Dark Phoenix wasn't meant to be the last traditional X-Men film from Fox, but it's fitting that's how things worked out. The original idea, if rumors are correct, is that the development of Jean Grey into the "Phoenix" powers was supposed to act as a catalyst to split the X-Men into two camps. Think Captain America: Civil War, but just the mutants fighting each other. Reshoots changed the ending, giving the story a more final outcome. Or was the result as final as it seemed? Is Jean Grey really dead? Warning: Spoilers for X-Men: Dark Phoenix follow.
Most fans knew that at least one longtime character wouldn't be making it out of this alive: Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Her death was considered such a done deal, marketing actually included it in one of the full-length trailers. Fans were surprised by the film being so upfront and wondered if it might be a fakeout, but director Simon Kinberg was honest from the beginning. No, Mystique's death isn't trying to fool you, she's really going to die.
But what fans didn't know is that Mystique wasn't the only character they'd leave the theaters mourning. After spending most of the film under the thumb of Vuk (played by Jessica Chastain), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) regains control of herself and her Phoenix abilities and throws down against the woman who has been manipulating her, flying Vuk high into the air before allowing herself to explode full force.
The blast killed Vuk on contact, but it also takes out Jean. Instead of the film winding up as a story of the X-Men divided, Jean Grey's sacrifice brings them back together in grief. By the end of the film, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) are once again together playing chess, as fans have seen so many times before.
But is Jean really gone? The fact is, X-Men: Dark Phoenix was never supposed to be the final film in Fox's version of the franchise. The plan to build towards a reboot of the Dark Phoenix's saga that was last seen as part of X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006 began after X-Men: Days of Future Past wiped out that timeline in 2014. With characters like Jean only cast in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, actors, like Sophie Turner, were supposed to be the future of the franchise. Dark Phoenix was supposed to represent a step forward in that evolution, not an end.
Viewers get a glimpse of that in the chess-playing scene that closes out the film. If one looks beyond Magento and Xavier and into the sky, the Phoenix Force flies through the air behind them. After all, what is a phoenix, but a bird who is born again from ashes? In the X-Men: The Last Stand version, there is a suggestion the Phoenix power Jean Grey has inside her does not just make her super-powerful, but immortal, destined to rise from her own ashes.
Perhaps the plan was to resurrect Jean Grey in another film. But with the Disney-Fox merger and the future of the current X-Men line up in doubt, fans may never find out.