Comic book movies usually only gain a sense of finality when the key actors involved truly and finally get tired of playing the characters and/or their contracts expire. Those two things don’t always happen at the same time, of course, but when they do then it’s finally time for a long-running character to die. Otherwise, superhero cinema is the fuel that makes the worldwide box office go and very few are willing to hop off that gravy train unless they have to.
That is, however, unless they are forced off the train by forces outside their control.
Turns out, there is another way for real-world events to lend a comic book movie an actual ending: corporate drama. If your studio suddenly makes a deal for someone else to take over (like Sony lending Spider-Man back to Marvel Studios) or if your studio is simply bought out entirely (like Fox being absorbed by the Disney machine) then whatever plans you had for the future are as dead as Uncle Ben. The last movie you made before the corporate drama is suddenly the end of everything you’ve been doing for years.
Enter The Dark Phoenix, Fox’s 12th overall X-Men movie since 2000 and fourth in the prequel timeline which Matthew Vaughn kickstarted in 2011’s First Class. A youngish Simon Kinberg helped adapt the iconic Dark Phoenix storyline from the comics into 2006’s The Last Stand, and he’s been apologizing for it ever since. This is his do-over as well as his directorial debut, but a lot has changed from the start of production to the release of this new trailer:
The release date has been pushed back repeatedly. Expensive reshoots have been conducted. Crucially, a need for some actual finality has been forced on them because after Dark Phoenix and New Mutants Marvel Studios gets to hit the giant reset button. It’s almost like the people in Fox’s marketing department – ya know, the same people about to lose their jobs as part of Disney’s “efficiencies” – knew what they were doing in selecting The Doors’ “The End” for the mandatory old rock song to accompany the first Dark Phoenix trailer.
However, if people didn’t get the message then they sure seem to now, thanks primarily to this new trailer which outright spoils the big death everyone had already guessed and heavily implies she might not be the only one to go.
Yes, Mystique dies, thus fulfilling Jennifer Lawrence’s lifelong dream of never having to wear that make-up or costume again. If the trailer didn’t make that clear enough for you, Kinberg confirmed it in an Entertainment Weekly interview. He also teased the film will deliver several more “major casualties.”
It’s certainly possible that in a post-Infinity War world Fox’s marketing people wanted to make it seem like Dark Phoenix will deliver more death than it actually does and Kinberg is playing along. However, the trailer is very convincing in arguing everyone might be fair game, including Magneto, Beast, Quicksilver, and Professor Xavier, all of them seem caught in potentially fatal confrontations with Sophie Turner’s Dark Phoenix.
And why not? Other than the Deadpool universe, Marvel Studios is just going to recast everyone and start over. At this point, kill ‘em all and let Disney sort them out, that’s what I always say. When it actually applies…like it does here…and pretty much only here.
I still can’t shake how much this movie still seems airlifted in from another era. The same was true of Apocalypse as well. The endless delays – they finished principal photography October 2017 – certainly don’t help. Expectations, inevitably, are pretty low. However, gifted with such a protracted post-production process I have a feeling Dark Phoenix might need its own subtitle: Simon Kinberg Kills the X-Men Universe. That’ll at least be something new.
Dark Phoenix is due June 7, 2019.