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Tuesday, June 11, 2019 

X-Men movie franchise may have gone downhill, but this Federalist writer's description of Jean Grey is atrocious

The latest X-Men movie, Dark Phoenix, may be a new live action take on the Phoenix storyline from 1979-80, and may be as horrible as various critics have claimed it is, but I find the way this Federalist writer approaches the material irritating, and it misses some of the elements that were established back in the day. First though, let us comment upon this paragraph here, which says that:
Every fan frustrated by the botched continuity and inconsistent quality of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise should be delighted that any future films featuring the characters will be produced under the Marvel Studios banner, now that Disney owns Fox.
Umm, maybe not, if the artistic failure of Captain Marvel says anything. There's already been strong hints the Marvel movie franchise will be shifting to SJW themes, and that's why for some, Avengers: Endgame may be the last they'll go for. Now, here's the contentious point of the review:
Isn’t Jean Supposed to Be a Killer?

In the comics, founding X-Men member Jean (played here with morose disinterest by “Game of Thrones” star Sophie Turner) kills five billion aliens by causing their sun to supernova when she uses it to re-charge her Phoenix powers. The tragedy of the tale is that Jean, even if under the influence of uncontrollable urges, really is responsible for the act. What she has done attracts the attention of no less than three alien empires that jointly put her on trial for genocide, resulting in a huge trial-by-combat between all of the X-Men and a host of alien heroes that takes place on the moon.

The movie throws all of that away except the name of the murdered alien race (the D’Bari). Ruining the impact of Jean killing everyone on a planet, the movie blames its destruction on a fiery space-blob bizarrely referred to as a solar flare. A handful of D’Bari survivors (huh?) have followed it to our neck of the galaxy, hoping to harness its energy and resurrect their race. After Jean ends up absorbing the blob’s immense power during a Space Shuttle rescue mission, the D’Bari bunch—led by the coldly albino-looking Vux (Jessica Chastain)—goes after her to extract it.

In other words, the screenplay eliminates the dramatic impact of Jean causing mass murder on a global scale, as well as two incidents of her furiously destroying alien starships. Petulantly crashing some helicopters and wrecking a few police cars onscreen doesn’t exactly compare.
I'm sure the film's as awful as they come, but seriously, why oh why does the guy sound like he wants Jean to be a murderess? Speaking as somebody who's as much a Marvel fan as the next, I don't. To me, the whole idea of turning a character we're meant to admire into a mass killer is disgusting, and I feel the same way about Hal Jordan too, recalling the notorious Emerald Dawn story that began in DC's Green Lantern 14 years after Claremont's decidedly overrated tale. Some may not realize it, but tales like ED were influenced in some way or other by the Phoenix Saga, and that's why, even if Claremont's story has merit on its own terms, it was still a bad influence in the long run.

There's an interesting bit of back story to the whole Dark Phoenix Saga's development from back in the Bronze Age the Federalist writer hasn't mentioned, but could be eyebrow raising for their audience: Claremont and Byrne originally wanted to depict Jean getting off with barely a slap on the wrist for her annihilation of the D'Bari, but then-EIC Jim Shooter's moralist side intervened and insisted she be put to death altogether for the evil deed she shouldn't have been forced into by the writers in the first place. (Update: the Hollywood Reporter's got some more on this.) On which note, let's put aside the questionable idea of shoving a pretty girl into such a loathsome role for a moment and ask: why would you think you're providing real food for thought by making it look like several billion innocent lives don't matter because they're space aliens? Doesn't that risk making it look like all the National Socialists and communists who cost millions of lives in real life are also just "misunderstood" dolts who "didn't mean to"? What kind of morality or logic is that? If Claremont and Byrne had gone through with the original path, the whole "power corrupts" view would definitely be meaningless.

With that told, I can't understand why Shooter had no issue with allowing Jean to be put in such a filthy role in the first place, and didn't at least ask that a new character be introduced to fill the planned spot. Taking established characters and using them for such premises is another idea that's gotten way out of hand today, regardless of whether the developments are in the present.

And this also suggests the writer's not properly familiar with what followed about 5 years after Dark Phoenix, when it turned out it was really a formidable alien life form that took the place of Jean, and the Fantastic Four found the real Jean cocooned on the bottom of the ocean floor. And I guess he never celebrated the idea Jean would be exonerated, and you'd be able to root once again for a character who was meant to be rooted for. I don't think it would be good if Cyclops had been put in a Phoenix-style role either, but what if he had been? Would the writer complain about that in sharp contrast? Shudder. I also decidedly take issue with this:
Complaining that nothing resembling the very unflamboyant outfits worn by the team appeared in print until decades after “Dark Phoenix” was published may sound like nitpicking. Still, no one could argue that Jean’s original skintight bodysuit, bold phoenix chest logo, and saucy low-slung hip sash in the 1970s comics weren’t preferable to these more utilitarian and unisex uniforms. When it comes to vintage Marvel characters, garishly vulgar and distinctively outrageous garb beats looking like a NASCAR pit crew any day.
Seriously? When the character's been turned into a murdering villainess? This may be just personal opinion, but I myself find the idea of depicting evil as sexy disturbing. It'd be a lot better if he'd talk about why hot outfits look far better on heroines than they do on villainesses.

Considering how much hard work Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had to do to conceive Jean Grey and the X-Men in the first place, that's one more reason why I think it was tasteless to turn Jean into a lethal monster. I will admit though, that the way she and Cyclops were reunited at the expense of Madelyne Pryor a year after Jean's return was dismayingly sloppy. Scott just dumps Pryor - who later becomes Goblin Queen before dying - to rejoin with Jean. And Jean wasn't exactly her own agency as a result. At least they exonerated her, and that, IMO, was a positive step.

Since we're on the subject, here's some interesting news on Daily Wire about one of the stars of the new Dark Phoenix movie:
The latest installment of the "X-Men" series, starring "Game of Thrones" star Sophie Turner, who recently made headlines for joining the boycott of Georgia over its "heartbeat bill," is flaming out at the box office, managing a disappointing $33 million in its opening weekend amid ice-cold reviews. In fact, "Dark Phoenix" has earned the unwelcome dual distinction as the worst reviewed film in the X-Men series and the worst-performing in its opening weekend. [...]

As The Daily Wire reported a couple of weeks ago, Turner along with her "Dark Phoenix" co-star Jessica Chastain announced in a recent interview with Sky News that they both signed a letter with dozens of their fellow Hollywood stars pledging to boycott states that enact strict abortion laws, particularly Georgia, the third-largest film production state in the country.

"There's a letter going around that I signed saying I'm not going to work in any state that denies rights for women, for the LGBTQ community, for anyone," Chastain told the outlet. "I'm not going to work in a state that discriminates."

"I signed it too," Turner added. "I have yet to tell my agents I signed it. They're going to be like: 'What? You can't work in these states?' Yeah, I can't work in these states."

When asked about the stringent anti-abortion laws of the primary filming location of "Game of Thrones," Northern Ireland, Turner did not try to defend her decision to film there for years, saying only, "There was a lot of work of 'Game Of Thrones' there, so luckily we're moving on."
It probably had little or nothing to do with the film's failure, but I think this is one more reason I'm not sorry to see this 2nd film adaptation go down in financial flames. The whole story is already one of the cheapest wellsprings any screenwriter could look to for "inspiration", and there's plenty of other, better stories out there in comicdom that would make better source material for a screenplay. The Dark Phoenix Saga is one tale of its sort that's got to be put to bed already.

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Out of curiosity, is English your second language or do you just have problems with syntax and sentence construction?

I agree with you that heroes should generally be heroic, but I have to agree with that articles writer in some points... Unless Jean turns bad, really bad, there is no dark Phoenix story. Reading the comic as a kid, I was shocked and enthralled when she did those things... Things there was no coming back from. Jim Shooter made the right call when he steered the creators toward her death as the resolution of the story. It had real impact, and, for a while, real consequences.

Anon: Well, the guy running this blog did move to Israel when he was very young, so I'm guessing all that time in another country did a number on his old language.

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