It's not easy being an X-Man in a post-Disney/Fox merger world. The penultimate live-action mutant-based outing, Dark Phoenix, is on the fast track toward becoming a box office bomb. Despite a better performance overseas, the comic book film gave an underwhelming debut in North America with a meager $33 million in ticket sales.
WARNING! The following contains certain plot spoilers for Dark Phoenix.
In a deep-dive story about what may have gone wrong with the Simon Kinberg-helmed project, Deadline points toward certain factors like major reshoots and the release date being pushed twice — once from November 2018 to February 2019, and then from February 2019 to June 2019. According to the report, Dark Phoenix was originally going to be two separate movies before the studio decided to condense it into a single one. Kinberg, a longtime writer and producer of Fox's Marvel adaptations, was "flexible" and reworked the script, but even then, there were problems.
For instance, one of the cuts featured a more "intimate ending with Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) against Jessica Chastain’s Vuk." In another version, Jean outright died. These things didn't sit well with test audiences who wanted an all-out battle with the team we've grown to know and love.
After all, Kinberg has stated in the past that this movie was always meant to wrap up the last two decades (well, almost two decades) of X-features. There were also reports that the ending needed to be reshot because it was too similar to that of Captain Marvel, but Deadline insists that no one involved with Phoenix's production knew what that Disney-owned movie entailed before it was released in March of this year.
To make a long story short, Kinberg reshot the third act to include a train sequence that finds most of the X-Men fighting together against the D'Bari. It's not too shabby, either. No one can deny that Magneto (Michael Fassbender) firing a bunch of machine guns at once or Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) snapping an alien's neck with his tail aren't some of the most badass things we've ever seen in a live-action X-Men movie. By the time the credits are ready to roll, Jean has wrecked the D'Bari in a Thanos-y sort of way and while she has kind of died, she lives on in an almost godlike form thanks to the omnipotent nature of the Phoenix Force.
With the onscreen timeline and continuity entirely rewritten by Days of Future Past, Kinberg (also an executive producer on the 2019 Twilight Zone reboot) was given a chance to undo the bungling of the Dark Phoenix subplot from X3: The Last Stand.
"The biggest thing was that we didn't make Dark Phoenix the main plot of X-Men: The Last Stand," he previously told SYFY WIRE. "It became the background or secondary plot to the cure plot in that film, and the male characters Xavier, Magneto, and Wolverine remain the protagonists and antagonists when in fact Jean is the antagonist and protagonist of the Dark Phoenix story, so I just felt we didn't fully commit to telling the Dark Phoenix story."
Unfortunately, the poor reception to the new picture, a rare second chance, seems to indicate that the iconic arc was bungled once again. If The New Mutants ever makes it to theaters (directed by The Fault in Our Stars' Josh Boone, reshoots are still pending), let's hope it can provide a more successful send-off for the X-Men franchise than Dark Phoenix. After that, the mutants will be on their merry way to the MCU.
What do you think? Would the project have done more justice to the iconic storyline upon which it is based if it had been split into two films? Let us know in the comments!