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X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Our Desire to Belong

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 3/5 stars

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) is the first in the X-Men franchise to feature a female lead, hot off the heels of successes like Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman. This time, fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones will be thrilled to see Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, a mutant with telekinetic superpowers who joins Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters at the tender age of eight.

It’s been 19 years since the first X-Men was released in 2000, and in this 12th installment of the film series, we go back to 1992, with the X-Men on a rescue mission of a space shuttle. It is here in outer space that Jean accidentally absorbs the Phoenix Force—mistaken for a solar flare—and transforms into the powerful Dark Phoenix.

 

A force for good or evil

Jean Grey’s story is one of family and belonging. Orphaned as a child and sent to the X-Mansion, she quickly becomes an important part of the X-Men family. Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) becomes a father figure, Raven Darkhölme/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) like an older sister and Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) her lover.

But all that is threatened after the “solar flare” accident, when her telekinetic powers are heightened and she’s soon unable to control them. Her fear of hurting the very people she loves drives her away from the X-Mansion, and she leaves behind a trail of catastrophic damages while out and about in New York.

It is here that she meets Vuk (Jessica Chastain), the leader of a shape-shifting alien race called the D’Bari. Vuk explains that the Phoenix Force had wiped out their home planet years ago, and invites Jean to join them in shaping new worlds together. Here, Jean is torn between using her force for good or evil—evil because the D’Bari plan to conquer other planets, including Earth, with the Phoenix Force.

And so the struggle ensues—between mutants and humans (previously allies of the US government, the X-Men are now being hunted down thanks to Jean’s actions), between mutants and aliens (the D’Bari are out to get Jean and the Phoenix Force trapped within her at all costs should she not cooperate), and within the X-Men themselves (jealousy, in-fighting, and Charles’s leadership is questioned).

 

Belonging to a family

But most central of all to the film is the struggle within Jean herself as she deals with a fragile past and a family secret kept hidden from her by Charles, for what she believes about herself will come to define her choices.

Dark Phoenix is an emotional film with plenty of drama and vengeful characters, layered with a haunting and beautiful score by Hans Zimmer. Though its CGI is lacklustre compared to its contemporaries and the storyline predictable, the powerful performances by Sophie Turner and James McAvoy more than make up for it. In my opinion, the winner in this film is Jessica Chastain, what with her silver blonde hair and nude makeup that make her look eerily alien and evil without much effort.

At the heart of Dark Phoenix is the message that Jean is, and always will be, part of the X-Men family—no matter what she has done or thinks she has become. In the film, Charles and Raven’s characters embody God, our Heavenly Father, who believes the best in us, never gives up on us, and accepts us into His family even when no one else will. The Bible says that He “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), “predestined us for adoption” (Ephesians 1:5), and that He will “never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Isn’t it comforting to know that there is someone who will readily accept us despite our past mistakes? Someone who patiently waits for us to turn back to Him so we can begin to live our true identities—as children of God who walk in His ways.

It is Raven who says to Jean: “I’m not giving up on you, Jean. You’re my family, no matter what.” Jean eventually resolves her inner conflict, realizing that the very people she was running away from were always there for her and weren’t afraid of her powers. It’s when she makes amends for the wrongs that she has done in the course of the film that Jean finds redemption and true belonging.

If you’re struggling with self-doubt, guilt, or feeling out of place, why not turn to God? Just as Jean and the other X-men were adopted into the X-men family, we, too, can find redemption and a sense of belonging in the Kingdom of God, one that will last for all eternity.