‘Dark Phoenix’ Bombs at Box Office, Sends the ‘X-Men’ Out On a Giant Failure

Anyone who read comic books in the 1970s, 80s, 90s or 2000s probably remembers the X-Men being the biggest thing on the planet. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how popular the X-Men were; the first issue of their second monthly comic, simply titled X-Men, in 1991 led to sales of over seven million copies, over twice as many as the infamous Death of Superman in Superman 75.

Out of all the stories to come out of this period, the most famous was The Phoenix Saga. The entire story ran for nearly four years, starting with longtime X-Man Marvel Girl developing new pyrokinetic powers and renaming herself Phoenix. Over the course of the story, Phoenix’s powers grew stronger and stronger, eventually leading the evil Hellfire Club to try and corrupt her, which ultimately ends up with Phoenix losing control of her mind and powers, leading to her death at the climax of what’s since come to be known as The Dark Phoenix Saga.

So beloved and fundamental to the X-Men is this story that virtually every adaptation of the comic in other media has included it in some form, including the X-Men film series. In fact, the X-Men films have adapted it twice, and both adaptations have turned out to be horrible. The first attempt was X-Men: The Last Stand, a terrible movie that tried to squeeze one of the most beloved stories in comic book history into a B-Plot and was closer to Grant Morrison’s New X-Men.

Since the storyline was so revered and the film so reviled, the rebooted X-Men franchise set out to tell it again and get it right this time. Probably would have been a good idea to do it before Hugh Jackman quit being Wolverine. Actually, almost anything they did would have been better, probably including not reshooting the ending because it felt too close to Captain Marvel, these movies are all basically the same anyway.

Dark Phoenix, which should be the big send-off to the X-Men franchise, adapting it’s biggest story before Marvel reboots it, has done so poorly that IndieWire said it had the worst second weekend for a superhero film ever. According to Box Office Mojo, it’s pulled in just $52 million domestically in two weekends. Rotten Tomatoes scores Dark Phoenix as the worst-reviewed X-Men film ever, even below the abysmal X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Even so, I don’t see Kevin Feige’s comments about having no plans for the X-Men now that the rights to the movies are back at Marvel Studios. I just don’t see a world in which one of the biggest studios in the world has their biggest property on a shelf somewhere while they’re busy working on bottom-of-the-barrel characters like Shang-Chi and Doctor Strange, neither of whom has been able to support a monthly comic in decades.

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4 years ago

Doctor Strange maybe wasn’t a great comic series, but it was a great film. Has a solid storyline for film, and they did the first one really well. It’s one of the better Marvel films honestly. Because ultimately the story carries the film, not the super hero. In the USA anyway. Asia just wants a video game film. Hard pass on that.