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Dark Phoenix: Director Simon Kinberg Talks New Trailer, Major Character Death

Contains spoilers for Dark Phoenix

In releasing the newest trailer for Dark Phoenix, the forthcoming X-Men franchise film believed to be the final one in the series before it moves to Marvel Studios, 20th Century Fox ripped a rug from under our feet. Within the first 30 seconds of the fresh footage, audiences learned that – spoiler alert — Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) kills her fellow X-Men member Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). 

Chatter about Mystique's imminent death in Dark Phoenix swirled around the internet and through social media platforms for months leading up to the new trailer drop, but it wasn't until Wednesday evening that it was confirmed. The twist took some by surprise and even affected those who had been preparing themselves to see Jean murder Mystique in a fit of rage after her Dark Phoenix alter-ego rears its vicious head. One question on all X-Men fans' minds after witnessing Mystique's death at the hands of Jean is a simple one: Why was it included in the trailer and not saved for the film?

Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg has since revealed the answer to Entertainment Weekly. Speaking with the outlet shortly after the trailer was released, Kinberg explained that he wanted to do something that would reflect the shocking and intense nature of the film. 

"Well, the thought process behind that was to primarily show that this is a movie that is unlike other X-Men movies," said Kinberg when asked what made him want to reveal the Mystique twist in the second Dark Phoenix trailer. "It's a movie where shocking things happen, where intense, dramatic things happen. People don't just fall off buildings and dust themselves off and walk away. There's a reality to this movie and a consequence to this movie. Even more than that, it was to show that Jean/Dark Phoenix is genuinely a threat to everyone, including the X-Men."

Kinberg added that he had "a lot of emotions" about killing off Mystique, but he knew that the decision was one he had to make for the greater good of Dark Phoenix, to raise the stakes of the story, and to make the film as personal for the X-Men crew as possible. 

"I was obviously sad about it, as Jen's friend, and also as a fan of Jen as an actress. But I felt it was the strongest, most dramatic thing for the movie, and sometimes you have to make those kinds of hard decisions to service the larger story. And the larger story really is Jean cracking up, losing control because she's more powerful than anyone else in the world," the director explained. "To dramatize that properly, you have to show real loss, you have to show real pain and show real threat and menace. I didn't want to do that by her blowing up a building with anonymous people in it. It had to feel really personal for the X-Men, and I wanted it to be something that would fracture the X-Men as well. Mystique is someone who in our universe has been part of the X-Men and has been part of Magneto's world. Her death impacts literally everybody."

Keeping Mystique's death a secret from the outside world "was a challenge," Kinberg admitted, especially since the Dark Phoenix crew shot that sequence (which takes place in Jean's childhood neighborhood) during the day. 

He also noted that Mystique isn't the only character who perishes in Dark Phoenix. "There are certainly other major casualties in this," said Kinberg, adding that a major part of Jean killing Mystique is the emotion she experiences when returning home. The telekinetic mutant has a history of lashing out in deadly ways after she heads back home, as Famke Janssen's version of the character killed Patrick Stewart's iteration of Professor X in X-Men: The Last Stand. That said, Kinberg made it clear that Mystique's death in Dark Phoenix will stand separate from Professor X's in the third X-Men movie. 

"Going home elicits so much raw emotion from a character. When I was writing, I wasn't conscious of it, to be honest with you. As I started editing it and you go from being purely creative to being a little more objective after you finish a draft, I was like, 'Oh yeah, this is something from X3,'" said Kinberg. "But it's certainly not meant to be an homage, and it's very, very different sequence."

After Jean murders Mystique, the fabric that holds the X-Men family together begins to rip apart, with some attempting to save Jean and others wanting to take an eye for an eye and kill her as punishment for what she did to Mystique. 

"Mystique's death is the thing that fractures the family of the X-Men, including Magneto [Michael Fassbender], and sets people who were friends on opposite sides, and people who were enemies become allies," Kinberg explained. "For me, if there's a metaphor for the film, it's like if someone in your life or your family starts to lose control, whether that be because of drugs or mental health issues or more minor things, the question is: At one point do you give up on them? And how long do you hold out hope for them?"

Kinberg couldn't confirm one way or the other whether Dark Phoenix is the final X-Men movie to be released before Disney acquires Fox, though he did share that he envisioned Dark Phoenix as the culmination of the franchise "long before" the Disney-Fox merger was announced. 

"What's interesting is obviously I started this movie long before Disney purchased Fox, and I approached the movie knowing that it was the fourth movie with our First Class cast and that the Phoenix story for me is the ultimate X-Men story. I approached the movie like it was the culmination in some ways — not that there couldn't be other movies, but I did approach the movie as if, like, if you spent 20 years of living with this family, this is the movie you see the family truly tested, fall apart, and hopefully come back together. There was something about that sense of closure for the family, that sense of test, that sense of loss. It felt like not this is the end necessarily, but this is it for them," stated Kinberg. "It is the climax of this franchise ... this is the climax of a lot of stories and a long relationship that we've all built up."

He noted that Dark Phoenix was his chance to offer the characters and their actors a "huge explosive story that demanded a different kind of resilience from them," and that he can't "imagine where else to go with these characters after what they've gone through in this movie."

It seems evident based on Kinberg's comments here that there's quite a bit more to Dark Phoenix than what was shown in the latest trailer. Sure, it did reveal a major character death, but like the director affirmed, others are set to face a similar fate as Mystique. There's also a lot of in-fighting happening amongst the X-Men — plus a shape-shifting alien (played by Jessica Chastain) who's manipulating Jean that viewers will have to suss out and size up in Dark Phoenix

As Kinberg revealed, "She definitely is mentally as strong as Jean. Jean cannot read her mind. Like you see in the trailer, she can manipulate others minds so that they see things that she wants them to see. But she has a whole suite of powers that we explore in the movie; some of them are mental and some of them are physical. There's a whole sequence where she basically takes apart the X-Men."

Whether or not Dark Phoenix does wrap up Fox's X-Men movies pre-merger with Disney, the film seems poised to pack a punch — and the final product could very well end up making up for those arduous reshoot sessions and multiple delays. 

Also starring James McAvoy as Professor X, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, Alexandra Shipp as Storm, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, and Evan Peters as Quicksilver, Dark Phoenix will open in theaters on June 7.