If you were surprised to see the new trailer for Dark Phoenix seemed to give away the death of a major character, be prepared to be blown away. Writer-director Simon Kinberg sat down for a chat with the folks at EW and he didn’t just confirm the massive spoiler, he did a full-on deep dive into the thought process behind the shocking death.
In what is easily one of the strangest, least secretive pre-release interviews I’ve ever seen, Kinberg gives a full explainer on why he decided to kill Mystique; the franchise mainstay character originated by Rebecca Romijn and currently played by Jennifer Lawrence. It’s a wild swing against traditional pre-release interviews, which are usually built around the spoiler-phobic mystery box approach. To the contrary, Kinberg digs right in.
“Well, the thought process behind that was to primarily show that this is a movie that is unlike other X-Men movies. 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.”
The filmmaker continued, shedding some light on the experience of saying goodbye to one of the franchise’s biggest stars, and why he decided Mystique would make for the perfect character death to advance the plot.
“I had a lot of emotions about it. 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. 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.”
The death itself, as its teased in the trailer, also looks mighty familiar to X-Men fans. Staged on the street outside of her childhood home, the scene sees Jean lose control and kills one of her own… which is exactly how Professor X (Patrick Stewart) died in X-Men: The Last Stand (which Kinberg also wrote). According to Kinberg, he was aware of the similarities but they weren’t intended as a throwback.
“I was conscious of it. There’s scenes of her going home in the comics. That’s a big part of it, and then the other big part of it is what you said: 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.” But it’s certainly not meant to be an homage, and it’s very very different sequence.”