Dark Phoenix finally hit theaters over the weekend and it arrived with something of a thud. This is going to be the final proper X-Men movie, at least in this version of the franchise, which means the long-running series is going out on something of a low note. It set a new low for the franchise at the box office and has been lambasted by critics so far. So, the question must be asked, what went wrong? A new report dives deep on that and, as much finger pointing as there's sure to be, there's no one place to point those fingers.
According to a new report, this all dates back to the early days after X-Men: Apocalypse hit theaters. That movie, which served as a follow-up to the beloved Days of Future Past, didn't do particularly well with critics or fans. So, key producers Simon Kinberg, who went on to direct Dark Phoenix, and Hutch Parker, as well as Fox execs Stacey Snider and Emma Watts, held meetings to figure out how to course correct. The result of those meetings? They determined it was scale, such as explosions and action, that caused fatigue. Not the franchise itself. One unnamed insider put it like this.
"There was a misguided feeling that [Apocalypse] was an anomaly, that we just got it wrong. We were wrong."
The numbers would certainly seem to back that up. Stateside, the movie opened with just $33 million. A new low for the franchise that dates back to 2000 when the first X-Men movie was released. It's expected the movie will lose around $100 million for the studio. Meanwhile, as of this writing, Dark Phoenix boasts a very poor 23 percent approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. While the 64 percent audience rating is much better, that's still bad for this particular franchise.
Another issue is the release date. This was never intended to be a big summer movie. The idea was to scale back the action and do more of a character piece. Ultimately, that led to a redo of the beloved Phoenix Saga from the pages of Marvel Comics, which was first adapted in the much-maligned X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. Production originally wrapped at the end of 2017, but massive reshoots were ordered that couldn't be done until October 2018, due to the in-demand cast already honoring commitments on other projects. By the time the reshoots were finished, the release date had to be bumped back to February of this year.
However, James Cameron requested that his movie, Alita: Battle Angel, be moved from its December release date, due to heavy competition, to the Dark Phoenix February date. This was not a popular decision, but it's one that Stacey Snider made. As a result, the X-Men flick was moved to June right in the middle of the crowded summer movie season.
There's also the matter of the Disney merger with Fox, which finally closed in March. That was looming over the project the whole time and made for a level of uncertainty. Especially when it came to the marketing. As this report puts it, many Fox employees had "one eye on the door" already. It was a perfect storm setting the flick up for failure.
Other factors included a lack of awareness and potential franchise fatigue. However, the most important factor, at the end of the day, is that the movie just isn't very good. Time and time again we see cream rise to the top with franchise entries, whereas middling to disappointing efforts wind up suffering fates such as this. Blame can be shifted, but most of the time, it's largely a quality of product issue.
The X-Men will be leaving cinemas for a while. Disney will undoubtedly reboot the mutants within the Marvel Cinematic Universe down the line, but it won't happen for years. There's also The New Mutants, a horror-themed X-Men spin-off that has had a troubled production as well. That's set to arrive in April 2020, but it won't feature any of the main characters from the franchise and it's still possible, per this report, that it could end up being dumped to a streaming service like Hulu. The X-Men deserved better than this. This news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.