Big news, X-Men fans: According to new reports, Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain is in talks to star in the franchise’s latest installment, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, as Empress Lilandra, the film’s quintessential villain.
For those unfamiliar with this character’s storyline, Lilandra is the monarch of an alien empire known as the Shi’ar. After discovering the Dark Phoenix’s powers and the threat she poses to the galaxy, Lilandra leads an army in a hunt for the Dark Phoenix, who has possessed Jean Grey. In the pursuit she encounters the X-Men. Another juicy tid-bit: Lilandra and Professor X share a romantic past that they’ll surely explore in the film.
Chastain’s casting rumors follows reports that the studio has successfully renewed deals with Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult to reprise their roles following expired three-picture deals. This is all wildly promising when you consider the dumpster fire that was The Last Stand, the franchise’s first (and feeble) attempt at tackling the Dark Phoenix narrative. (The film didn’t feature Lilandra whatsoever.) Fans and critics were hugely disappointed by the 2006 popcorn flick, so the pressure for filmmakers to redeem themselves is at an all-time high.
Things are so far looking good. For one, Simon Kinberg has been appointed director. Kinberg has overseen the franchise ever since the failure of The Last Stand nearly ended talks of any future X-Men iterations. While he did have a hand in the worst film in the franchise, Kinberg, who produced two of Marvel’s best-reviewed films, Deadpool and Logan, has since played a monumental role in reviving the franchise. That came in the form of erasing The Last Stand altogether via introducing time travel in Days of Future Past. Subsequent X-Men films have fared better, despite last year’s Apocalypse having been deemed a critical miss.
For those who still don’t understand the plot of Dark Phoenix the first time around (because how could you?), it tells the turbulent tale of Jean Grey, who will be played by Game of Thrones’s Sophie Turner. The Phoenix causes Grey to lose her sense of self, causing her telepathic powers to go crazy. Eventually, it becomes too much for the young mutant to bear, and Grey becomes a major threat to human and mutantkind.
But back to Lilandra. Is Chastain right for the role? Sure, she’s a big name with a slew of hardware under her belt, but Halle Berry’s lackluster performance as Storm served as proof that star power doesn’t always translate to an exciting depiction. In fact, most fans agree that Storm was criminally miscast.
Casting Chastain, however, seems smart. Her role in Zero Dark Thirty as a CIA analyst proves she that she has a strong, formidable screen presence, which Lilandra needs. Additionally, it’s always fun to watch an accomplished actor take on a role that’s somewhat campy, and aside from The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Chastain has yet to display her skills as a formidable action star. If it worked for Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson, who similarly transitioned from critical darlings into action stars, it should definitely work for Chastain. We’re betting that Chastain will put in the time to make Lilandra as impactful, if not better, than Fassbender’s Magneto.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix hits theaters November 2018.