X-Men: Dark Phoenix will introduce the Shi’ar Empire; Jessica Chastain to play Empress Lilandra

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After the meh-fest that was X-Men: Apocalypse, my fervour for the X-Men movies experienced quite the wane. Offshoots like Deadpool and the upcoming X-Force certainly have my attention, but when it comes to the main franchise movies, I had x-ited the building. Sure the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix would be adapting one of the best X-Men comic book stories of all time, but it would also be helmed by writer/producer Simon Kinberg who has never directed a thing in his life.

This, and the resultant franchise apathy, are the only reasons I can think of as to how I missed the reports from three weeks ago that Jessica Chastain is in talks to join X-Men: Dark Phoenix as the film’s villain, Empress Lilandra Neramani of the Shi’ar Empire.

And just like that, with two simple words – one of them not even being a real one – I suddenly find myself frothing with X-citement all over again. Yes, the X-Men movies are finally going cosmic and bringing in the Shi’ar Empire!

For the uninformed, the Shi’ar are a race of humanoid aliens of avian descent (they boast feathers on their head instead of hair) who rule one of the largest and most powerful galactic empires in the Marvel comic book galaxy. In the comics, they are also the protectors of the M’Kraan Crystal, a mysterious immensely powerful artefact that acts as the nexus between all realities that ever was, is and will be. The M’Kraan is very closely linked to the Phoenix Force, a powerful entity that is the embodiment of the universal power of life and creation, but which in the wrong hands can destroy galaxies.

During writer Chris Claremont’s legendary 1980 Dark Phoenix Saga storyline, the Phoenix Force possessed telepathic mutant Jean Grey who used its vast powers to repair the M’Kraan Crystal after it was damaged. However, due to the manipulations of the villainous Mastermind, Jean Grey’s mental barriers broke down and a twisted version of the Phoenix Force took control, becoming known as the Dark Phoenix and setting off on a path of destruction.

During the Dark Phoenix’s rampage, she comes into conflict with the Shi’ar after she completely wipes out a star system in their empire. This would be the first of many of such engagements, as the Shi’ar believed that no one being should ever control such vast amounts of power. Empress Lilandra would try to stop the Phoenix bearer – with lethal intent – many more times over the years. This task was often the duty of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, a group of super-powered alien warriors led by the immensely powerful, mohawk-sporting Guardian.

It is unclear if X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be introducing the Imperial Guard, but not doing so while bringing in the Shi’ar and Lilandra would make no sense. It’s also been noted that Simon Kinberg will apparently be hewing very close to Claremont’s original story, way more so than the deservingly maligned (and now luckily retconned out of continuity) X-Men: The Last Stand did back in 2006.

Chastain is an incredibly talented dramatic actress and she even showed off in the otherwise rather lacklustre Huntsman: Winter’s War that she can handle herself decently enough as an action heroine. My main source of renewed excitement here though doesn’t come from her potential casting as Lelandra but rather from the X-Men franchise finally going cosmic. I’ve always been a gigantic fan of the X-Men’s outer-space comic book adventures, but more than this, it will mean we can finally stop rehashing the very same character and story beats about equality and fitting in that all the previous movies have been doing ad nauseum.

I was hoping that X-Men: Dark Phoenix would completely ditch the Xavier/Magneto/Mystique three-way that’s been at the center of all the most recent movies, but it seems that respective actors James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence have been confirmed to be returning after their contracts had previously ended. Hopefully, they will merely be acting as mentors and not headlining, and the bulk of the work will go to the exciting new young cast led by Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner, who will reprise her role from X-Men: Apocalypse as the young Jean Grey. Also joining her again will be Ty Sheridan as Scott Summers aka Cyclops, Peter Evans as Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler, Alexandra Shipp as Ororo aka Storm, and Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy aka Beast.

Production on X-Men: Dark Phoenix got underway just over two weeks ago, and it is currently scheduled for release on November 2, 2018.

Last Updated: July 13, 2017

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions – but very little sleep – I’ve been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

  • Original Heretic

    Yes! Farking finally! You cannot do Phoenix properly without doing the Shi’ar.
    Now all they gotta do is bring in Rogue. Properly. Let’s get some Rogue vs Guardian action!

  • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

    This could actually be the best X-men movie since the early 00s. Now if only someone at Fox had some balls and threw in Gambit for some pure awesomeness.

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