[Editor’s note: this piece contains spoilers relating to Dark Phoenix]
Marvel/Disney is pushing Dark Phoenix hard. It’s not their film in that they didn’t make it, but they own it now, and they’re going to try to capitalize on it. A recent trip to the cinemas brought me two back-to-back trailers for Dark Phoenix. The first, a nostalgic look back at the X-Men franchise from its roots in 2002 all the way through X-Men: Apocalypse and the full cast of characters that we’ve come to love. The second, a traditional trailer for Dark Phoenix. Both trailers were branded “Marvel.” Of course, Marvel is going to attempt to cash in on their new property, but just because they’re telling you to see it, to throw your hard-won monies at them, doesn’t mean you should.
Little known fact: Dark Phoenix is X-Men: The Last Stand. They’ve tried to hide it with all new actors and titles, they even waited 13 years to make it again, but the twist is still there, Kevin Spacey is still Kaiser Söze, and you shouldn’t see Dark Phoenix to find this out because I’ve just spoiled not one, but two movies for you. If that’s not enough, here are five reasons why you should never, ever see Dark Phoenix.
1. Dead Man Walking
The X-Men franchise as you know it has no future. Production on Dark Phoenix began and ended at Fox before Disney could officially influence it vis-à-vis Marvel. This means that the likelihood of ever seeing this current iteration of X-Men again is currently standing somewhere between unlikely and Mystique’s-name-has-officially-been-changed-to-Mistake. Many X-Men fans are invested in the franchise and might even be willing to give it a chance to live up to the franchise’s high marks from years past (despite the bad reviews already coming out), but consider that the film may not have even been designed as a final chapter for these characters. You may get less closure from this than from Game of Thrones. It’s probably a safer bet to accept Logan as the official end of Fox’s X-Men saga.
2. The Theatrical Trailers are Really Spoilers
The trailers have already given away most of the movie. Look, history repeats itself, and if you let the same dude write a new version of an old X-Men movie, you’re going to get the same mistakes (but more on this below). Here, the trailers not only reveal major plot sequences and action highlights, they flat-out show that another (keep reading) beloved character, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), gets killed!
Check out the first theatrical trailer and note the funeral sequence that features a number of the X-Men getting rained on around a fresh grave. Whose grave? Seconds later, we get a brief shot of beast holding what appears to be an either unconscious or dead Mystique — their relationship has been a long-running thread throughout the X-Men: First Class series. Note then that Mystique never appears in any film-sequential footage beyond that confrontation scene between the other X-Men and Jean.
Or go to the second theatrical trailer for a more robust and overt telling of Mystique’s death at Jean’s hands.
Still not convinced? The film’s director has not only confirmed the character’s death, but explained why they revealed it in the trailers, something to do with proving that this film has weight. He said that the stakes are high for the characters, but all I heard was “more of the same!”
3. You’ve Already Seen this Movie
Chances are, if you like X-Men movies, you probably have one that you like less than the others. You may even hate one. For most, this has got to be 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. So you may not want to hear that, at its heart, Dark Phoenix is a remake.
The focal point of The Last Stand was none other than the Dark Phoenix Saga. In it, Jean Grey, as Dark Phoenix, manages to kill Scott Summers/Cyclops in the film’s opening minutes, while he’s not even onscreen! She slow-motion disintegrates Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart, wheelchair and all). And she gets murdered by Wolverine. It featured a bonkers plot-line that involved a mutant cure, shirtless angels, and a mutant army that seems to be designated such purely because they all wear dark leather tights and ass-less chaps.
This shit heap of filmmaking travesty was so bad it was the first cinematic experience to inspire a strange sensation deep within me that first hit my gut and slowly crept towards my mind. It was the urge to vacate my seat (or possibly my bowels) mid-movie. This unfamiliar feeling was near undeniable, so strong that I almost did the unthinkable: exit a comic book superhero movie before the credits. Under normal circumstances these films are the only ones that lead me to actually stay for the credits. X-Men: The Last Stand is that bad and while I did not leave, I have never watched it again.
Maybe it was the major character deaths. Maybe it was the Juggernaut’s ridiculous character design that bore no resemblance to its source material (see Deadpool 2 on how to do the Juggernaut right). Maybe it was the way the film squandered Rogue, a badass character who was never given a fair shake in the original trilogy—instead of bringing her to her full super-powered potential, they opted to strip her of her mutant abilities entirely, relegating her to a plot afterthought.
There’s nothing wrong with a remake — in fact, some remakes have delivered some of the best movies (Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy being a prime example), but usually not when it’s the same creatives behind them…
4. Dark Phoenix and The Last Stand Were Written by the Same Person
The upcoming Dark Phoenix is written by Simon Kinberg, who also wrote X-Men: The Last Stand.
Kinberg seems to be stuck on the Phoenix saga, and has said that he’d have preferred to focus even more on it in The Last Stand. Since poor executive decision-making drives Hollywood, he got his wish and brings us full-circle, closing out this near-20-year franchise with the same story that almost destroyed it 13 years ago. Thirteen years is not enough time for any of us to need another attempt at this same story, and definitely not by the same person who got it so wrong the first time. If the prospect of the same writer writing the same story of the worst X-Men film weren’t enough to convince you not to waste your time, consider that his powers were actually expanded: this time, Kinberg’s not only writing the film, he’s producing, and directing it as well.
5. Dark Phoenix was Plagued by Reshoots
What could be worse than getting a remake of a terrible movie from the same person who created the original? Finding out that the remake of the bad movie doesn’t even have the writer-director’s first choice ending. That’s right, Dark Phoenix will feature a concluding act that stems from Kinberg’s second best idea for an ending. Apparently, Dark Phoenix got scooped by Captain Marvel and its own space-born conclusion, so much so that they reshot the ending. Officially, this was only two and a half weeks of reshoots, but unofficially, it’s been rumored to have been as extensive as three months. In either event, these aren’t minor changes that only changed the film’s ending, they actually involved re-working the entire look and feel of the film in regards to Jean Grey’s character design throughout.
In other words, they threw out what they considered a great idea and instead plugged in a total B-squad idea. And, this was after principal photography had already concluded. In other words, the rest of the movie is remaining (essentially) the same, only they’ve chopped off its ending, switched venues and plot elements, and added a new ending. Is that how writing an effective plot for the duration of a film works? Probably not.