Few movie franchises have had as many ups and downs as Fox’s X-Men series. The first film helped jumpstart the superhero crazy all the way back in 2000. Since then, there have been just as many good sequels (X2, First Class, Logan) as bad ones (Wolverine: Origins, Apocalypse). The latest film in the series Dark Phoenix ended up being something of a swan song for the series now that Fox has been bought up by Disney.
Now that Marvel/Disney has control of the characters again, they are free to completely ignore what came before and forge a new version that fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since Dark Phoenix was being made in the middle of this transition, there was a lot of speculation whether audiences would care about another film in a series that was pretty clearly ending abruptly. Especially since the movie is essentially a remake of X3: The Last Stand which is roundly seen as one of the worst X-Men movies. Turns out, people didn’t care and largely skipped Dark Phoenix where it debuted with the lowest box office in the entire franchise.
While the reaction is disappointing, it is rare for anyone involved with the movie to talk about the reaction so soon after release. However, writer/director Simon Kinberg did just that when interviewed by The Business podcast for radio station KCRW by putting all the blame on himself. Kinberg has been associated with the X-Men films for a long time, having been a writer and producer for the series since X3. In the interview, Kinberg said that as the director, he is the final word on how the movie turns out and is solely responsible if people don’t like it.
While that is a noble position, it also downplays what Deadline reported as a labored production for Dark Phoenix, which had multiple release date push backs and rewrites during production. Since Fox was in the middle of being bought out by Disney, there were many different executives and marketing people involved who had different ideas one what the movie should be. Apparently, the film was supposed to actually be two films but was then condensed into one, which shows how much had to be crammed into this movie.
All in all, the biggest problem for Dark Phoenix is that it left many people thinking “who cares?”. Everyone knows that Marvel is going to come out with their own version of the X-Men in the coming years. This movie just felt like a rehash of ideas that have already been seen and mattered little given that a remake is assuredly going to happen. The saddest part is that we still have one more movie in the franchise that is going to suffer a similar fate. New Mutants is still sitting around after having been finished last year and may not even get a theatrical release date. The whole thing deflates the legacy that X-Men should rightly hold as the franchise that got general audiences to care about superhero movies. It certainly wasn’t the first, or the best, but our franchise obsessed culture owes a ton to X-Men and it is a damn shame it ended the way it did.