Dark Phoenix has endured a tough time at the box office, but with the Disney-Fox deal public knowledge long before release, the latest X-Men movie was arguably doomed from the start. Reports suggesting that the Mouse House were interested in acquiring 21st Century Fox and its assets first emerged in late 2017 and after over a year of back-and-forth negotiations, third party interest and endless speculation, the deal was finally completed back in March 2019. Since signing on the dotted line, Disney have set about cancelling some of the projects that were being developed at Fox, and have released acquired films that were already close to completion under their own banner.
Dark Phoenix is one such film. Concluding the series of big screen X-Men adventures that began back in 2000, Dark Phoenix follows on from 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, with a cast headed up by James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender, and revisits the comics' much-loved Dark Phoenix Saga. This source material was previously adapted in X-Men: The Last Stand to widespread criticism and producer Simon Kinberg had promised to rectify that with this latest installment. Evidently, that hope has not become a reality. Dark Phoenix's box office has been dismal and the movie is being touted as one of the weakest in the franchise, with Simon Kinberg himself taking responsibility.
It's impossible to ignore the general consensus among fans that Dark Phoenix is a poor movie, but there's perhaps another, equally as important, factor behind the disappointing box office takings: the deal between Disney and Fox. After all, previous X-Men movies have released to a negative reaction but still posted respectable figures.
Even before the prospect of Disney acquiring 21st Century Fox entered the public consciousness, fans of superhero movies were fantasizing over how the X-Men might one day be able to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A mixed response to X-Men: Apocalypse had curtailed excitement around Fox's superhero franchise, while the MCU was stringing together smash hit after smash hit, and with Marvel Studios forging a deal with Sony to bring Spider-Man home, anything seemed possible.
When news regarding a Disney-Fox deal did begin to emerge, "possible" turned into "probable" and one of the key points of discussion surrounding the entire deal became the potential impact this acquisition could have on the MCU. Fans began dream-casting the likes of Charles Xavier, Magneto and Cyclops. Speculation then turned to exactly how the MCU could introduce mutants, with many expecting some sort of reference to arrive in the post-credits of either Avengers: Infinity War or Avengers: Endgame. That eventuality never came to pass, and thoughts have since moved on to Spider-Man: Far From Home, with many predicting the film's expansion of the Marvel Multiverse could herald the X-Men's arrival.
With so much excitement over the future of X-Men on the big screen, it's easy to see why people largely forgot that the current cast were still active. Reaction to the first Dark Phoenix trailer was muted in comparison to previous films and even when the promotion cycle kicked in fully, there always seemed to be more buzz around when these characters would join the MCU. Of course, it's never a good sign for a franchise when the core fanbase has already moved on mentally and is more concerned about who'll be playing the likes of Professor X and Magneto over the coming years than how those characters' current stories will end in Dark Phoenix.
As soon as Disney and Fox entered serious discussions, Dark Phoenix became redundant, but by that point the movie was already in production and, in fairness, fans of Fox's X-Men movies did deserve a proper ending to that story. Whether that ending satisfied expectations is another matter altogether, but even if Dark Phoenix had been a better movie, many fans had already mentally checked out of the franchise and were looking into the future.
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