Superhero movies are everywhere, but there was a time when the genre seemed like a serious gamble for studios. Before shared universes became commonplace, 20th Century Fox (RIP) brought X-Men to theaters back in 2000. The property hasn't been far from theaters in the nearly two decades since, although it will all come to an end with Dark Phoenix.
Dark Phoenix is the franchise's final run in theaters, and the second attempt at adapting the titular comic book story. On the page, the Hellfire Club is an integral part of the plot, manipulating Jean and the dark power that lives inside her. But they won't be in the upcoming blockbuster, and director/writer Simon Kinberg explained this choice, saying:
I think if I had four hours to tell this story I would've included the Hellfire Club, I might've included Lilandra. Because I wanted it to be so focused on Jean and I wanted to really tell a character story a little differently than we have in the past in the X-Men. In the past it's been a little more horizontal, meaning there was a breadth of character, there was a bunch of characters. In this one I wanted to go a little more vertical, I wanted to go deep with our main characters, and especially with Jean.
Simon Kinberg has been a long-time producer in the X-Men franchise, so he clearly knows the mutants and their adversaries very well. And while he may have liked to include the Hellfire Club and cosmic character Lilandra in Dark Phoenix, the full story is simply too dense for one movie. Instead, he pivoted his focus onto the psyche of Sophie Turner's Jean Grey, giving the title character the chance to carry the movie.
From the looks of Dark Phoenix's trailers, Sansa Stark is going to be given the true focus of the movie, with Sophie Turner getting the chance to show off a different side of her acting abilities. This should hopefully streamline the narrative, while also allowing the other mutants to split in their allegiances in the wake of Jean's dark power. Even if that means comic book characters ended up on the cutting room floor.
So while I loved the Hellfire characters and their role in the Dark Phoenix saga in the comics, and I loved the Lilandra storyline in the comics, all of those felt like they were going to start to compete with the main story of Jean and her emotional crack-up and the break-up of the X-Men family. And I didn't want to draw away from that main emotional through-line.
Simon Kinberg may be making his directorial debut with Dark Phoenix, but he's been working on the franchise since the very beginning. As such, he's seen all the peaks and valleys of the X-Men movies over the years. This no doubt helped his creative process with the upcoming blockbuster, as well as his decision to exclude certain comic book characters.
Members of the Hellfire Club have already appeared in an earlier installment in the franchise, so adding them to Dark Phoenix would make the timeline a bit more confusing and convoluted. Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost were antagonists in X-Men: First Class, and that's a timeline that is still being utilized in Dark Phoenix. The characters have a relationship with the Hellfire Club, especially Professor X, Mystique, and Magneto.
While Lilandra hasn't been adapted to live-action, there were many thought that Jessica Chastain would be playing the character in Dark Phoenix. Chastain's role still hasn't been revealed, although the trailers show her manipulating Jean to give into her new dark persona. Only time will tell who she ends up playing, and how similar to Lilandra the character ends up being.
All will be revealed when Dark Phoenix arrives in theaters on June 7th. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.