Why the latest ‘X-Men’ movie, ‘Dark Phoenix,’ was doomed from the start

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in

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Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in “Dark Phoenix.”
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Fox

  • “Dark Phoenix” is the latest “X-Men” movie, but it dropped that designation from its title in the US.
  • However, the movie is called “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” in most international territories, where the “X-Men” franchise has always excelled at the box office.
  • It suggests that the studio Fox, after nearly 20 years, had lost faith in the “X-Men” brand in the US.
  • The movie was also postponed twice to undergo significant reshoots.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“Dark Phoenix,” which comes to theaters this weekend, is the 12th “X-Men” movie and the final major one made by the Fox studio before it was acquired by Disney. But the movie dropped the “X-Men” designation from its title in the US, which is one sign it was doomed from the start.

It’s the only movie in the main “X-Men” series of films to not include the name of the superhero team of mutants in its title. Spinoffs like “Logan” and “Deadpool” got away with it, but they are far removed from the franchise’s main continuity.

The “Dark Phoenix” director and longtime franchise producer and writer Simon Kinberg said the decision to drop “X-Men” from the movie’s title was to “indicate that it’s a more character-driven movie.”

Read more: ‘Dark Phoenix’ is the worst-reviewed X-Men movie of all time, but the international box office could save it

“We really wanted to indicate that this is the ‘Dark Phoenix’ story and that she’s at the center of this story,” Kinberg told Collider in October. “She’s the A-plot of this story. Everything around this story revolves really centrally around Jean/Dark Phoenix as really the subject of the movie, not the object of the movie.”

But there could be a more sensible reason for the title strategy.

The movie is called “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” in most international markets, and the franchise has always found more success internationally than at the domestic box office. Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio wrote that every “X-Men” movie besides the first three have made more money outside the US.

It suggests that Fox has lost faith in the “X-Men” brand in the US after nearly 20 years of releasing these movies, which isn’t a great sign for a movie’s success. “Dark Phoenix’s” 2016 predecessor, “X-Men: Apocalypse,” made just $160 million in the US and received a 47% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. And “Dark Phoenix” is already off to a worse start.

“Dark Phoenix” is the worst reviewed “X-Men” movie yet with a 21% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, which could hurt its chances at the box office.

Boxoffice.com projects “Dark Phoenix” to earn $49.9 million this weekend, which would be the lowest opening in the franchise, behind 2014’s “The Wolverine,” which made $53 million. Furthermore, it’s estimating that it will come in second at the box office, behind “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”

The “Dark Phoenix” release date was also postponed twice, which is usually a sign that a movie is in trouble. It was originally set for release in November, then moved to February, and again moved to June. The movie underwent significant reshoots that dramatically altered its ending.

“There was more of a cosmic story … the story ended in space in a much more significant way,” the producer Hutch Parker told Digital Spy in May. “We actually shifted that to be back on Earth, most notably, so that we can involve our main characters and see them come together.”

No matter what happens with “Dark Phoenix,” the franchise’s future is in the hands of Disney and Marvel Studios.