Simon Kinberg didn’t kill Fox’s X-Men franchise single-handedly, but he’s provided plenty of nails for the increasingly cumbersome coffin, having written or co-written some of the most lifeless entries in the series. With his directorial debut in Dark Phoenix, he may have even pounded the last nail in himself.
Kinberg appeared on Entertainment Weekly’s The Business show on KCRW to discuss what he thinks went wrong with Fox’s latest (and final) X-Men entry. His take is a bit of a hoot.
“It clearly is a movie that didn’t connect with audiences that didn’t see it…”
I would have to agree with Simon Kinberg wholeheartedly with that statement. The movie did, in fact, fail to connect completely with audiences that didn’t see it. Because they didn’t see it.
I hope the snark isn’t too much, and I pray to sweet baby Cable that I don’t get too much snarkier.
I checked with a panel of experts, and learned a few things. Teeth that don’t get brushed fail to be clean. Gifts that you don’t purchase never make it to the person you intended to give them to. Fish food fails to connect with fish tummies if you don’t feed the fish. I could go on.
Kinberg has been taking some heat since his Dark Phoenix failed to be seen by many fans, therefore failing to connect with those that didn’t show up. It turns out, though, that the fans that did show up didn’t connect with what they saw, either:
“…it didn’t connect enough with audiences that did see it. So that’s on me… 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.”
Okay, I’ll be kind on that note. It’s good to take responsibility for things that go wrong when you’re at the helm, especially when you’re trying to steer a $200 million plus franchise in for a soft landing.
Dark Phoenix isn’t just failing to connect with audiences. It’s failing to connect with much of anything, having only pulled in $33 million in the U.S. since its release, and international audiences shrugging right past theaters.
So, what really went wrong with Dark Phoenix? Kinberg blames everything from shuffled release dates, a crowded summer theatrical line-up, to fans losing interest in the Fox X-movies after Disney acquired the studio (and the X-Men franchise) in a studio buy out.
Those factors may have played into Dark Phoenix’s crash and burn, but there is likely more going on with the film. The previous entry in the franchise, Age of Apocalypse, was a sleepy, insipid waste of time, effort, and energy, and many fans lost interest in a film series that couldn’t capture a villain as pivotal as Apocalypse on film, even with someone as dynamic as Oscar Isaac under the makeup.
It’s especially hard to give a Marvel adjacent property too much slack when the MCU proper has been knocking it out of the park.
For me, it’s even more simple than that. Age of Apocalypse destroyed any goodwill I had left in the franchise, with its reliance on tertiary X-Characters as mainstays, to the constant need to focus on Charles and Magneto’s thinly veiled love affair. There are so many more interesting stories in the X-Universe, and so many more exciting characters. But no. We get four movies with Jennifer Laurence acting bored as Mystique, a character that works best in smaller doses.
Then, there’s the bad word of mouth that hit Dark Phoenix before the first trailer even dropped. The original Dark Phoenix story-line in the comics was a huge, galaxy spanning space opera with a tragic climax that rocked the world of comics.
Some might say a direct adaptation of that story might prove too expensive, but what ended up in theaters cost $200 million before marketing.
The Dark Phoenix movie changed its stellar, cosmic ending to have the film wrap with a show-down on a train. Did we learn nothing from Green Lantern, people? Cosmic stories need cosmic settings.
You would think that Kinberg would have remembered. He co-wrote Fox’s first abhorrent attempt at the Dark Phoenix story with 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand.
Still, there’s no ill will from Kinberg. He’s excited to see the characters transition to Disney’s stewardship, and can’t wait to see where they end up.
“I love these characters. I’ll be super excited to see what Marvel does with them.”
I’m excited, too. If The Last Stand couldn’t kill the X-Men franchise, I’m sure Dark Phoenix won’t keep it blazing back to life later, more vibrant and stunning than ever.