X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix VFX Supervisor Explains the Original Vision for Jean Grey

The final 20th Century Fox X-Men movie, Dark Phoenix, is already notorious thanks to its critical lashing and unflattering box office numbers. Beyond this, there was also the matter of behind-the-scenes drama that necessitated reshoots and delays. Concept artist Houston Sharp previously revealed unused designs for the character that differ significantly from what we saw in the final film. But according to VFX supervisor Greg Butler, there was a lot more that the filmmakers didn’t follow through on.

While speaking with io9, Butler discussed his initial approach to rendering the Phoenix Force’s gradual effects on Jean.

“We started with a lot of concepts which were intended to show the buildup of the Phoenix [in] Jean,” said Butler. “It started with just a little glint in her eye and we built her all the way up to an actual bird made of fire in space, and there were of course many steps in between. I think, originally, we had 10 stages of Jean becoming the Phoenix before we realized that we needed more to really capture the spectacle and ultimately decided on 12.”

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Butler went on to reveal that Jean’s increasing level of power would have manifested in other horrifying ways as well.

“The other effect we ultimately landed on came from something way more intensive: demolecularization,” continued Butler. “Originally, her face was going to begin to do that in a lot of scenes: coming off and revealing all of the energy within her before reforming. But as we started doing the early tests, it was like ‘Woah, okay, no. Put her face back together. We needed to be able to see her act.’”

In the end, Jean’s Phoenix form was relatively light on spectacle. But in Butler’s mind, this is a reflection of the grounded interpretation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s classic story. In fact, he seemed to admit that a proper adaptation of the Dark Phoenix Saga requires more than one movie to tell it.

“For the film that Dark Phoenix is, there just really wasn’t a space for that take on the Phoenix, I think,” Butler said. “The story of how Jean becomes the Phoenix deserves its own time and space to breathe. All of the more over-the-top stuff wouldn’t have fit—it would have had to be a different movie on a conceptual level for the spectacular stakes to feel right here. If anything, that part of the Phoenix belongs in the second part of a two-film story. The idea of being the most powerful creature in the universe is interesting, but you need a really cosmic style story to explore that.”

Would you have preferred to see this version of Jean Grey in Dark Phoenix? Let us know in the comment section below!

Recommended Reading – Jean Grey Vol. 1: Nightmare Fuel