X-Men’s The Phoenix Saga only really works in a serialized format. This is why the X-movies have done such a poor job with it and why even after rebooting the damned series, they’re still going to do a bad job of it. Nonetheless, it is an iconic storyline in the comic books, and therefore, must be done in the movies by law of middling, unambitious storytelling, something that defines the X-movies.
For the uninitiated, The Phoenix Saga involves Marvel Girl making a sacrifice to save the X-Men, then being reborn as a more powerful version of herself. As she slowly becomes more powerful, able to use her telekinetic powers to rearrange matter on molecular level, she eventually falls under the sway of The Hellfire Club (a group of evil mutants) and becomes bad. The story eventually ends with aliens showing up to destroy Marvel Girl for being deemed to powerful to allow to exist. There’s a big battle. She destroys a sun and an inhabited world (not ours), and eventually dies tragically. It is a defining story for the X-men, but it only works properly with time to develop.
There are problems with the narrative from a movie perspective. In the comic books, the X-Men live in the official Marvel universe, meaning that besides mutants, they also live in a world of magic and aliens and near infinite possibilities. The movies don’t want to go there, and while the Marvel Cinematic Universe has managed to create that sort of anything-goes universe over time, the X-movies, being extremely unambitious, aren’t interested in anything like that.
But ambition is what defines The Phoenix Saga. It’s a slow burn, unfolding over time. It involves multiple players, multiple villains who have nothing to do with one another. It is a story meant to be told over time with the stakes rising one small step at a time. It isn’t a great story for a movie, and it isn’t a great story for an X-movie based on what we’ve gotten so far.
Let’s face it. The X-Movies don’t really give a damn about the source material. Heck, they don’t even give a damn about themselves. While I think far too many fans get worked up about minor continuity quibbles here and there, the X-Movies can’t even keep track of their continuity from movie to movie. Characters don’t age appropriately (which is weird when you decide to make movies that are set 10 years apart). Motivations are muddled. Aside from a handful of characters, most others just show up to wave to the camera for a brief moment before disappearing. The X-Movies aren’t good films. They are adequate films, and that’s being charitable to many of them.
And that is why The Phoenix Saga shouldn’t even be attempted, but it’s why it will be.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,