Will ‘Dark Phoenix’ Be the End of Fox’s X-Men Franchise?

When Dark Phoenix comes out on June 7, it will almost certainly be the last hurrah for Fox’s take on Marvel’s mutants.

That’s not only because Disney just purchased Fox, which would put the X-Men under the MCU umbrella. It’s also because this series has run its course, for better or worse. Because the Avengers and their partners dominate the discussion these days, people tend to forget it was really the X-Men who kicked superhero movies into high gear back in 2000, even before Spider-Man.

The other side of that coin, however, is that Marvel’s oldest franchise is showing its age. Dark Phoenix has been clouded by bad buzz, and as the schedule stands now, there are no other X-Men movies forthcoming. The days of future past are uncertain.

‘Dark Phoenix’ gets dark pre-release buzz

Sophie Turner in X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Sophie Turner in X-Men: Dark Phoenix | 20th Century Fox

When a movie’s release bounces around the calendar repeatedly, that’s rarely a good sign. Dark Phoenix was supposed to have been out already, having originally been scheduled for November 2018. Fox first pushed it back to February, citing routine reshoots that take place on most every big franchise movie. Then Fox pushed it back again to the current date of June 7, because it was a better time to release it in China.

Amid all this reshuffling, word started to emerge in January that the movie was in trouble. We Got This Covered quoted a tweet that said, “Based on what i have heard, this movie could be Fant4stic level BAD” The tweet referred to the 2015 Fantastic Four movie, which bombed after a troubled production history.

Muddying the waters father is the fact that Dark Phoenix’s director, Simon Kinberg, had never helmed a feature before. Kinberg has been a producer and/or writer on prior X-Men movies, but this was his first time calling the shots. Alarm bells started to ring that history was repeating itself after Fantastic Four (which Kinberg co-wrote).

How ‘X-Men’ changed the superhero game

It may seem hard to believe now, but when X-Men was released in 2000, superhero movies were far from the sure bet they are today. Batman and Robin had just embarrassed Warner Bros. Superman hadn’t taken flight theatrically since 1987, and most people agreed his last decent movie was Superman II back in 1981. Try as they might, Marvel couldn’t seem to get any of their properties on the big screen without laying an egg.

X-Men changed all that. Its success paved the way for Spider-Man in 2002. X2 continued the success in 2003. Cracks began to show with X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. It was financially successful, but some argued it was inferior to the prior movies and botched the Dark Phoenix storyline played by Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey.

After the MCU hit its stride, Fox rebooted with X-Men: First Class in 2011, setting the template for the current cast with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Sophie Turner. X-Men: Days of Future Past cleverly retconned the prior movies in 2014, although it was generally agreed that 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse was its own third-movie disappointment.

Even if Dark Phoenix, which is sort of an attempt to re-do The Last Stand,  overcomes its bad buzz and scores with audiences, one could argue that this franchise is played out after almost 20 years, especially with Logan retiring Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

Will the MCU take over X-Men?

Right now, no other X-Men movies as such are in the offing. Fox had planned for The New Mutants to bring new life to the franchise, but that movie, featuring Maisie Williams, has also bounced around the schedule, partly because Dark Phoenix kept getting delayed. In a recent interview, Williams said, “Who knows when the f— it’s going to come out?”

With the massive success of the MCU and the fact that Disney absorbed Fox, the natural question is, will the MCU take control of X-Men as they did with Spider-Man?  Some have guessed that Spider-Man: Far From Home will introduce multi-verses into the live action movies, and that’s one way to build a bridge for X-Men.

However, don’t hold your breath and turn blue like Mystique. Marvel chief Kevin Feige told io9: “It’ll be awhile … It’s all just beginning and the five-year plan that we’ve been working on, we were working on before any of that was set. So really it’s much more, for us, less about specifics of when and where [the X-Men will appear] right now and more just the comfort factor and how nice it is that they’re home. That they’re all back. But it will be a very long time.”