Dark Phoenix (film)

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Dark Phoenix
Dark Phoenix (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySimon Kinberg
Written bySimon Kinberg
Based on
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyMauro Fiore
Edited byLee Smith
Music byHans Zimmer
Production
companies
Distributed by20th Century Fox[1]
Release date
  • June 4, 2019 (2019-06-04) (TCL Chinese Theatre)
  • June 7, 2019 (2019-06-07) (United States)
Running time
114 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$200 million[3][1][4]
Box office$252.4 million[1]

Dark Phoenix (also marketed and later released on home media as X-Men: Dark Phoenix) is a 2019 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics X-Men characters. It is a sequel to 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, the seventh and final mainline installment in the X-Men film series, and the twelfth installment overall. The film was written, co-produced, and directed by Simon Kinberg (in his feature directorial debut) and stars an ensemble cast featuring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Jessica Chastain. Dark Phoenix tells the origin story of Jean Grey's transformation into the Phoenix, which is triggered by a cosmic force that enhances her psychic abilities. It follows Jean's struggle to avoid hurting the people she loves when the force unleashes her repressed trauma that causes her to become emotionally unstable and unable to control her powers.

After X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) erased the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) from the series' timeline, Kinberg expressed interest in a new adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne's "The Dark Phoenix Saga" in a future film that would be more faithful than his previous attempt with The Last Stand, which was met with a mixed reception, with even Kinberg and co-writer Zak Penn ultimately unimpressed with the final product. The new adaptation was confirmed as a follow-up to Apocalypse in 2016. Kinberg signed on as director in June 2017, with the majority of the cast set to return from Apocalypse. Filming began later that month in Montreal and was completed in October 2017; the entire third act was reshot in late 2018 following poor test screenings. The film was dedicated to the memory of X-Men co-creator Stan Lee, who died on November 12, 2018.

Dark Phoenix was theatrically released in the United States on June 7, 2019, produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It is the lowest-grossing installment in the main series, and the second-lowest grossing X-Men film behind The New Mutants (2020), which was released in theatres during the COVID-19 pandemic. It grossed $252 million worldwide on a $200 million production budget, and Deadline Hollywood estimated the film lost $133 million due to its high marketing and distribution costs. The film received mainly mixed and negative reviews from critics upon release.[5]

Plot[edit]

In 1975, eight-year-old Jean Grey is involved in a car crash which seemingly kills both her parents, leaving her an orphan. Professor Charles Xavier takes her to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, where he promises to teach Grey to use her gifts for good.

In 1992, during the first mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the shuttle is critically damaged by solar flare-like energy. The president calls upon the X-Men to save the astronauts, and Jean is struck by the energy. Miraculously, she survives the blast and absorbs the rays, saving her team's aircraft. Her psychic powers are greatly amplified, but her emotional state begins to deteriorate, leading Raven Darkhölme to scold Xavier, claiming he puts the team in unnecessary danger. As she becomes increasingly stressed, Jean's powers become harder to control. She accidentally unleashes her power on mutants celebrating at Xavier's school.

Xavier reveals to the rest of the X-Men that he placed mental blocks in Jean's mind to suppress her trauma. Raven is shocked at Charles' revelation. Meanwhile, the blocks in Jean's mind are destroyed by her enhanced power and her childhood trauma returns. She travels to her hometown after seeing visions of her father.

Jean finds her father alive; he had survived the car crash and forsaken her. She recovers complete memory of the accident and realizes that, unable to control her powers at the time, she had accidentally rendered her mother unconscious at the wheel with telepathy, causing the crash and killing her. This realization causes Jean's powers to spiral further out of control. The X-Men arrive and, after a brief skirmish in which Peter Maximoff is injured, Xavier freezes everyone to allow Raven time to persuade Jean to come home. Jean lashes out against Raven, accidentally killing her, and flees, while Hank McCoy weeps over Raven's body.

Hank confronts Charles, considering him responsible for Raven's death. Jean travels to the island of Genosha, a mutant refuge run by Erik Lehnsherr. She asks for help in controlling her rage, and he initially agrees. U.S. military helicopters land on the island demanding Jean's surrender. Jean attacks them, but Erik stops her and angrily banishes her, refusing to help.

Jean is found by Vuk, the leader of a shape-shifting alien race known as the D'Bari, who assumes human form. Vuk explains that the cosmic force she absorbed had wiped out the D'Bari home planet and consumed everything in its path until it was drawn to Jean. She offers to help Jean learn to use the force safely.

Hank leaves Xavier's school and allies with Erik and his faction of mutants in an attempt to kill Jean in New York City. Learning of Erik's plan, Kurt Wagner teleports the X-Men to New York to save her. While the two factions battle, Erik confronts Jean, and is defeated by her amplified powers. Xavier arrives, and convinces her to read his memories, which helps her former personality resurface. Feeling remorseful, she offers to let Vuk take the force from her. While the transfer takes place, Charles realizes that it will kill Jean and that Vuk intends to use the force to conquer Earth. Scott Summers blasts Vuk away with his optic beam, and Jean loses consciousness. U.S. government troops arrive and subdue both mutant factions.

All of the mutants are placed on a train headed towards a containment facility. Vuk and her D'Bari forces attack the train. When the D'Bari overpower the soldiers, one frees the mutants from their restraints. Charles and Scott convince Hank, Erik, and his allies that Jean is still inherently good and not beyond help. Now united to protect Jean, the mutants deal with most of the D'Bari attackers before Vuk arrives and heads for Jean, defeating each mutant who attempts to stop her.

Charles confers with Jean within his mind, and she forgives him for his errors, understanding that he did what he did out of love and that the X-Men became her real family when her father abandoned her. Jean awakens, saving the mutants from Vuk's attack and an ensuing train wreck. She then disintegrates the remaining D'Bari. Vuk once again attempts to drain the force from Jean, but Jean grabs hold of Vuk and flies into outer space. She unleashes all of her power and kills Vuk, but the strain causes her to vanish in a burst of energy in the form of a phoenix.

In the aftermath of the incident, Xavier's school is renamed the "Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters". Charles retires as dean, and Hank takes his place. In Paris, Charles is surprised at a café by Erik, who invites Charles for a game of chess. As they begin, a flaming phoenix appears high in the sky.

Cast[edit]

The cast of Dark Phoenix at the 2019 WonderCon. From top to bottom: Hoult, Turner, Sheridan, Shipp, Smit-McPhee, and Peters
  • James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier: A mutant pacifist, he founded Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Many of the characters in the film turn against Xavier as some of his decisions regarding Jean Grey's abilities are revealed. Director Simon Kinberg felt that the character always acts out of concern for the "greater good," though he may make some "misguided" choices at times. Kinberg hoped that each character would come across as having "a valid point of view" in the film.[6]
  • Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr: A powerful mutant who can control magnetic fields and manipulate metal, he is Xavier's former best friend and often rival, as well as Quicksilver's father (though he does not know this). Magneto has formed a community of mutant refugees on the island of Genosha,[7] which Kinberg compared to Israel, in that it is a homeland where mutants can feel safe.[8]
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Raven / Mystique: A shape-shifting mutant and Xavier's adopted sister. Lawrence described her role in the film as more maternal than before, as she leads the younger X-Men.[9] The film continues growing the schism between Mystique and Xavier, with Mystique not approving of some of Xavier's methods, though Kinberg hoped that this would be more subtle in Dark Phoenix than in the previous X-Men films.
  • Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy / Beast: A mutant with a beastly appearance and superhuman physical abilities. He is a teacher at Xavier's School and helps lead the younger X-Men. He continues to have feelings for Mystique.
  • Sophie Turner as Jean Grey / Phoenix: An extremely powerful mutant scared of her telepathic and telekinetic powers, who is one of Xavier's most prized students. The Phoenix entity is unleashed in the film, leading her to grow more and more unstable as her two personalities fight for control. The film also explores her past. Turner studied dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia for the role, particularly for scenes where she has to change from the vulnerable Jean to the confident Phoenix.[10] Kinberg said Turner has the lead role in the film, a first for the actress.[11] Summer Fontana portrays a young Jean Grey (8 Years Old).
  • Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers / Cyclops: A mutant who fires concussive optic beams. The film develops his relationship with Jean Grey, which Kinberg called "a huge part of the emotional core of the movie." This forces the character to become a leader in the film,[12] as he is the most prominent character who holds on to hope as Jean grows more unstable.[8]
  • Alexandra Shipp as Ororo Munroe / Storm: A Kenyan mutant who can control the weather.
  • Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver: Magneto's mutant son who can move at superhuman speed. Peters described the character as more mature and subdued in the film, being focused on using his abilities for good as a member of the X-Men.[13]
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler: A German mutant who can teleport.
  • Jessica Chastain as Vuk: The leader of a shape-shifting alien race known as the D'Bari, who seeks to capture and destroy the Phoenix. Kinberg described her as "the devil on Jean's shoulder,"[8] while Chastain called her character "clinical."[14] Chastain also plays Margaret Smith, the woman Vuk impersonates.
  • Scott Shepherd as John Grey: Jean's father.
  • Ato Essandoh as Jones: Vuk's second in command.
  • Brian d'Arcy James as the President of the United States

Additionally, Kota Eberhardt portrays telepath Selene Gallio, while Andrew Stehlin portrays Ariki, a mutant who can utilize his hair braids as a weapon; the character that was initially reported as Red Lotus.[6][15] Halston Sage briefly appears as Dazzler in the character's first cinematic appearance,[16] Hannah Anderson appears as Jean's mother Elaine, and Lamar Johnson appears as Match. Veteran X-Men writer Chris Claremont makes a cameo appearance as a White House guest during the scene in which Xavier accepts his award for rescuing the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour.[17] Daniel Cudmore, who previously portrayed Colossus in the franchise, was announced as having a role, but did not appear.[18]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

When he joined the team making the 2003 film X2, writer Zak Penn convinced director Bryan Singer not to adapt the Marvel Comics storyline "The Dark Phoenix Saga" for the film, believing it was "too soon to go into the Phoenix story and it was too soon to get cosmic."[19] The character of Jean Grey / Phoenix was instead explored "subtly", with the intention of the full story being adapted in the next film instead.[19][20] Singer did not return to direct the sequel, X-Men: The Last Stand, which was written by Penn and Simon Kinberg. The studio chose to adapt the "Dark Phoenix Saga" as only one of the film's "parallel storylines", with an executive at 20th Century Fox suggesting that the "Gifted" storyline also be in that film.[20][21] This version of the story was not well received by fans and critics. Kinberg stated that he and Penn were ultimately unhappy with how the adaptation turned out as well.[22]

After the timeline of the X-Men franchise was retconned with the 2014 film X-Men: Days of Future Past, it was noted that a new adaptation of the "Dark Phoenix Saga" could be made that ignores the events of The Last Stand. Kinberg and Singer both expressed interest in the prospect, and hinted that 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse would set up elements for a retelling. Apocalypse introduces Sophie Turner as a young Jean Grey and begins exploring "how powerful she is."[22] By April 2016, the sequel to Apocalypse was being rumored to indeed be a re-adaptation of "The Dark Phoenix Saga."[23] In May 2016, Kinberg said that the next X-Men film after Apocalypse would be set in the 1990s, advancing one decade, as had been done for each of the previous few X-Men films.[24] He also noted that Apocalypse had introduced younger versions of several characters from the original X-Men films to give them a new origin story—including Storm, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Jean Grey—with the intention of then exploring them in their own line of films. He added that he also hoped to see the cast of the previous trilogy of films return, namely James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto, and Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme / Mystique.[25]

In July, Kinberg said he would begin writing the next mainline X-Men film "real soon".[26] That November, Fox was said to be pressing "the reset button" on the franchise due to the financial and critical under-performance of Apocalypse, with the franchise being reconfigured and Singer not returning to direct the next film. McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult's contracts from the previous trilogy had ended, but Kinberg was optimistically writing the new script with them in mind.[27] It was rumored in February 2017 that the next film would be titled X-Men: Supernova, and would begin filming that June.[28] Also in February, Turner confirmed that she would return for the film.[29] Kinberg was believed to be interested in making his directorial debut with the film,[30] and was described as the top contender for the job with interest from Fox. The studio was also looking to negotiate new deals with Lawrence, Fassbender, McAvoy, and Hoult to return.[31] By the end of the month, Kinberg described reports that he may direct the film as "premature," but added that, if he were to direct, he would not be daunted by the scale of the film due to his experience writing and producing many of the other X-Men films. He also reiterated that he would adapt "The Dark Phoenix Saga" differently than they had in The Last Stand, if given another opportunity to do so.[32]

Writing[edit]

Simon Kinberg began writing the film in late 2016.[33] The movie would act as an origin story about how Jean Grey becomes the Phoenix and would centered around her struggling with mental health issues, research was done on various trauma-related mental illnesses.[34][35]

Concept art revealed that, originally, the film was to feature the return of Emma Frost and a new incarnation of the Hellfire Club. The new members were Harry Leland, Friedrich von Roehm, Fenris, Shinobi Shaw, and the Red Lotus gang (whom Andrew Stehlin was set to play).[36] They were replaced with the Skrulls as the film's villains after the script was rewritten, and the Skrulls were replaced with the D'Bari after reshoots.[37] However, the role the aliens play in the story was still based on the Hellfire Club, with Jessica Chastain's character being inspired by Mastermind and Emma Frost.[38][39] More concept art revealed that the scene with the D’Bari watching Charles Xavier at the White House was an element from the earlier script, as the Hellfire Club can be seen watching the event on television at their lair.[40]

Pre-production[edit]

Director, producer, and screenwriter Bryan Singer was removed from the X-Men franchise following allegations of sexual abuse.

Kinberg said at the start of March 2017 that he and producer Hutch Parker had begun early prep on the film, and that Supernova was just a code name they had been using for the sequel. He said they began discussing the story for the film during post-production on Apocalypse, and that they wanted to do "something bold and radical and expand the universe in the same way that Logan feels bold and radical and certainly Deadpool does as well."[41] In pitching the film to the studio, Kinberg used real world imagery, such as footage of disasters and lightning strikes, and focused on an organic and grounded approach as a response to criticisms of Apocalypse's heightened reality.[42] Fox officially titled the film Dark Phoenix in April 2017 and gave it a release date of November 2, 2018.[43] Fassbender indicated in May that he would be returning for the film,[44] and Parker soon hinted that a younger version of the character Rogue could appear and that the film might explore the cosmic elements of the "Dark Phoenix" storyline.[45][46]

Fox confirmed that Kinberg would direct the film and that McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, and Hoult had all signed on to return for one more film. In addition to Turner, Apocalypse actors Alexandra Shipp, Tye Sheridan, and Kodi Smit-McPhee were also confirmed to be returning, while producers for the film were revealed to be Kinberg and Parker. At that time, Chastain was in talks to join the cast as Shi'ar Empress Lilandra, the film's villain. The film's script was said to "hew closer" to the original "Dark Phoenix Saga" by Chris Claremont and John Byrne than The Last Stand did.[47][48] Despite being listed as a producer, Lauren Shuler Donner had no involvement in the film and was only given credit due to contract terms.[49][50] It was later revealed that the character Dazzler would appear in the film, after being hinted at in a scene that was eventually deleted from Apocalypse.[51] Halston Sage was cast in the role in August 2017.[52] Singer was originally announced as being a producer on the film, but following allegations of sexual abuse against him, Kinberg stated that he was not involved in the film and his name would not be in the film's credits.[11]

Daniel Orlandi returned as costume designer for the film after doing so on Logan.[8][53] He worked with Kinberg to come up with costumes for the X-Men that were closer to the original comic designs that Kinberg had wanted to see in the films since he first joined the franchise, but had never been in a position to control before. The final costumes for the film feature the yellow-and-blue design of the original comics, but combine features of designs from many different incarnations of the group. Kinberg also looked to Logan for general design inspiration, wanting to replicate the "naturalistic" and "handmade" quality of that film for the costumes, sets, props, and title design. He felt that this would give more impact to the large-scale elements of the film, and help it be more emotional, comparing this idea to the original Star Wars films.[8]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography began on June 28, 2017, in Montreal, Quebec,[47][54] under the working title Teen Spirit.[55] Mauro Fiore served as cinematographer.[56] Filming primarily took place at MELS Studios.[57] Before the end of the month, Evan Peters was set to reprise his role as "audience favorite" character Quicksilver from the previous films, and Lamar Johnson joined the cast in an undisclosed role.[58] At the start of August, Chastain confirmed her involvement in the film;[59] she was interested in the story, after turning down roles in other superhero films, due to its focus on female characters.[60] She later revealed that she was not actually playing Lilandra.[61] Kinberg said he wanted the film to be "human" and emotional like previous X-Men films, and that he was looking to ground the "Dark Phoenix Saga" story for his adaptation "so it's not too intergalactic."[62] He later clarified that the film would still include alien characters as in the comic storyline, an element that was ignored for the Last Stand adaptation, but which he felt was integral to the story.[63][6] He also said that the film would tonally be less operatic than previous X-Men films, which he hoped would make it more relatable for audiences.[63] By September, Daniel Cudmore had stated that he would be appearing in the film, but could not confirm whether he would be reprising his role as Colossus from previous films in the franchise.[18] Olivia Munn initially said that she would reprise her role as Psylocke,[64] but by February 2019 she revealed that she was unable to reprise her role due to scheduling conflicts with filming The Predator.[65] Filming was completed on October 14, 2017.[54][66]

Post-production[edit]

In December 2017, Kinberg revealed that the film would be in post-production for almost a year, longer than usual for the series, because he wanted to take the time to have the visual effects look right by focusing on the "nuance" of the effects, rather than the scale.[67] He also explained that he "felt in his gut" that this was the story he needed to tell once Singer left the franchise, and that his vision for the film was "so clear in my head, emotionally and visually, that it would have killed me to hand this to somebody else to direct." The film was described as being the most sinister and somber of the franchise, with McAvoy finding it to be the most emotional of the X-Men films he had worked on. It becomes a "fight for Jean's soul" and features a twist that was intended to have significant repercussions on the entire franchise.[68] Lawrence revealed that she had worked to convince Kinberg to direct the film, and had promised to return for it if he did so, despite her dislike of the make-up required to portray her character.[69] It was revealed that the film would introduce a version of the island Genosha, adapted to the film as a mutant refuge led by Magneto,[7] and that it would focus on the female characters more so than previous films in the series, particularly Jean Grey, as both the protagonist and antagonist of the story, and Chastain's character, with whom Grey has a complex relationship.[60]

Fox delayed the film's release in March 2018, pushing it back from November 2, 2018, to February 14, 2019.[70] This was because Fox and Kinberg wanted to schedule some routine reshoots for the film after receiving feedback from audiences during a test screening, but were not able to get all of the necessary cast members together until August or September 2018. This would not have left enough time to complete post-production work, such as visual effects, for the additional footage before the November 2018 release date.[71] Specifically, Kinberg was looking to rework the third act of the film, and re-wrote part of the script ahead of the reshoots. With post-production already underway, the film was believed to have been under-budget, while the planned reshoots would cost less than $10 million. Additionally, Kinberg and the studio had been looking to change the film's release date for "some time" to avoid competing with the Christmas-oriented film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. The new February release date was noted as having the film opening away from other major studio films, while placing it on President's Day weekend, which had proved to be successful for Deadpool and Marvel's Black Panther.[72] Addressing the reshoots, Kinberg confirmed the scheduling delays, and described the photography as a "normal" part of the film's creation that would allow him "enough time to have it ready and looking perfect."[73]

At the end of April, a Fox panel at the 2018 CinemaCon revealed the first logo for the film. It did not include "X-Men" in the title, but included a circle around the 'X' in Dark Phoenix which was compared to the X-Files logo;[74] the film was later confirmed to be simply titled Dark Phoenix in the United States, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix for release internationally.[8] By that August, the reshoots were expected to take place in Montreal over two-and-a-half weeks, though the Quebec Film and Television Bureau believed that these reshoots would take up to three months to complete, due to scheduling conflicts among the cast members.[57][75] The reshoots were set to take place at MTL Grandé studios, since MELS Studios was reserved for another production during the reshoot period,[57] and had begun by August 31.[76] At the end of September, after the release of the film's first trailer, Fox again delayed the film's release, setting it for June 7, 2019. This date was seen as a better time to release the film in China, where the trailer received more attention than it did in the United States, while also allowing it to take advantage of premium screens that had previously been reserved for Fox's newly delayed (and later canceled) Gambit film.[77][78] The move was also reportedly to appease James Cameron, who had Alita: Battle Angel moved from December to February and did not want competition from another Fox would-be blockbuster; Kinberg and Dark Phoenix producers opposed the change, as the film was not made for a summer release and was facing heavy competition.[79]

In January 2019, Lana Condor revealed that she was unable to return as Jubilee, due to her commitment to the film To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018).[80] Lee Smith served as editor for the film.[81] Visual effects were provided by MPC, MELS, Rising Sun Pictures, Rodeo FX, Scanline VFX and Soho VFX, with Phil Brennan serving as the main visual effects supervisor.[82]

Music[edit]

Dark Phoenix: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by
ReleasedJune 7, 2019 (2019-06-07)
GenreFilm score
Length67:55
LabelFox Music
Hans Zimmer chronology
Widows
(2018)
Dark Phoenix: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(2019)
The Lion King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(2019)
Xperiments from Dark Phoenix
Film score by
ReleasedAugust 2, 2019 (2019-08-02)
GenreFilm score
Length78:43
LabelRemote Control Productions
Hans Zimmer chronology
The Lion King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(2019)
Xperiments from Dark Phoenix
(2019)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run
(2020)

Evan Peters stated in January 2018 that Hans Zimmer was composing the score for the film,[83] despite Zimmer having said in March 2016 that he would not score another superhero film following his experience working on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.[84] Zimmer later explained that conversations with director Ron Howard had convinced him to not keep to a "blanket" view and avoid an entire genre, instead focusing on waiting for the right story. When Kinberg approached him at a concert to talk about his vision for Dark Phoenix, Zimmer realized that the story was one he wanted to help tell and that the film was an opportunity for something that he had always wanted to try in a film score, so he decided to join the production.[85] In writing the film's score, Zimmer wrote new themes for the X-Men, Magneto, and the Phoenix, and chose to omit previously established themes written by previous composer John Ottman.

The film's soundtrack was released digitally on June 7. A second album, entitled Xperiments from Dark Phoenix, containing previously unreleased suites and themes written for the film, was announced on July 25.[86] Originally planned to be released as the second disk of a two-CD set, a fan-led petition to Fox Music was made when it appeared the material would not be released. Zimmer later revealed in an interview with Scala Radio that over 16 hours of music was written for the film and that he was fighting to get a second disk released after the critical and financial failure of the film.[87] The album was released digitally on August 2, 2019.

Dark Phoenix: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
No.TitleLength
1."Gap"8:07
2."Dark"4:27
3."Frameshift"8:15
4."Amity"5:52
5."Intimate"10:14
6."Negative"3:58
7."Deletion"4:51
8."Reckless"9:35
9."Insertion"7:56
10."Coda"4:40
Total length:67:55
Xperiments from Dark Phoenix
No.TitleLength
1."X-HZT"17:27
2."X-X"5:59
3."X-LGDP"8:07
4."X-SI"6:25
5."X-HD"3:32
6."X-MP"3:21
7."X-MT"5:03
8."X-TX"8:48
9."X-MDP"9:06
10."X-F"3:56
11."X-CH"4:58
12."X-SS"2:01
Total length:78:43

Marketing[edit]

(left to right) Writer-director Simon Kinberg, producer Hutch Parker, and stars Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, and Kodi Smit-McPhee promoting Dark Phoenix at the 2019 WonderCon.

On September 26, 2018, Turner revealed the first trailer for Dark Phoenix on The Late Late Show with James Corden before Fox released it online. Responses to the trailer widely considered it to be too similar to X-Men: The Last Stand.[88] Graeme McMillan and Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that this feeling could have been avoided if the trailer had shown more of the film's space and alien elements, which would have differentiated it from the Last Stand adaptation.[89] Scott Mendelson at Forbes called the trailer "dull," and said that its focusing on the characters, rather than big effects or action, was a risk by Fox, given that audiences have indicated through the box office numbers of X-Men: Apocalypse that they are not necessarily interested in this version of the X-Men characters.[90] The trailer was watched 8 million times within 24 hours on Fox's YouTube channel, but received 44 million views within that same time period across Chinese social media platforms, leading to Fox re-focusing their release plans on China.[77]

A second trailer was released on February 27, 2019, followed by a third and final trailer on April 17. Some press estimated that Fox spent a total of around $90 million promoting the film.[91]

In March 2019, Vanity Fair reported that the film faced promotional difficulties because long-term employees of the Fox marketing team had been laid-off after Fox's merger with Disney. They reported that a Fox marketing executive said: "We know when we are dropping a trailer, but we are nowhere near where we should be at this time. It's frightening. I would be mad if I were a filmmaker."[92] Similar reports were made after the film's release, with The Hollywood Reporter stating that, based on an NRG tracking poll taken in May, the film had lower awareness rates than any other film in the series.[93] Deadline Hollywood reported that they had been hearing about the marketing campaign being in disarray since February and cited this as a major factor in the film's financial failure. They also reported that Disney had attempted to integrate the film into their marketing department, but they did not have enough time, which Simon Kinberg confirmed in a KCRW podcast.[94][95]

On May 23, 2019, a music video for "Extraordinary Being" by Emeli Sandé was released, which featured footage from Dark Phoenix.[96]

Release[edit]

Dark Phoenix, which was distributed by 20th Century Fox,[97] had its world premiere on June 4, 2019, at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California,[98] Its United States theatrical release began on June 7, 2019; it was originally slated for November 2, 2018,[43] and then rescheduled for February 14, 2019,[70] before being pushed to June.[77] The film was titled X-Men: Dark Phoenix outside of the United States.[8]

Dark Phoenix was released in the US on digital download by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on September 3, 2019, and was released on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD on September 17.[99] On June 3, 2021, Disney announced that Dark Phoenix would be available to stream on Disney+ starting September 3.[100]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $65.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $186.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $252.4 million.[1] It has been widely described as a box office failure.[101] Deadline Hollywood calculated the net loss of the film to be $133 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues.[91]

In the United States and Canada, Dark Phoenix was released alongside The Secret Life of Pets 2, and was initially projected to gross $50–60 million from 3,721 theaters in its opening weekend, with the studio expecting a $50-million debut.[102][3] However, after making $14 million on its first day, including $5 million from Thursday night previews (the lowest X-Men total since The Wolverine's $4 million in 2013), projections were lowered to $34 million. It ended up debuting to $32.8 million, finishing second behind The Secret Life of Pets 2. This was, at the time, the lowest opening weekend total of any film in the franchise by $20 million and the first time an X-Men film did not top the box office the week of its release.[103] In its second weekend, the film fell 71.5% to $9.4 million, finishing fifth.[104] The following weekend, the film was pulled from 1,667 theaters and made $3.5 million, finishing tenth.[105]

In other territories, the film was projected to gross $120–135 million, including $50–60 million from China, for a global debut of around $170 million.[106] The film made $13 million on its first day in China (including previews). It ended up debuting to just $103.7 million internationally and $136.5 million worldwide. Its largest markets were China ($45.6 million), South Korea ($5.1 million), Mexico ($5 million) and the United Kingdom ($4.9 million).[107]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Dark Phoenix holds an approval rating of 22% based on 378 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Dark Phoenix ends an era of the X-Men franchise by taking a second stab at adapting a classic comics arc—with deeply disappointing results."[108] It is the lowest-rated installment of the X-Men film series on the website.[109] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 43 out of 100, based on 52 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[110] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale, and those at PostTrak gave it an overall positive score of 69% (with an average 3 out of 5 stars) and a 49% "definite recommend."[103]

Writing for TheWrap, William Bibbiani said of the film: "It would be wonderful to report that Dark Phoenix was an impressive send-off to this long-running franchise... Instead it's just a disappointingly average superhero flick, with a familiar story, disinterested actors, some cool action sequences, and a whole lot of missed opportunities."[111] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 1.5 out of 4 stars and said, "It's hard to even render an opinion on the discrete strengths and weaknesses of a franchise that has devolved to the point of Dark Phoenix, a lavishly brutal chore nearly as violent as the Wolverine movie Logan and a movie featuring more death by impalement and whirling metal than all the Saw movies put together."[112]

Matt Goldberg of Collider gave the film a grade of "D" and wrote, "When Marvel Studios inevitably reboots X-Men, a movie like Dark Phoenix will be a forgotten relic. The characters and their world deserve better, but we'll have to wait until their next evolution."[113] Kurt Loder of Reason magazine wrote, "There are several things wrong with Dark Phoenix. I'm tempted to say everything is wrong with it, except that the picture is largely in focus and the credits appear to be correctly spelled. Other than that, though..."[114] Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist said: "Its atrocious, expository dialogue, cumbersome plot, whiplashing character motivations, unintentionally funny moments, and often corny costumes ensure Dark Phoenix will be remembered in the annals of mediocre movies."[115]

Conversely, Variety's Owen Gleiberman summarized his positive review with, "The X-Men franchise wraps up... with a functionally plotted sequel that attains a note of ominous majesty, thanks to Sophie Turner's presence as an X-Woman consumed by the awesomeness of her power."[116]

Kate Erbland of Indiewire and Anne Cohen of Refinery29 criticized certain moments of the film, particularly a moment in which Raven suggests that the name of the team be changed to the "X-Women", for attempting to pander to female audiences, which they described as "cheeky", "inorganic" and "condescending". They compared these to similar moments in other blockbuster films, and Erbland felt that they distracted from more constructive aspects of its female-centric perspective.[117][118] Nikolay Nikolov of Mashable wrote that the feminist messages of the film were "a refreshing attempt to fix some of the mistakes made in the past".[119] However, in the behind the scenes feature The Making of Dark Phoenix, both the cast and crew state they didn’t intend on making a feminist message.

Kinberg took responsibility for the film's poor reception, stating: "I'm here, I'm saying when a movie doesn't work, put it on me. I'm the writer-director, the movie didn't connect with audiences, that's on me."[120]

Accolades[edit]

The film was nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards, but did not win either of them. It was nominated in the category Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel, and Jessica Chastain was nominated as Worst Supporting Actress, but lost to Rambo: Last Blood and Rebel Wilson in Cats, respectively.[121]

Cancelled sequel[edit]

In May 2016, Kinberg said that Dark Phoenix would be the first in a new trilogy focusing on the younger versions of the original X-Men characters who had been introduced in Apocalypse.[25] However, after the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney was announced in December 2017, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that any future X-Men films would be produced by Marvel Studios as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), making Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants the last films in the Fox-produced series.

Two-parter plan[edit]

Dark Phoenix was initially planned as a two-film story,[122] with the parts to be filmed back-to-back. However, in late pre-production the studio decided to only produce one film with the prequel cast, as new management didn't want any more X-Men movies set in the past due to the reception of X-Men: Apocalypse, resulting in rewrites.[94][123] For a while, there were still plans for a sequel that continued the Phoenix story with an eventual crossover with the New Mutants series based on the "Inferno" storyline,[124][125] but those plans were ultimately cancelled due to the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney. This resulted in footage being cut from both the Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants films that had been intended to be expanded upon in sequels.[126]

Chris Claremont confirmed the two-film plan and revealed that this film centers on Jean as Phoenix and the second was going to feature Dark Phoenix. According to Claremont, the film’s purpose is to make the audience fall in love with Jean, while the purpose of the second was to break their hearts.[127][128]

According to visual effects supervisor Greg Butler, the story was originally meant to be more cosmic, but that aspect of the Phoenix was meant for the second part of a two-film story.[129] In June 2017, it was rumored that the Shi'ar alien race would be featured in the film,[130] and Angelina Jolie was being looked at for a role, though she was not expected to accept the part. Jessica Chastain was also potentially being considered for the same character.[131] Chastain herself had admitted her character kept changing.[132]

Simon Kinberg stated that, had he had four hours to tell the story, he would have included the Hellfire Club and Lilandra.[133]

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