It's out with the old and in with the new as the reason for the failure of Simon Kinberg's Dark Phoenix movie may be the Disney/Fox deal, the Captain Marvel movie, and the promotion of Brie Larson as the new face of the MCU.
With Dark Phoenix being a complete disaster at the box office, the "blame game" is now being played out in the Hollywood trade sites, with Deadline offering a spin on things in an article that places most of the blame on Fox Studios and, of course, none on Disney, who acquired the company in a $71 billion deal.
Deadline offers numerous "reasons" why Dark Phoenix failed but includes in their report a tidbit that is worth mentioning in that the movie was originally supposed to be two parts. It's said that Fox execs "changed gears" during late pre-production and demanded that it only be one movie.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix extended cut exists
In addition, reports are surfacing that a much better cut of X-Men: Dark Phoenix exists that would have better fleshed out the story and included even more action and improved dialogue and a worthwhile villain (more on that below). According to fans that have viewed the cut, it would have added up to 22 minutes or more of footage. Fans that have viewed the two different cuts of the Dark Phoenix movie offer lines were changed in the theatrical version of the film that took away from the much better-extended version. The theatrical release of Dark Phoenix has a run-time of less than two hours, while the preceding two X-Men films are near two and a half hours in length. Comparisons to the "KinbergCut" are now being made to what happened with Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman and Justice League (cut down to two hours), which saw Warner Bros. executives interfere with Snyder's vision and fans campaign for the release of the "SnyderCut."
Now, why would Fox cut Dark Phoenix and even go so far as to change lines in the film?
Did the Disney/Fox deal cause executives to demand changes on Simon Kinberg's Dark Phoenix? Did the similarities between the Dark Phoenix story starring Sophie Turner and the Brie Larson Captain Marvel movie cause Disney to interfere? Dark Phoenix was originally going to be the first "Marvel" movie starring a female superhero, but that went to Brie Larson and Captain Marvel when the Dark Phoenix release date was changed (yet again) and moved away from Captain Marvel. Dark Phoenix was supposed to come out November 2018, then February 2019 -- a month before Captain Marvel. Did Fox decide to release Dark Phoenix as one movie because the Disney/Fox deal was going through? Were lines changed in the movie, in addition to the ending redone, so that it further separated Dark Phoenix from Captain Marvel that made it worse?
No blame for Simon Kinberg and about the "reshoots"
Interestingly enough, Deadline's piece offers no blame toward writer/director/producer Simon Kinberg; however, the same can't be said of online reviews and fan commentary. Kinberg is getting hammered for the failure of Dark Phoenix, which only brought in a measly $33 million. Deadline spins things stating, "We understand Kinberg got to make the film he wanted to make, and was flexible about reshoots with the studio." The film he wanted to make? Their own report states Dark Phoenix was originally intended to be two parts. Certainly, Kinberg, who is a fan of the more than 55 year history of the comics and remembers the failure of Last Stand, which he also wrote, wanted to correct things with the two-parter Dark Phoenix movie, but we see he never got the chance, which is because of the Disney-Fox deal, and now Dark Phoenix is considered worse than The Last Stand by some. Oh, the irony.
Regarding reshoots, Kinberg most recently said they don't plan for reshoots while discussing New Mutants. He said: "For all of these movies, Marvel's really brilliant at scheduling pick-ups into their budget and schedule so it's all prepared, and we have never been that smart." So did Dark Phoenix have reshoots and saw its runtime cut because the longer, by all accounts, much better version, wasn't favorably received by test audiences? And they planned for that? Or was it, again, because Disney wanted Dark Phoenix changed so that it didn't resemble Captain Marvel? It is known the ending of Dark Phoenix was changed, said to be similar to the end of Captain Marvel, from an epic United Nations scene to a CGI train wreck. Maybe Kinberg is trying to tell us something?
Captain Marvel and Brie Larson can't lose
Regarding Captain Marvel and Brie Larson, while promoting the release of Captain Marvel amid fan backlash, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told fans (note: bold emphasis my own): "She's one of the most popular characters in our comics, she's one of the most powerful characters in the comics and will be the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe." Feige also added: "And one of the highlights at my career at Marvel was introducing her at Comic-Con and having her coming out on stage and stand there with literally almost everything else from our universe, and there she was at the forefront, and it was a great foreshadowing of not just for how audiences are going to embrace Brie as this character, but also for how Captain Marvel is about to take the lead and be at the forefront of the entire Cinematic Universe."
Well, what would have happened if audiences favored and liked Sophie Turner and Jean Grey and the Dark Phoenix movie more than Brie Larson and Captain Marvel -- as Dark Phoenix was supposed to be released prior to Captain Marvel? How was Marvel Studios and Disney going to promote Captain Marvel as the first Marvel female superhero movie if Dark Phoenix gets released November 2018 or February 2019? Feige says it himself that Brie Larson and Captain Marvel are taking the lead and will be the forefront of the Marvel universe. That can't happen if X-Men's Dark Phoenix, Jean Grey and Sophie Turner come out on top. Certainly, if fans - even the general audience - saw the original better version of Dark Phoenix prior to Captain Marvel that they would have second-guessed what Feige and Marvel Studios were doing, even going so far as accusing Captain Marvel of ripping off Dark Phoenix. Again, Feige, Marvel, and Disney couldn't let that happen. Billions of dollars were at stake.
It all adds up
So adding things up: Simon Kinberg's initial plan is to make a two-part Dark Phoenix movie, but during pre-production, he was forced to only make it one movie; for some reason, Kinberg "decided" to cut the run time, cut scenes and change dialogue -- for the worse; the release date was changed not once, but twice, from November 2018 to February 2019 - before the release of Disney's Captain Marvel - to a June Summer 2019 release after Captain Marvel, which Deadline offers was also a big mistake as: "the movie was never intended to be a summer film. Dark Phoenix is darker and more psychologically complex than other X-Men movies. It was always seen as an off-season release, and the original plan was to get out ahead of Captain Marvel (March 8) and be the first female-led Marvel movie."
Deadline spins the release date changes and problems as the fault of Fox Studios' PR, stating execs didn't know when the flick was getting released, etc. etc., but a report from Vanity Fair from March does place the blame on the Disney-Fox deal in that the marketing surrounding the film had "new faces in the room—a handful of high-end consultants have been hired temporarily to fill the jobs recently vacated by long-term employees."
Back in January when the Disney fan shill sites were stating the movie was bad, sources close to Fox told me that a lot of hard work was done on the movie and those involved were proud of what they accomplished. The question remains, is the theatrical release the version what they accomplished?
Prior to the Disney-Fox deal going through, did Disney have anything to do with Fox Studios? According to a Fox leaker, Disney execs were spotted on set of the movies. It's claimed Disney execs were keeping an eye on things during the transition and were actively involved, as they wanted to make a clean slate of things. While some may scoff at the idea of Disney being involved or outright interfering with Fox prior to the merger, we are talking billions and billions of dollars here; so Disney having some sort of involvement doesn't seem that farfetched.
It seems probable:
- Simon Kinberg and Fox Studios decided on an epic two-part Dark Phoenix movie.
- Word of the Disney-Fox deal came down from on high, so Kinberg was forced to make it only one film.
- As it is only one film, a lot had to be changed, such as the villains (see below).
- Meanwhile, Feige, Disney and Marvel Studios had been developing the Captain Marvel movie starring Brie Larson, which is to become the face of their new MCU following Avengers: Endgame and the original Avengers actor leaving.
- Kinberg's Dark Phoenix and Feige's Captain Marvel are very similar (update: Skrulls confirmed to be a part of original ending similar to CM was changed / update #2: Skrull concept art revealed).
- Kinberg's Dark Phoenix has a November 2018 release date, prior to Captain Marvel.
- Audiences will first see Sophie Turner as a cosmically empowered character that involves aliens.
- Captain Marvel will follow, but audiences will be left scratching their heads as they just saw the same movie a few months prior.
- The Disney-Fox deal continues to get approval and go through.
- Disney and Feige don't want Dark Phoenix to interfere with their massive plans for Brie Larson and Captain Marvel.
- Disney tells Fox and Kinberg to change things for Dark Phoenix, including plot details and the release date (look for Kinberg to possibly be involved with Disney / Marvel Studios in the future).
- Dark Phoenix undergoes cuts, rewrites, edits and "reshoots" including the similar ending to Captain Marvel (update: similar ending confirmed through the release of DP concept art).
- Captain Marvel gets released to a billion dollar gross.
- The Disney/Fox deal officially goes through two weeks later.
- Dark Phoenix gets released and fails completely.
- Fox Studios marketing is blamed in part for the Dark Phoenix failure, though for at least two months it falls under Disney and it is known prior to the deal having gone through that employees left and were replaced.
Dark Phoenix extended cut details
A user on the Super Hero Hype forums who has seen the extended cut also thinks there was Disney interference and goes so far as to state the reason for changes on Dark Phoenix is because that down the road, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige wants to adapt his own version of the Dark Phoenix storyline when the MCU incorporates the X-Men (consider a rumor).
Regarding the Dark Phoenix extended cut and two-parter, the user on the Super Hero Hype forums goes into great detail about the differences between the two versions, with another user chiming in as well. You can read what they have to say here, here and here, but some of the cooler and more notable differences include:
- In the two-parter, Jessica was to play Lilandra of the Shi'ar, not an obscure villain (consider this a rumor; more on that below). It's noted if you pay attention to the theatrical release that a lot of Jessica Chastain's lines comes off-screen, meaning they were added after filming had already been done (and changed).
- Scott and Jean's footage relationship was fleshed out more.
- The Hank and Raven scene was extended where Hank was going to leave with her.
- Xavier was to leave the banquet with a full police escort leading back to the school.
- Jessica Chastain talking with her alien people about humans, the phoenix force and mutants was extended.
- The inhabitants of Genosha were first scared of Jean when she arrived.
- Magneto's line was cut in the theatrical release; he was supposed to say: “I’ve seen evil, I know what it looks like when it’s staring back at me and I’m looking at it now."
- Jessica Chastain and the Jean bar scene was cut short, with Chastain stating: "You think you don’t belong here, you don’t."
- Some of Storm in the sub-basement was cut. She had a line stating: “Where Scott goes, I go. If he needs me, I’m there, end of discussion”
- All of Storm and Selene's fight choreography was cut, in addition to a few more moments of Selene using her powers to make Nightcrawler band around and get closer to her.
- Jean was also to have slight fire in her hair in a scene, part of which was completed from the first original version of the film and wasn’t altered for the new 3rd act yet, which saw it removed.
- EVERYTHING after Jean stopping herself now from killing Xavier is from reshoots with the sole exception of the school rename and Summer Fontana’s astral plane scene.
- Most of Chastain’s lines after Jean stops attacking Xavier were new, Xavier was just supposed to say “she will kill us all” and she hisses “yessssss.”
- The alien version of Chastain's Vuk was supposed to have a full face reveal after she gets up on the roof after Scott blasted her, while they were all being carried away. Then we were to see her face heal over itself and her stare at the stars taking in her newfound heightened senses. Then she was to look down at the mutants being loaded up into armored vans.
- Jessica Chastain was supposed to do a superhero landing on the team during the train scene, with the speed pushing her skin she grew out of place and it healing back. THEN she was to rush at Beast.
- PHOENIX FORMING AROUND JEAN AS IT INTERTWINED WITH THE TRAIN AS ITS CARS FLOATED IN THE SKY. Was entirely Pre-viz so probably cut for budget and impact of the space Phoenix.
- ALL of Jean’s fight choreography was cut. She was to have a massive fight with onslaughts of the aliens that were coming out of the rubble ending with her disintegrating then all after being stabbed with the pole.
On the two-part Dark Phoenix version from the second SHH user:
- Fox execs expected this huge invasion style attack on New York, with the X men battling along side.
- What they got was just Jean and Scott saving civilians and UN leaders, Charles is also there, but his powers don’t work on aliens, so was a liability more than anything. The UN attack was scripted differently when this was going to be A TWO PART saga. (A WHOLE other messy story lol)
- Okay so there are some HUGE name OSCAR winning people behind the scenes creating this movie, look them up on IMDB. They ALL signed on to a FINISHED two part script, and were hired for their experience and talent, to bring together the huge undertaking of filming TWO movies.
- The two movies were to be filmed together. The plan was to film most of the huge action pieces first. So the UN set, the largest of any X film, as well as the New York night street battle set, were all being built. These to sets were the THIRD act sets for each movie, with the UN set serving as the HUGE invasion style finale for PART TWO! Part one‘s finale set, is still partially in THIS movie, albeit scaled down, and with key players missing. It also serves as the close of the second act, opposed to a final act battle.
- Fox, with about 2 months until principal photography, BLINDSIDED the entire team, CUT the budget and informed the creative team to scale it down to ONE movie. They were not told of any reason (no employee at Fox knew about the merger until it was announced, only higher ups). They scrambled. They had to rewrite an ENTIRE script, pulling together pieces and ideas from the old ones, while COMPLETELY cutting out characters, set pieces, sequences, and changing some characters motivations.
- The biggest omission from this is the Shi’ar!!!!! Yes the Shi’ar were to be introduced and fleshed out in the scrapped two part movies. Simon KNEW bringing them in this new script would be foolish, drawing away the spotlight from Jean. Having to do their origin story, as well as a certain character’s relationship with Charles, while also telling Jeans descent into darkness, in a two hour time frame, was UNREALISTIC. Things had to be cut guys.
- Jessica Chastain signed on to play LILANDRA! When the scripted changed, they had to delay her from shooting, while they figured out who she would play and how she would be involved. Eventually Jessica started TWO and a half months after all the other actors had started.