How much regard does Fox really have for Dark Phoenix (likely to be the studio’s final X-Men film before Marvel takes over)? Less than two days after debuting the movie’s first trailer, the release date has been pushed back for the film.
Yes, really. After advertising a Feb. 14, 2019 release, Fox announced on Friday that Dark Phoenix is being moved to June 7. Just like that.
When I first saw film reporter Jeff Sneider tweet the following, I honestly thought it had to be a joke:
Sneider is a reliable, veteran reporter who has covered Hollywood for years, so there was no reason not to believe him. His reputation is at stake with something like this. However, after he went on a rant last week that many saw as unhinged, it briefly occurred to me that maybe Sneider was making a joke. But there was nothing among the surrounding tweets on his timeline to indicate that he was mocking anything (or anyone).
In fact, the Dark Phoenix news was one of a handful of dominoes that fell on the Fox movie slate. First, an “untitled Deadpool movie” is being released on Dec. 21. That bumps Alita: Battle Angel to Feb. 14 and pushes the next X-Men film to that June 7 date. And that kicks another X-Men-related film, Gambit (a movie some doubt will ever be made, to a March 13, 2020 release.
There’s a whole lot to unpack there, stoking plenty of speculation. Does this mean Fox thinks more highly of Alita than Dark Phoenix? Probably, because that could be a future franchise for the studio if it’s successful while the X-Men will become part of the Marvel cinematic universe, thanks to the Disney-Fox merger.
As Forbes’ Scott Mendelson points out, this also gets Alita away from some potentially crushing competition in late December, such as Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bumblebee and the heavy Oscar contenders. Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro notes that Alita and Dark Phoenix could have better openings in China with the new release dates, something that’s a huge factor in international box office these days.
Yet bumping Dark Phoenix a third time (it was originally supposed to open this November before Fox pushed it back for reshoots) doesn’t dispel the perception that the movie could be a mess.
What about Fox releasing another Deadpool movie this year? No, Ryan Reynolds and company didn’t whip together another original film five months after Deadpool 2 hit theaters. According to several reports, the “untitled Deadpool movie” will either be a PG-13 version of the film or Deadpool 2 with additional footage spliced in. Reynolds tweeting a picture of Deadpool reading a book to Fred Savage, a callback to The Princess Bride, may have hinted at such an approach.
Then there’s Gambit, seemingly the outcast of Fox’s X-Men movie universe. Once upon a time, this was a project that generated excitement with Channing Tatum attached to star as a hugely popular character among X-Men comic book fans. But the movie hasn’t been able to keep a director with Rupert Wyatt, Doug Liman and Gore Verbinski each dropping out of a troubled production.
Part of the problem with Gambit has been finding the right tone, especially after the success of Deadpool. Should this be a hard-R movie or have more comedic elements? It appears that Fox is leaning more in that comedy direction, with producer Simon Kinberg (also Dark Phoenix’s director) telling IGN that Gambit will be more of a romantic comedy. Likely anticipating fans shrieking with outrage, Kinberg insists he’s talking more about tone than overall approach.
Even with trying to keep an open mind, that sounds kind of awful. To be fair, the best superhero movies (i.e., Marvel movies) have plenty of comedic elements, even if the stories are ultimately serious. Maybe that fits the character of Gambit. Diehard fans will have to vouch for that. Personally, I’ve never been a fan and his popularity came during a time when I wasn’t reading many comic books. And we’re still talking about a movie that doesn’t have a director.
It’s too easy to dismiss anything Fox does with its Marvel properties and just presume they’re all better off going back to Marvel Studios. But it’s also understandable when Fox has only had recent success with Deadpool and badly handled the X-Men and Fantastic Four.