about the fact that whatever path flowed from this, it was going to be in a very different configuration,” says Parker, leaving the way open for Marvel Studios to swoop in and do what they will with the characters now they have control.
“It just felt like the right way to resolve [the story] after such a heavy series of losses,” continues Parker. “And even as there’s something triumphant in [Jean’s] evolution [as the Phoenix], we wanted you to feel like maybe she’s still out there, but the Jean as you knew her is gone. So it was important to bring it home, I think.”
Post-Credits Scenes are “Cheap”
These final moments could almost be a post-credits sequence. But not only does Parker reveal that they intentionally avoided a post-credits scene, but he also admits that he doesn’t much like them.
“We made a decision that given the seriousness of the ending, and what we hoped would be the emotionality of the ending, that we wouldn’t do one,” explains Parker. “Because for me, as much as I know it can be fun in the right context — it can be a great last little gasp — there’s also something kind of trite about them. It feels like a cheap way to hook the audience in to [the next chapter] — almost out of the television tradition — and we’re telling a pretty heavy story, we’re doing it in a very real and gritty way, we’re asking people to really feel the consequences of what Jean is doing. And we wanted the audience to really stay in the resolution of the story and not just click off into some quippy, funny, mysterious other piece. So, at the risk of breaking tradition, we felt like it was more important to honour the story we told, the work we were doing, than tease something new.”
Dark Phoenix hits screens in the UK on June 5, Australia on June 6 and the US on June 7.