There was a lot - a lot - that went wrong in the culmination of the original X-Men movie trilogy. For starters, it tried to go all-in with its own version of the iconic Phoenix saga from the comics, but did so while shunting aside Famke Janssen's Jean Grey to supporting-role status. Now that the next generation of X-films has gotten around to the saga (because of course they have), it wants to do a better job.
That starts, according to cast and crew speaking with Entertainment Weekly, by making sure that the film's primary roster of female characters - including Sophie Turner's Jean Grey, Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique, Alexandra Shipp's Storm and Jessica Chastain's mysterious new alien character - actually interact with each other in meaningful ways. Turner said:
It's really exciting. I think there's such a revolution in superhero movies. I feel like this movie is a revelation because of it being like a drama but the hero is a female and she's also the villain. It really is about her relationships with the females in the film, especially Jessica Chastain's character. It's really interesting to have those two characters be kind of the two biggest characters in the movie and both be female and so layered and so complex.
It also means invoking the famous Bechdel-Wallace Test, which measures if two female characters in a story speak to each other about something that isn't related to a male character. Considering what a low bar that is, it's depressing we still have to bring it up in 2017. The good news is, according to Jessica Chastain, Dark Phoenix passes with flying colours:
I've always wanted to do a big comic book franchise-y film but I had some issues with the female characters in the films I was being offered. I was really pleased with this script because I think it's a departure from the norm. This definitely passes the Bechdel test and I don't know how many comic book films can say that.
Thankfully, some can.
Dark Phoenix apparently even acknowledges the X-Men's female core at one point, with EW confirming there's a scene in which Mystique comments to Professor X that perhaps the team should think about renaming themselves to the "X-Women", considering the female heroes save the men's mutant butts all the time. Clumsy, sure, but... it's a start?