Not even Jean Grey could have seen this one coming. X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the latest and perhaps last main installment in 20th Century Fox’s mutant superhero franchise, tanked at the box office this weekend, and is expected to lose the studio over $100 million.
This was supposed to be the franchise’s last hurrah. Fox was bought by Disney, which means the X-Men franchise will likely get a total MCU makeover in the coming years. Dark Phoenix was in many ways meant to be a send-off for a groundbreaking superhero franchise that began in earnest with Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000. But not even a coterie of stars, including Sophie Turner as Grey, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Jennifer Lawrence could save the film for poor word of mouth and a critical drubbing.
Thanks in large part to a tepid 22 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Dark Phoenix had the worst opening weekend of any X-Men movie, and could make as little as $285 million globally, when all is said and done. To put that into perspective, Fox reportedly spent $350 million on the film’s production costs alone.
So what happened?
According to a new report from Deadline, the production was doomed from the start. Writer-director Simon Kinberg reportedly wanted to tell the story of Jean Grey’s heel turn in two parts, and wrote it that way. But after the studio had a change of heart, Kinberg was forced to pivot, and essentially had to cram two movies into one feature length script. There were also reportedly a ton of re-shoots, which is not out of the ordinary, but not necessarily promising either, especially when stars like Lawrence didn’t want to be there in the first place.
Perhaps the most telling sign that something was amiss was how often the release date got pushed back. Dark Phoenix was reportedly never designed to compete with massive summer fare, which makes its June release date somewhat puzzling in retrospect. Fox reportedly moved it to June to take advantage of a holiday in China, but as Deadline points out, Dark Phoenix didn’t even top the Chinese box office over the weekend. Clearly, audiences appetites for this iteration of the X-Men has run its course. But if there’s anyone who can revive the franchise to its former glory, it’s Kevin Feige and the folks over at Marvel.