Who is Jessica Chastain playing in 'X-Men: Dark Phoenix'? 4 things you need to know about Lilandra

Who is Jessica Chastain playing in 'X-Men: Dark Phoenix'? 4 things you need to know about Lilandra
Jessica Chastain may be playing the next 'X-Men' villain.
Source: Arthur Mola/AP
Jessica Chastain may be playing the next 'X-Men' villain.
Source: Arthur Mola/AP

The X-Men are returning to theaters in 2018. Deadline is reporting that longtime X-Men scribe Simon Kinberg will be making his directorial debut with X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which Fox will release in November 2018. As if this news is not exciting enough, Dark Phoenix will feature the return of virtually every main cast member from X-Men: Apocalypse, and may very well see Academy Award-nominee Jessica Chastain playing the main villain, Lilandra Neramani.

Despite lukewarm reception for X-Men: Apocalypse, the most recent film in the main saga, anticipation has to be high for Dark Phoenix. "The Dark Phoenix Saga" is perhaps the most popular X-Men comic book storyline, and is one that fans have been hoping for decades would be done right in film. The 2006 flick X-Men: The Last Stand, featured some elements from the popular storyline, but for most fans, it is a movie best forgotten — and fortunately it was erased from the saga's timeline thanks to X-Men: Days of Future Past.

With Chastain in talks to play Lilandra, an important character in "The Dark Phoenix Saga," it very much sounds like Kinberg and the rest of the team at Fox have every intention of getting Dark Phoenix right. So, to understand why Lilandra is such an important character, here is what you need to know about the next X-Men villain.

1. The Shi'ar Empire

Members of the Shi'ar Empire
Source: Marvel

Fans who are only familiar with the Phoenix Force thanks to The Last Stand may not realize that some of "The Dark Phoenix Saga" takes place in space. And Lilandra's inclusion in X-Men: Dark Phoenix indicates that is exactly where this next film will go. Born on the planet Aerie, Lilandra Neramani is a member of the Shi'ar alien race, of which she eventually becomes empress.

Along with the Kree and Skrulls, the Shi'ar are one of the major alien empires in the greater Marvel Universe. Due to the complicated nature of Marvel film rights, all three likely will not appear in the same film for quite some time. While Fox clearly owns the rights to the Shi'ar due to their association with the X-Men, the Kree belong to Marvel, as evident by Ronan's inclusion in Guardians of the Galaxy.

As for the Skrulls, James Gunn recently revealed that they are co-owned by Fox and Marvel, much like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the latter of which has appeared in both X-Men and Avengers films.

2. Charles Xavier

James McAvoy as Charles Xavier
Source: 20th Century Fox/YouTube

While the reports surrounding Chastain's potential casting as Lilandra indicate she will be the main villain in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, this does not mean she has a purely antagonistic relationship with the X-Men. In fact, in the comics, Lilandra has fallen very much in love with X-Men founder Charles Xavier. At one point, the two were even married.

It is the Phoenix Force that partially caused their relationship to sour. After the Phoenix, which was occupying Jean Grey's body, attacked the Shi'ar, Lilandra ordered the entity destroyed. Obviously Professor X was not going to let Jean Grey be killed, so in true Game of Thrones fashion, he challenged the Shi'ar to a trial by combat.

Before the X-Men and Shi'ar could complete their duel, however, the Phoenix ended its own life.

3. Cassandra Nova

Cassandra Nova is Xavier's twin sister.
Source: Marvel

While fans may not know this from the X-Men films, Charles Xavier actually has a twin sister in the comics named Cassandra Nova. In reality, Nova is a parasitic entity without a form, but after psychically connecting to Charles Xavier in his mother's womb, she is born as his twin sister. Cassandra Nova is one of the more powerful X-Men villains and, while this is pure speculation, could play a role in Lilandra's villainy in the upcoming movie.

In the comics, Cassandra Nova ends up taking over Lilandra's mind, causing her to send the Shi'ar Imperial Guard after the X-Men. Even after the X-Men saved Lilandra from Nova's psychic grip, her mind was so damaged that she tried to kill Xavier. This eventually leads to the pair's marriage being annulled.

While this event does not occur during "The Phoenix Saga," to really cement Lilandra as a villain, X-Men: Dark Phoenix could portray her as under the control of Cassandra Nova.

4. Powers and abilities

Lilandra has similar powers to all Shi'ar.
Source: Marvel

The threat Lilandra would pose to the X-Men in film would likely be from the control she has over the vast Shi'ar empire. Still, this does not mean she cannot hold her own in a fight. Like all Shi'ar, Lilandra possesses superhuman strength and stamina. She also has some telepathic abilities, but these are considered minor when compared to Charles Xavier and other prominent telepathic mutants.

Whether she is given any additional abilities in X-Men: Dark Phoenix is at this point unclear. We will have to keep waiting for more news to drop.

Mic has ongoing coverage of the X-Men. Follow our main X-Men hub here.

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Jason Berman

Jason is an arts writer for Mic based in Pennsylvania. His writing can also be found at Screen Rant. You can reach Jason at jberman@mic.com.

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