The first trailer for Fox's Dark Phoenix has confirmed the film's official title, and it's missing something: the title doesn't include "X-Men". It's a surprising departure from the normal approach Fox has taken with their tentpole X-Men movies.
Dark Phoenix is the sixth main series X-Men film, but Fox has stressed that it stands relatively apart. Tye Sheridan, who plays Cyclops, has suggested that Dark Phoenix is more of a drama than a superhero film. Sophie Turner, who features prominently in the trailer as Jen Grey, has gone so far as to claim she believes it will "revolutionize" the entire superhero genre. Writer-director Simon Kinberg has stressed that this will be "a little less operatic" than the other X-Men movies; he described it as "more intense..., more real and grounded, and hopefully more relatable."
Now the first teaser for Dark Phoenix has been released, there's even more evidence that Fox wants viewers to treat this as a standalone film in its own right. Until now, the movie has been referred to as X-Men: Dark Phoenix. According to this trailer, though, the film will entirely lack the reference to the X-Men. The official title is simply Dark Phoenix. However, internationally it will still have the full title.
There are two possible reasons for this - and both probably have an element of truth to them. The first reason is that Fox wants to sell the film on its dramatic, character side, rather than the bombastic action. This would match the approach of Logan, an intimate portrayal of the last days of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier. This would be why Sophie Turner's Jean Grey features so prominently in this first trailer; she's the emotional linchpin of the entire film. Dropping the "X-Men" reference signifies that this isn't so much an ensemble movie as it is a character piece, with Jean Grey as the subject and the rest of the cast as almost secondary.
The second reason, more cynically, is that Fox is well aware that their X-Men brand is somewhat tarnished. The central movies have a hit-and-miss reputation, with the latest, X-Men: Apocalypse, grossing less than $600 million worldwide. Fox's franchise was ground-breaking back in 2000, a precursor to the modern superhero boom, but the studio seems locked in the patterns of the past. It's notable that recent hits - Deadpool, Logan, and Deadpool 2 - have all been films that stand apart from the main franchise. It's entirely possible that Fox felt attaching the "X-Men" name to the movie would hurt rather than help.
These reasons aren't mutually exclusive; in truth, the title of a film is a branding exercise, and as such is relatively complex. Both these reasons probably factored in Fox's decision to give the movie a simple title: Dark Phoenix.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020