If 2016 has taught us anything, when it comes to the world of comic book cinema, bigger is indeed better. If you look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for example, the last eight years have been a tour de force, building to these massive tentpole films (Avengers, Captain America: Civil War), where the seeds that have been sown throughout the smaller movies blossom into grand ol' brawls, with the stakes being raised with each successive battle. DC mimicked this idea, turning Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice into the ultimate fight between two of their biggest heroes while setting the tone for the forthcoming Justice League flick. While Fox is on their ninth movie in the X-Men shared universe (which includes the Wolverine series and the surprise box office hit Deadpool), these films don't necessarily feel like they've created to anything as insanely massive as what Marvel and DC are cultivating. Lucky for them, they have a MAJOR ace up their sleeve.
Warning: 'X-Men: Apocalypse' spoilers ahead.
In X-Men: Apocalypse, Jean Grey envisions a very bleak future, where she sees nothing but death. Of course this goes down around the same time Apocalypse is set to go ham on the entire planet in the name of building a world where only the strong survive. In the ultimate battle, young Jean is the only X-Man powerful enough to take out the big bad Apocalypse. It sounds like a contained story, but it does more than that, giving Marvel Comics fans a glimpse of the true power of The Phoenix, a force that is intertwined in the back story of Jean in the comic books.
The Phoenix Force was introduced in 1976, and was seen as a being that, when fused with a host, had the ability to build—and destroy—entire universes. In the comics, it bonded to Jean Grey by a group called the Hellfire Club in a scheme to manipulate Jean for evil, and ultimately turn her into the Dark Phoenix. Not only did Jean (as the Dark Phoenix) prove to be too powerful and no match for her X-Men teammates, but her enormous appetite caused the death of five billion people in the aftermath of the Phoenix consuming a star. The "Dark Phoenix Saga" took a tragic turn when Jean, realizing that the force was too great, decided to end her life rather than further endanger the entire universe.
As tragic as it was, the “Dark Phoenix Saga” was what helped turn the cult-like appeal of the Uncanny X-Men title into the dynamic, mainstream comic that resonated for decades. The Phoenix (and Jean Grey herself) was brought back numerous times to wreak havoc on the Marvel comics universe, and was actually incorporated into the third film in the first X-Men film trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand. Sadly, Fox totally bricked that integration.
The movie provided no real explanation as to where Jean initially developed the power of the Phoenix (which was seen more as an alternative personality); it was just mutants being mutants. And instead of delving deeper into Jean’s actual struggle (which is odd, given that she’s effectively trying to merk everything and everyone in sight), they focused the story more on Wolverine’s feels for her, and how he ultimately comes to grips with the fact that his regenerative healing factor is the only thing that can enable him to get close enough to off the object of his affection. Or something. No matter how you look at it, one of the most epic storylines in all of comic book history got botched, because Wolverine is that dude.
With the reboot of the X-Men universe on screen, we not only have a newer, younger Jean Grey to deal with, but we have what appears to be an awesome opportunity to reintroduce this Dark Phoenix story properly. While there's no indication that Fox would dedicate a suggested two-film arc for the Phoenix to properly embellish the tale, it would be one of the best (and most challenging) ways to make people actually care about the X-Men’s shared universe. Fox needs their Civil War, their Batman v Superman, but with Apocalypse potentially being written out of the X-Men cinematic universe (at least for the time being?), they have the perfect opportunity to build on that tease with a tailormade story for the current universe they're working with.
More importantly, this could be one of the few times in the history of comic book films that we get to see a woman in the position of unfuckwittable power going ham on-screen. Of course, the tale would more than likely end with her death or Professor X helping her suppress the urge to go full Phoenix and murder everything moving, but in a world where it’s hard to get a proper amount of merchandise for female characters, it’d be dope to see a truly iconic female character get the film-length epic that she deserves.
In a world where every movie studio is competing for the comic book dollar, Fox has the opportunity to really recreate one of the most impactful comic book tales ever to be committed to print and turn their franchise into something great. Hopefully, if they choose to allow the Phoenix to consume them, they don’t get lost in the fire and consume themselves…again.