“Dark Phoenix” Burns Out at the Box Office

Fox Releases the Final Entry in the X-Men Saga


20th Century Fox

Press release of Dark Phoenix, property of 20th Century Fox.

Joshua Letona, Contributing Writer

The final entry of the X-Men franchise burned out at the box office.

According to Box Office Mojo, “Dark Phoenix” opened to a franchise low of $32.8 million, taking the number two spot for last weekend’s domestic box office behind “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”

In its second weekend, the film had a massive 72.6% drop making $9 million bringing its overall domestic box office total to just $51.7 million. “Dark Phoenix” has made only $204 million worldwide.

The film also marks the lowest critic rating of the X-Men films on Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregate site, with a 23% out of 308 reviews.

The series’ originator “X-Men” changed the comic book movie landscape, taking the characters seriously while remaining true to comics before Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” would hit the screen.

The X-Men franchise saw some highs and lows but held strong over its 19 years. Fox even found great success in their R-rated entries with “Logan” and “Deadpool”, but its most recent mainline movie hurt the brand.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” released with a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and went on to make $747.9 million worldwide in 2014, ranking as a franchise best. Its sequel however, 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse,” got a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes and had a $204 million drop in the box office, earning $543.9 million worldwide.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” was considered formulaic as the superhero films surrounding it that year offered something different with heroes fighting other heroes, bad guys teaming up and even Fox’s own R-rated foul mouthed mercenary. It had been a while since an X-Men film was negatively received since “X-Men: The Last Stand” in 2006 and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” in 2009. Fox had to reassess their plans moving forward.

Fox had given the keys to first time director but longtime producer and writer for the X-Men films, Simon Kinberg. He sought to revamp the Dark Phoenix saga: a comic book story arc where Jean Grey is possessed by a cosmic power and turns against the X-Men which had been previously adapted in “X-Men: The Last Stand.” This gave the crew a chance to do the story justice, but the film had a troubled production.

“Dark Phoenix” had an original release date of Nov. 2, 2018 but was pushed back to Feb. 14, 2019 due to reshoots. The first trailer finally dropped late September which sported the Valentine’s Day release date, but it was changed again to June 7, 2019 just two days after.

“Alita: Battle Angel” was moved to the February date to avoid competition in December with “Dark Phoenix” taking June which had already been marked by Fox for the Channing Tatum led “Gambit” film that never went into production. With time for reshoots, Kinberg was able to change the direction of the film.

In an interview with YahooUK, James McAvoy, who plays Professor X, revealed the ending was reshot due to similarities with another superhero movie that had released. “Dark Phoenix” and “Captain Marvel” both feature shapeshifting aliens as villains in their films and even early looks of Jean Grey with the Phoenix force bared resemblance to Captain Marvel’s fiery look.

Deadline had reported the film’s budget at an estimated cost of $350 million which includes the reshoots and advertising, which is incredibly high after Fox had made “Logan” and “Deadpool” for less than $100 million. Fox was almost setting themselves up for failure financially with the price tag they put on the project.

In addition, the film had to work as a conclusion to the X-Men saga thanks in part to the Fox-Disney merger, but “Dark Phoenix” feels like just another chapter in series with room for more stories. The critical reception ultimately found the film “disappointing,” convincing movie goers to save their money on this one.

The merger also put many Fox projects on hold like the third Deadpool film. Another X-Men related property with “The New Mutants,” which was originally set to release April 2018, never filmed reshoots and now the film sits somewhere in a vault. There is no telling if Fox had plans for the main X-Men, but that does not matter now as the characters return to Disney/Marvel Studios.

At the end of the day, “Dark Phoenix” is the twelfth installment of a 19-year-old franchise that ran its course. Repeating the same story twice with more or less the same characters and nothing new to show to draw audiences.

It is a shame considering all the work the franchise has done for the comic book genre, but now we can finally give the X-Men some deserved rest.