The Surprising Reason Fans Hated ‘Dark Phoenix’
Women superheroes were long overdue on the big screen, and we at least saw a precedent set with Captain Marvel earlier this year. Some might suggest Dark Phoenix should have run with the torch, despite bombing at the box office and subsequently perplexing everyone.
It seemed to have everything going for it, including starring Sophie Turner just as she was wrapping up Game of Thrones. Her character was also popular (or at least at one time) when X-Men: Apocalypse released in 2016.
Let’s also include the intriguing premise of Jean Grey and becoming the much more confident Dark Phoenix as a study in contrasts. Outside these positives, they were superseded by more things against it than anyone immediately perceived.
The expectations were never high for ‘Dark Phoenix’
Many film analysts have suggested Marvel/20th Century Fox already knew the film wouldn’t do as well as Captain Marvel and Endgame, yet didn’t expect a box office bomb. There might have been some misjudgment about what the public thought about the movie as a whole, plus a few other details related to unperceptive marketing.
No one can fault the character, including Turner’s acting ability. It’s a shame she had to experience a movie flop right when she was enjoying a pivotal point wrapping her role as Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones. We all saw Sansa end her story triumphantly just a week before Dark Phoenix released in theaters.
Is it possible the film was a victim of two colliding pop culture events ruining perceptions? Many people might have found Turner so recognizable as Sansa, thinking of her as a Marvel superhero maybe didn’t gel in the public’s minds. Outside of Turner playing Jean Grey on the big screen three years ago, that’s an eternity in today’s movie terms.
Was there an unfair comparison of Jean Grey to other female superheroes?
Brie Larson helped set such a high bar for Captain Marvel that maybe Dark Phoenix seemed like a slight letdown in comparison. Carol Danvers is arguably more of a badass audiences want to see in modern superhero women.
With such a contrast between Jean Grey and Dark Phoenix, it might have been too much like a Superman/Clark Kent scenario. This isn’t to say more women superhero movies won’t be forthcoming. After all, we do have a Black Widow movie being filmed, and we’ll likely see others.
For Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix, we might not see her again in a big-screen effort unless Marvel can create something guaranteed to resonate. If it happens, it’ll have to occur before three years since the public clearly forgets too easily.
Also, there’s such a thing as Marvel needing extra care on when they release certain movies.
Did ‘Dark Phoenix’ just have a bad release window?
Releasing a film in early June sounds like a perfect strategy to set off the summer movie slate. That was a busy period at the movies with Avengers: Endgame still racking up box office bucks. On the other hand, there were some major flops released during this time frame. Movies like the live-action remake of Aladdin and Godzilla: King of the Monsters were also major flops, likely bringing some apathy for many families in going to a movie theater.
Only Rocketman managed to really take off a week before, which is more than a little unusual for a biopic.
No doubt Marvel is analyzing what happened and taking heed for when they’ll release their future films. Not that the official Phase Four of the MCU won’t dominate everything anyway by next year.
In a more crowded movie world with sometimes surprising hits, it’s going to take a lot more careful strategy on Marvel’s part to ensure they don’t have more misfires. Fans may have also sent the first focus group message they prefer the Avengers franchise far more than continuing the X-Men franchise.