X-Men Dark Phoenix: What Went Wrong?

After 19 years, 12 movies, a timeline reset, and whatever X-Men Origins was meant to be, the franchise that kicked the door down to superhero movies as we know it has come to an end. Well sort of, New Mutants might finally get those reshoots. Having co-butchered The Dark Phoenix saga in The Last Stand, Simon Kinberg has a second go at the script and makes his directorial debut with Dark Phoenix.

Launching to a deeply underwhelming $33 million domestically ($107 million internationally), the Fox era of the primary X-Men franchise has ended on a sad whimper. Set to lose more than $100 million, the various production problems and release date changes have taken its toll on the X-Men. It doesn’t help matters that the movie itself is a franchise low in terms of quality.

In a revealing article from Deadline(read the full article here), the cause of the box office shortcomings is down to much more than the Disney merger.

“There’s a lot of finger-pointing to go around here, much of it falling on Fox, not new gargantuan parent Disney. It was Fox, in the end, that orphaned the finale of this once prized franchise to the Disney merger. Dark Phoenix completed shooting literally two summers ago, well before the announcement of the merger in December 2017. However, following that, paranoia set in among Fox suits, and, well, that only created further pox on Dark Phoenix.

Much of Dark Phoenix‘s failure comes off the stench of 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, which critics pegged before the latest chapter as the worst X-Men ever (47% Rotten RT), and the pic was the second-lowest grossing in the franchise stateside, $155.4M, with its Memorial Day grosses of $79M+ coming in well below the $100M that the industry was expecting at the time. Also, as social media monitor RelishMix observed heading into the weekend, X-Men fans already said goodbye to the mutants with that movie and Logan.”

The article goes on to say that Dark Phoenix was originally developed as a two movie project, but owing to the late start in pre-production Fox axed that idea. In near kitchen sink levels of blame speculation, James Cameron’s Alita Battle Angel also played a part as Fox promised him a February release after the ambitious project was shifted from December 2018. Assembling the cast for the reshoots was another contributing factor in the delays which led to Dark Phoenix being pushed all the way to the summer. There was a reason that Fox originally had November and then February in mind, it’s an offseason release and could do well in a period not often frequented by studio tentpoles.

Perhaps the biggest mistake was how Fox handled (or rather mishandled) the negative reports surrounding reshoots, and multiple release date changes. Where was the show of strength from Fox to reassure fans that all was well, or put a more positive spin on the massive delays with New Mutants? It felt like Fox had written both films off once the Disney deal started discussions.

The X-Men franchise has been a mixed bag, but in later years we got groundbreaking films like Deadpool, and Logan (oh how I wish that were a film rather than a comma). Without the X-Men, the MCU as we know it wouldn’t exist, and it deserved a better send off than Dark Phoenix.

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