Next year will see a record number of superhero films hit the box office, and there are two superhero movies in particular that have a surprising amount in common: Captain Marvel and Dark Phoenix. On the face of it, these two movies should be very different; after all, Captain Marvel will launch a whole new franchise within the MCU, while Dark Phoenix is expected to be the final tentpole X-Men film produced by Fox.
Over the last fortnight, we’ve finally been given first trailers for both films. Captain Marvel‘s trailer confirmed a host of popular theories, revealing Carol Danvers as a Kree special ops soldier who comes plummeting to Earth when her spaceship is shot down. In contrast, Dark Phoenix‘s first trailer was a dark and grounded affair that promised to explore the secret history of Jean Grey.
On the surface, these two movies are totally different. Dig a little deeper, though, and there are some very odd similarities. Here, we’re going to take a look at them.
- This Page: Movie Settings and Main Characters
- Page 2: Skrulls, Release Date Changes, and More
Both Movies are Set in the 1990s
The first striking similarity between Captain Marvel and Dark Phoenix is the fact that both are period pieces, set in the 1990s. That seems to have always been integral to Dark Phoenix; Simon Kinberg confirmed the film’s setting as far back as May 2016, long before the title had even been officially confirmed. A ’90s setting is particularly appropriate for an X-Men movie, given that was the decade where the X-Men comics flourished the most. In fact, the best-selling comic book of all time was 1991’s X-Men #1, which sold 7.1 million copies. As the ’90s progressed, the X-Men became Marvel’s foremost superhero franchise, as well as the stars of an unforgettable animated series.
There were also clear story reasons for placing Dark Phoenix in the ’90s. The X-Men films have always tended to jump around the timeline, but this is a direct sequel to X-Men: Apocalypse, which was set in the ’80s and followed movies set in the ’60s and ’70s. As such, it makes sense for the franchise to jump forward by ten years or so.
More surprisingly, though, Captain Marvel is based in the same decade. Marvel announced that at SDCC 2017, although Kevin Feige has confirmed that was the plan from early on in the film’s development process. Captain Marvel appears to serve as a back-door origin story for popular characters like Nick Fury and Phil Coulson, as well as establishing a powerful new superhero in the history of the MCU.
Both Are Female-Led Superhero Films
Hollywood studios had long believed that female-led superhero films were guaranteed to fail, pointing to flops like Catwoman and Elektra as evidence. But the success of Wonder Woman absolutely shattered that particular glass ceiling, and now film studios are pushing their female heroes like never before. For Captain Marvel, it’s definitely a matter of “It’s about time” – in fact, it’s frankly a little disappointing that it has taken Marvel Studios more than a decade to release a solo superhero flick that stars a female hero.
The X-Men comics have always been noted for their strong female characters, ranging from the weather-manipulating Storm to the young and vibrant Kitty Pryde. As such it’s no surprise that Fox is choosing to embrace the idea of female superheroes, but the way the studio is doing it is very interesting. The next X-Men tentpole movie has essentially transformed into a character piece dedicated to Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, who up until now has always been part of an ensemble. Fox has even dropped “X-Men” from the film’s title., giving it the feel of a standalone movie like Logan, even though it will feature the usual X-Men team.
Both Characters Have Hidden Power
Captain Marvel and Jean Grey both number among the most powerful superheroes ever to hit the big screen – but in both cases the true extent of their abilities appears to be concealed. According to the trailer for Dark Phoenix, Jean arrived at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters filled with pain and grief. Sensing her power, and fearful that she’d become dangerous if she lacked emotional self-control, Xavier locked her mind up. The process of breaking those restraints began in X-Men: Apocalypse, and appears to continue in Dark Phoenix when Jean is exposed to a cosmic force.
In the case of Carol Danvers, the trailer suggests that she’ll ultimately tap into what’s sometimes called her “Binary” powerset. In the comics, Carol was experimented upon by an alien race known as the Brood, and her powers were amplified far beyond the norm; she gained the ability to drawn upon the energy of a so-called “White Hole,” manipulating energy on an unprecedented scale. The last shot in the Captain Marvel trailer is definitely evocative of that particular powerset. It’s likely from the film’s third act, with Carol drawing on reserves of power that aren’t even hinted at elsewhere in the trailer.
Strangely enough, the leaked Dark Phoenix trailer even ended with a shot of Jean Grey’s eyes glowing that was almost identical to a shot in the Captain Marvel trailer when Carol’s Binary powers are unleashed. And the similarities don’t end there.
Both Films (Probably) Involve the Skrulls
Incredibly, both Captain Marvel and Dark Phoenix are expected to feature the same ruthless alien race – the shapeshifters known as the Skrulls. In the case of Dark Phoenix, that’s quite a remarkable twist, since the X-Men films have so far tended to avoid the more fantastical elements of the superhero genre. And yet, it’s been confirmed that Jessica Chastain is playing “an otherworldly shapeshifter who comes into contact with Phoenix.” That certainly fits with rumors that the manipulative aliens will be making their presence felt in next year’s X-Men movie.
In contrast, Captain Marvel was always going to be a cosmic adventure. The titular hero gains her powers after exposure to alien energy, her origin story is intimately tied to an alien race known as the Kree, and in the comics they’ve been locked in a state of war with the Skrulls for over a thousand years. That conflict ultimately led to a comic book arc known as The Kree-Skrull War, which will serve as inspiration for the film.
This strange coincidence is possible because the film rights to the Skrulls are actually shared between Marvel and Fox. Although some specific Skrulls are licensed only to Fox – probably including Fantastic Four villain the Super-Skrull – both studios have the option of including the aliens in their superhero movies. They’ll probably handle them in very different ways, though; in Captain Marvel the Skrulls appear set on invading the Earth, whereas in Dark Phoenix their attention is focused upon Jean Grey.
Both Films Have the Lead Misled by an Alien Force
In thematic terms, the idea of deception and betrayal appears to be key to both movies. As the trailer for Dark Phoenix makes clear, Jessica Chastain’s still-unnamed villain appears to be encouraging Jean to unleash the full power of the Phoenix Force. We haven’t yet had even a hint of her motive, but it could be that she hopes to use the Phoenix to wipe out the entire human race; in the comics, the Skrulls have often considered humanity a threat, concerned at the sheer number of superhumans and prejudiced against mutants. Whatever the reason for the villain’s actions may be, the fact remains that she’s attempting to manipulate Jean.
In Captain Marvel, though, the first trailer strongly implied that the shapeshifting Skrulls aren’t the ones messing with Carol’s head. Instead, the trailer suggests that Jude Law’s still-unnamed Kree commander has implanted false memories within Carol’s mind, manipulating her into serving as a member of the Kree Starforce. When she arrives on Earth, Carol realizes that she finds the world strangely familiar, and begins to realize that she’s been lied to.
But are the two heroes just being lied to by aliens? Simon Kinberg has hinted that Jean has actually been manipulated by Charles Xavier. “Charles has been hiding secrets about Jean’s past from her that get revealed over the span of the movie,” Kinberg told Empire. The trailer certainly implied that Xavier had repressed Jean’s emotions, but could he also have adjusted her memories so she didn’t realize her own powers were responsible for the car accident that killed her parents?
Both Were Meant to Be Released in 2018
And here’s one final, amusing similarity: both Captain Marvel and Dark Phoenix were originally slated to release in 2018, but were pushed back. Kevin Feige announced Captain Marvel back in 2014, giving it an initial release date of July 6, 2018. Marvel restructured their entire Phase 3 slate in light of the Spider-Man deal with Sony, and Captain Marvel initially moved back to November 2, 2018. They subsequently changed the release again, to March 8, 2019.
Dark Phoenix was originally assigned a release date of November 2, 2018, but hit problems due to additional photography. The movie has a large cast of A-list actors including the likes of James McAvoy, Sophie Turner, and Jennifer Lawrence; scheduling conflicts meant Fox couldn’t get the cast together for reshoots until August or September – far too close to the theatrical release for comfort. With the rest of 2018 pretty crowded in terms of competition, Fox chose to move it back to February 14, 2019, a slot that proved successful for Deadpool and Black Panther. Now Dark Phoenix has been moved back again, to June 2019, so Captain Marvel will be first out of the gate… and we’ll have to wait a little longer to see if the movies have anything else in common.