Simon Kinberg, the writer and director of Dark Phoenix, blames himself for the film’s failure. The news comes a few days after longtime X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner publicly stated her lack of involvement in the current state of the series. The final installment of Fox’s X-Men franchise opened on June 7 to widely negative reviews, disappointed audiences, and a box office tally of $32.8 million, the lowest opening weekend of any X-Men film and about half of what was initially projected.
Although Dark Phoenix was Kinberg’s first time directing a feature length film, he has been involved in the franchise since 2004 when he began writing the screenplay for X-Men: The Last Stand, the previous failed attempt to create a big screen version of the Dark Phoenix Saga from the comics. Since then, he was a producer on X-Men: First Class, a writer and producer on Days of Future Past and Apocalypse, and a producer on the two Deadpool movies and the upcoming New Mutants.
Kinberg made the comments when being interviewed by KCRW. He stated that a number of problems blighted the release, such as the summer release date, arguing that the film “wasn’t made as a classic superhero movie, it was made as a more of a dramatic, intimate, smaller film,” and would have been better suited to its original release date of November last year. He also commented that for a comic book movie, it was “tough to be in the tailwinds” of Avengers: Endgame. However, he conceded that liability for the film’s failure lay with him, stating:
“It clearly is a movie that didn’t connect with audiences that didn’t see it; it didn’t connect enough with audiences that did see it. So that’s on me ... I’m saying when a movie doesn’t work, put it on me. I’m the writer-director. The movie didn’t connect with audiences. That’s on me.”
Kinberg helming Dark Phoenix despite his lack of directorial experience is not unusual. There is an increasing trend of directors being handed the reins of major releases and franchise tentpoles after a single initial success, often at a much smaller scale. Gareth Edwards directed 2014’s Godzilla after creating the intimate monster movie Monsters on a low budget with homemade SFX, and Colin Trevorrow was given Jurassic World off the back of indie sci-fi Safely Not Guaranteed, which made him the poster boy for the trend and its inherent issues.
It’s highly unusual for a director to hold their hands up and admit themselves accountable for a film’s failure. Although a movie production - especially one of the scale of Dark Phoenix - is the result of the work of hundreds of people, the ultimate responsibility lies with the director since they are the ones making the decisions. More often they will blame other factors, such as opening weekend competition, fluctuating attitudes to the movie’s particular subgenre, or the traditional fallback of claiming that audiences “just didn’t get it.” Whatever your opinions are about Dark Phoenix in general or Kinberg specifically, at least he has the courage to admit that he simply got it wrong.
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020