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The biggest unanswered questions in Dark Phoenix

The legend of the phoenix states that when the mythical bird dies, it bursts into flames and is then reborn in the ashes. And that's exactly what's about to happen with the X-Men franchise: after 19 years at Fox, the X-Men characters have been reacquired by Disney and Marvel Studios. A glorious rebirth as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe awaits the X-Men — but first, the old X-Men franchise has to self-immolate and die. 

Welcome to Dark Phoenix!

Yes, the X-Men are back, dipping into the comic book mythology to tell the classic Dark Phoenix story for the second time, after it was already adapted for the 2006 franchise nadir X-Men: The Last Stand. And this time around, they've definitely made… a movie. A real, big ol' movie that has left us with a lot of unanswered questions that we may never get the answers to thanks to the Disney-Fox merger. Still, we have to ask, so here's a spoiler-filled look at the biggest unanswered questions in Dark Phoenix

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Didn't Jean already have the Phoenix Force?

At the beginning of Dark Phoenix, the X-men go on a rescue mission in space to save some stranded astronauts whose shuttle has been knocked out by a mysterious "solar flare." That flare, of course, turns out to be the cosmic power known as the Phoenix Force. In order to save her friends, Jean absorbs the power — or it seeks her out, or something — and thus, the Dark Phoenix is born.

But that raises a big question: didn't Jean already have the Phoenix Force?

Yeah, remember the end of X-Men: Apocalypse? The X-Men have all been defeated by Apocalypse, who is about to conquer earth. But then Jean unleashes the latent superforce inside her, which Xavier has been helping her keep in check. She rises up in a distinctly Phoenix-shaped fire and completely obliterates the all-powerful Apocalypse in about two seconds. 

It was very strongly implied that Jean was manifesting the Phoenix Force. In fact, it's the only explanation that makes sense. But that film was set in 1983, a full nine years before Dark Phoenix. So if she didn't get the Phoenix Force until now… what the heck was that about?

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What happened to the rest of the mutants?

At the climax of the film, the U.S. government decides to crack down on mutants. The TV reports that mutant containment facilities are being set up, and a military unit attacks the X-Men, subdues them, and sends them all on a train to this mutant prison. of course, the X-Men escape and save the world. And then.. that's it. Everything is back to normal at the school.

Of course, the TV report did say the camps were only for mutants considered a threat, so maybe the X-Men were taken off the list? but what happened to, you know, all the rest of the mutants in America? Are they still being held in detainment camps? Did the government rescind their order for some reason? And what about all the random mutants at Magneto's island haven? Magneto apparently abandoned them for a European vacation, but given their association with the world's most famous mutant terrorist, it's reasonable to think they were in some serious trouble. 

So what happened to all the mutants not at the X-Mansion? Out of sight, out of mind, apparently. 

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What the hell happened to the timeline?

Hey guys, remember X-Men: Days of Future Past? In that film, the future turned to hot poop, so the cast from the original X-Men trilogy sent Hugh Jackman into the prequel trilogy to create a new timeline where the future was nice, and where Jean Grey survived becoming Dark Phoenix in X-Men: Last Stand. Well, that change also altered the prequel timeline to the point where not only are these films no longer prequels, time doesn't even seem to exist in them any more.

Remember that X-Men: First Class was set way back in 1963. That means that characters like Magneto, Xavier, and Mystique should all be in their 50s or early 60s by the time Dark Phoenix comes around in 1992. And yet, you know, they very clearly aren't. Even characters that first appeared in Apocalypse, like Cyclops and Jean Grey, don't seem to have aged a day in the last nine years of continuity. 

Between the original X-Men films, these not-actually-prequels, whatever Days of Future Past was, and Logan, there seem to be four distinct X-Men timelines. So congrats! The movies are finally as confusing as the comics. 

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What happened to the rest of the aliens?

A lot has been written about the end of Dark Phoenix, which reportedly was totally changed at the last minute because the original ending was way too similar to Captain Marvel. And the haste shows, because the big battle on the train leaves a lot of questions, the main one being: what happened to all the other aliens?

So, these aliens seem really, really tough. They are routinely blasted with machine guns, lightning, and other superpowers without so much as flinching. Over the course of the train fight, a dozen or more are knocked off the train one way or another; heck, Cyclops seemed to have blasted that many off the train by himself.

Given how tough they are, it seems likely that most of those aliens survived a simple fall. Sure, Jean killed four or five of them at the end. But… what happened to the rest of them? Are they still on Earth? Did they get back on their missing spaceship and fly away? And oh, yeah, why is nobody at all surprised by the revelation that there are ALIENS? Shouldn't somebody care about this fact considering it fundamentally alters our understanding of reality itself?

Guess we'll never know!

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Did Quicksilver ever talk to Magneto?

Speaking of Days of Future Past, that film introduced the world to fan favorite Quicksilver. And it also set up Quicksilver's big secret: he's actually Magneto's son, something even Magneto himself doesn't know. 

This subplot, which is essentially Quicksilver's only character development in the entire series, was followed up in X-Men: Apocalypse, when Quicksilver finally met Magneto but couldn't quite bring himself to tell Magneto the truth, leading to an awkward scene when you just wanted to shout at the screen "tell him!"

And it also leads to a big question for Dark Phoenix: did they ever have that dang talk?

Unfortunately, we don't know, because Quicksilver is written out of the film less than halfway through it and doesn't show up again until a brief cameo at the end. Magneto, meanwhile, was off on his tour of European breakfast joints. And since this is likely the last time we'll see these versions of the characters, it seems we'll never find out whether they ever got closure. One thing is certain, though: the viewers definitely didn't.

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Why?

After the final credits roll on Dark Phoenix, the first question many X-Men fans have is: why? Why was this movie made?

That's not a knock on any of the film's stars, or even commentary about the quality of the film itself. But the fact is that Fox already took the Dark Phoenix storyline from the comics and made into a film once before with 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand

Until now, everyone considered that to be the worst X-Men film ever, which makes us wonder why Fox would want to go there again. Maybe they wanted to do the story better, but Dark Phoenix has a far worse Rotten Tomatoes score than even X-Men: The Last Stand, they don't seem to have succeeded. And considering there are six decades worth of great X-Men stories from the comics they could have adapted instead, why did they choose to revisit a total dud?

The fact is that there are so many superhero films in theaters these days that fans want and need to see something new. Why they didn't get it is a question we may never get an answer to. 

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Now what?

Finally, the biggest unanswered question of them all is simply: now what?

Technically, there's still one more X-Men film coming from Fox — the horror-tinged spinoff New Mutants, which has been delayed and pushed back on the schedule repeatedly, and which is currently set to debut on April 3, 2020.

After that, though, it's just a matter of time before Marvel does something with the X-Men. What and how they are going to bring the X-Men into the MCU is a real question, though. Thanks to their deal with Fox, the whole concept of mutants wasn't even allowed to be mentioned by Marvel, as Fox had the film rights to the idea. So it would be pretty jarring if there were suddenly a bunch of mutants running around in the MCU that had never been mentioned before. 

And it's also likely that Marvel will want to completely recast the characters, meaning fans might be meeting their third Jean Gray and their third Storm in as many decades. It's a big ask for the audience, though Marvel proved with Tom Holland and Spider-Man that they can make it work.  

The ashes are here. We're just waiting to see how the resurrection goes.