X-Men: Dark Phoenix and New Mutants are coming in 2019, but will they even matter when they arrive? Although some of the biggest industry news of this year has been Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, with the implication that the rights to producing and distributing X-Men movies will fall to Marvel Studios, Fox still has two X-movies in post-production.
Dark Phoenix is a continuation of the X-Men prequel trilogy’s story, following James McAvoy’s Professor X, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique as they deal with Jean Grey’s (a returning Sophie Turner) ascension to sun-eating force of nature, the Phoenix (an attempt to redeem the storyline after it was butchered in X-Men: The Last Stand). Meanwhile, New Mutants is an attempt to capitalize on worthwhile (yet so-far dormant) IP, with the young team of misfits being placed into a horror movie scenario, a la the fan-favorite “Demon Bear” storyline in the comic books of the same name back in 1984.
So far, hype appears to be somewhat low, with both starting marketing campaigns before massive release delays and rumors of fundamental reshoots – all before the looming specter of the Disney takeover entered the scene. Considering they’re supposed to be tentpole features for Fox, is there an underlying reason why these movies seem to be petering out before they’ve even been released?
- This Page: How Dark Phoenix and New Mutants Hype Waned
- Page 2: Fox’s X-Men Series Already Feels Over
Both X-Men Movies Are Undergoing Massive Reshoots
Reshoots are a normal part of the filmmaking process, but recent history is littered with cases where a movie was fundamentally altered with post-production filming. Sometimes it’s for the better (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), a lot of times for the worse (Justice League).
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the latest to join the club, with the scheduling for the pickups cited as the reason for the delay. While they’re reportedly only for a few weeks, rumors abound of the film’s confused situation. Similarly, and even more drastically, New Mutants was pushed back an entire year, also due to reshoots to make the film scarier following IT‘s success. This occurred after a teaser trailer had recently dropped, one that got a rather positive response but has now dissipated.
Again, it’s not uncommon in Hollywood for tentpole to releases to go back for reshoots, often for very good reasons. Shane Black’s upcoming The Predator had its ending, originally set in daylight, reshot in order to make it scarier (just like with New Mutants). When there are logical reasons behind going back for expensive reshoots – in order to make the story make more sense or be more thrilling – additional photography can and should be welcomed. Whether they’re ultimately successful or not is another question.
Hopefully, the reasons behind the reshoots for – and finished products of – Dark Phoenix and New Mutants make them justifiable. But the delays in release don’t inspire much confidence.
Without Hugh Jackman, Audiences May Have Lost Interest In The X-Franchise
Over time, the X-Men franchise became defined by Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Still the only character to get a proper solo film (three, in fact), even when he wasn’t the star of a film, such as X-Men: First Class or X-Men: Apocalypse, he’d typically make a cameo.
After Jackman’s stellar final turn as Wolverine in Logan, though, the era is over. And that leaves a big question for the X-Men. Indeed, the last time Wolverine stood alongside his teammates, Apocalypse, was really just a brief Weapon X cameo, and the movie made $200 million less than the previous entry, the Jackman-starring X-Men: Days of Future Past. There’s a lot of reasons for the movies’ financial disparity, but lacking its banner star is part of it.
Now Logan has fully rounded off his story (with a very successful $619 million haul) and Deadpool has taken the series in a different direction, it may be that audiences are feeling less drive for the X-Men. With X-Men: Dark Phoenix set to once again provide audiences a Wolverine-less lunch, that’s another knock.
Page 2 of 2: Fox’s X-Men Series Already Feels Over
Audiences Are Already Looking Forward to the MCU Reboot
That the X-Men franchise has run for 18 years in the same continuity (sort of) with consistent box office success is certainly admirable, but there’s no denying at this point that fans are looking elsewhere. With Marvel Studios having aced comic book-accurate renditions of characters in a modern, cinematic setting, most are eager to see what they can do with the X-Men once they finally “come home”.
So, while Dark Phoenix is setting up to retell the iconic storyline muddled by X-Men: The Last Stand and will present comic-accurate costumes (and New Mutants engages with the reemergence of horror as a respected genre), the real hook comes with Marvel Studios. At this point, another rendition of the Phoenix Saga is just a roadblock to be passed so that fans can get to the juicy business of the X-Men being introduced into the MCU.
Marvel has already worked wonders with Spider-Man (as part of a shared deal with Sony), and the expectation they will work similar magic with the Merry Mutants (as well as the Fantastic Four). With such an exciting prospect, it’s hard for what are essentially standalone movies to make a dent. Even though the X-Men won’t appear in the MCU proper until 2021, the merger means it’s at the forefront of everybody’s minds.
They’re Both Chapters in an Incomplete Book
The impending MCU entrance of the X-Men offers up a much bigger concern that scuppers hype for Dark Phoenix and New Mutants. If we’re getting a reboot, that doesn’t just mean there’ll be new versions of the characters, it means that this current continuity will be left unfinished.
Both movies were made thinking they were just part of a story, not the end. X-Men: Dark Phoenix has a twist that supposedly shakes up the world (which won’t be an MCU connection due to rights), while New Mutants was clearly designed as a franchise-starter. Now they’re the last and, while reshoots can adjust things slightly, that doesn’t do much for the audience’s view of their purpose.
Through no fault of their own (reshoots aside) X-Men: Dark Phoenix and New Mutants have become lame duck films, ones that exist because they exist. Typically that would be enough justification, but an age of shared universes it feels odd; they’re not truly standalone, yet any hope of playing into the bigger picture has been dashed by inter-studio changes. Will they be good movies? We can hope, but at this point, does it matter?