December 11-12, 2021
The X-Men franchise has long been a sturdy backbone of superhero cinema. It’s hard to believe there was a time when comic book films were a risk for studios, but when the original film was released in 2000 (its screenplay written by June Supa-Star David Hayter), Fox was gambling a relatively large budget on how much fan interest there was in the genre. It paid off, with the cast of mutants still pulling in audiences today.
The final film in the series, Dark Phoenix, opens in Australia on June 6, mere months after Disney acquired Fox in a landmark multi-billion dollar deal. While some fans may believe the series is being wrapped up for business reasons only, director Simon Kinberg claims Dark Phoenix was always planned as a finale.
In an interview with Comic Book, the director said, “I approached this movie as the culmination of 20 years of storytelling, of living with the X-Men for all this time, and watching this family come together. And this movie is the movie that challenges that family, and tears them apart in a new way, and so I imagined it as the culmination.”
Kinberg’s sentiments should put to rest any fears that Disney and Fox’s merger will leave the series without a proper ending. After following the X-Men narrative for 19 years, leaving these characters without a satisfying conclusion would have been heartbreaking for fans and the creative team behind the films. As it veers toward a conclusion, the tone of its storytelling has necessarily become more intense and dramatic – a change evident in the official trailers for Dark Phoenix.
Dark Phoenix will cover the death of a character who has been a vital player throughout the series. Their death will set this final story in motion, creating a divide between characters and uniting others that were once enemies. This is a film unlike others in the franchise. There are real consequences and the characters who die will stay dead, making Jean Grey’s/Dark Phoenix’s powers all the more terrifying. Other major character deaths (and the tears of fans) can be expected, so be prepared!
While there’s plenty of guaranteed drama onscreen, reports indicate that there were issues offscreen during production. Dark Phoenix’s original third act was reshot, leaving fans to speculate that Disney may have requested an ending tying the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Actor James McAvoy, aka Professor X, has since revealed the reshoots were because the film’s original ending was too similar to that of another superhero film.
While the series will most likely be rebooted from the ground up, Disney has already confirmed that Deadpool will remain untouched, meaning he may ultimately make it into the MCU. If any others will follow remains a question without answer.
Fans shouldn’t expect any action from Marvel on its newly acquired properties to happen in the near future. The Hollywood Reporter indicated that any reboots of previously Fox-owned characters or properties won’t happen until at least 2021, and possibly longer than that. The wait is attributed to the lengthy development and gestation period that projects under Marvel traditionally take. Other Marvel-related films already announced by Fox – like X-Force – have come under a cloud of uncertainty, including The New Mutants, which has already been filmed but remains without a release date and looks to be undergoing reshoots.
While Deadpool is a given and would pose little difficulty in integrating into the MCU due to his fourth-wall-breaking nature, other X-Men characters might face bigger problems. First of all, how will the writers explain the X-Men flying under S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar for so long? And furthermore, where were they during the major plot events that have taken place in The Avengers films, including the Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet incident? And while those are problems that face the inclusion of the X-Men as a group, the individual characters will suffer issues on their own timelines. Magneto, for example, grew up during the Holocaust and his experiences are what made him into the iconic villain he became throughout countless comics and films. Without his required placement in the chronology, the character won’t be the same.
However, the writers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are smart, and as we’ve seen already, they aren’t scared to play with multiple timelines and alternate dimensions. Potentially, the most satisfying way to integrate the X-Men into the broader world of Marvel is with a plot device like the Infinity Gauntlet. With some clever plotting, a tear between universes can be opened up, allowing the separate cinematic universes to collide. Disney has already broken so much ground with the MCU, tying together multiple characters in one giant unprecedented package. Would it be impossible for them to break ground again and bring TWO cinematic universes together in such a way? It’s more likely that they’ll choose the simpler option (creatively and legally) and reboot, but it’s an interesting possibility.
Perhaps one of the most disappointing things lost in the merger is Fox’s willingness to take risks. Deadpool and Logan, both films featuring graphic violence and adult themes, would never have happened under Disney. Even within the X-Men series itself, there is a disparity of tone and theme that kept things fresh. While it didn’t always work (just take one look at Origins: Wolverine), when it did, Fox managed to deliver something as different as Days of Future Past, or as critically acclaimed as Logan.
Whatever happens, the X-Men now have a new home at Disney under the banner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Dark Phoenix is aiming to provide closure for fans who have been following the story in its current form. It’s a franchise that deserves to end with a bang, and it’ll be fascinating to see what it mutates into next.
‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ opens in Australian cinemas on June 6.
‘X-Men’ and ‘X2: X-Men United’ screenwriter David Hayter will attend Supanova Comic Con & Gaming in Sydney (21–23 June) and Perth (29-30 June).