What? Where am I? Phoenix, Arizona, at night. Did you seriously just kidnap me and drive me to the middle of the desert for a “Dark Phoenix” pun? Oh, I did much more than that Matpat. So much more, haha! MOUSE! Hello internet! Welcome to Film Theory! The show that’s awash in the blood of metahumans. Seriously, at this point, dead superheroes are to Film Theory what dead kids are to Game Theory. But today, I thought we’d look at a little less literal of a killing and more of a metaphorical one. Let’s talk X-Men’s “Dark Phoenix”, a film that came out to the worst reviews in the franchise’s history, and has grossly underperformed at the box office, which honestly is really sad to me. Without the original X-Men film, superhero movies just wouldn’t be where they are today. The one-two combo of X-Men and then Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, proved that a comic book hero’s most powerful ability was the power to sell tickets. The new movies have been really solid. “First Class” and “Days of Future Past” were amazing- (ignores “X-Men: Apocalypse”) Like I said, *those two* were amazing, and with “Dark Phoenix” being the last in the series now that Disney’s in charge, it’s a bummer to see such a pivotal franchise go out not with the bang, but with a whimper. So today I wanted to look at what went wrong with this new movie. I mean, its opening weekend earned half of even the worst movies of the “X-Men” franchise. That is serious. When you’re doing worse than “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, you know you done goofed. And admittedly there’s a lot of blame to go around, Sophie Turner struggling to maintain an American accent while saying the word “father”, Michael Fassbender being just as confused as to why Magneto’s in this movie as the audience is, the marketing team deciding not to put the words “X-Men” at the front of the movie’s title in giant bold letters. Guys, an “X” with a circle is just not gonna cut it when it comes to brand awareness. I saw that and thought it was telling me that this was a movie about railroad crossings. But those are all just the minor points. Well, not that last one, I actually think that last one is a really big misstep. You don’t know this is an “X-Men” movie unless you know what Dark Phoenix is referencing. Still, the biggest blame of all goes to one villain in particular. Forget Mr Sinister, Apocalypse and Juggernaut, the entity that’s now proven itself to be the greatest enemy to the X-Men is Captain Marvel. But to really understand why, and why to a level that no one else is covering, let me first quickly recap both movies to you, and then, things will start to make a little bit more sense Captain Marvel: Set in the early 90’s, a strong independent female named Carol Danvers, is in a space related accident with an experimental aircraft that results in her absorbing cosmic powers. The accident also gives her sudden onset amnesia. Her mentor actively lies to her about her past, but she learns the truth, which in turn unleashes her true potential, and she turns on the man who was once her teacher, setting out on a massive mission of revenge. Oh, and there happens to be a race of shape-shifting aliens called the Skrulls that are caught in the crossfire. “Dark Phoenix” Set in the early 90’s, a strong independent female named Jean Grey is in a space related accident with an experimental aircraft that results in her absorbing cosmic powers. Though she doesn’t experience any memory loss, it’s eventually revealed that her mentor has been actively lying to her about her past since she was a little girl. She learns the truth, which unleashes her true potential. She turns on the man who was once her teacher, setting out on a massive mission of self-discovery, oh and, uh, there’s a race of shape-shifting aliens called the D’Bari caught in a crossfire. “Captain Marvel” released into theaters March 8th 2019, “Dark Phoenix” was supposed to release November 2nd of 2018, then again on February 14th of this year, months and then mere weeks earlier than “Captain Marvel”. Are you starting to notice a problem here? Okay, so admittedly I may have oversimplified the plots of these two movies just a wee little bit, But there is very clearly a bit of overlap between the two films. Female superheroes with space powers and counter shape-shifting aliens, and deal with their lying mentor, and here I thought releasing biopics of famous musical artists, named after their most iconic songs, within a six-month span was a bad idea But in all seriousness, the overlap was originally gonna be greater. Much greater! You see, “Dark Phoenix” currently ends with the battle on a train, but was originally meant to end with a battle in space. Just like the ending of another movie- “Captain Marvel”. According to leaked reports off of test screenings for the film, the third act of “Dark Phoenix” culminated in a full-scale alien invasion at the U.N., where Jean Grey has to launch herself into space to defeat the alien armada. Hmmm, where have I seen that before? In the end, Jean sacrifices herself to destroy the fleet. It’s something that appears to be confirmed by Simon Kinberg, the writer, director and producer of “Dark Phoenix”. “My original ending didn’t have the entire X-family together the way they are in the film now.” “Usually, these big, huge action movies have the climactic moment in the third act.” “I loved the way that “Civil War” had its big action set piece,” “where everyone’s facing off more towards the end of the second act, rather than in the third,” “so that after that huge battle, you’re left with Winter Soldier, Captain America and Iron Man.” “It’s this telescoped down view of their raw emotions, and I loved how intimate that was.” “That’s what I was going for with “Dark Phoenix” ending, even though it then might have looked like Captain Marvel for about two minutes.” So basically, Jean sacrifices herself and the team winds up divided. That’s how I read into that quote, but in the process, as he admits, it looks like a Captain Marvel space battle for two minutes. So what’s the big deal here? It’s only like two minutes of similarities between the two movies, right? Well, if you calculate the time that Captain Marvel is actually in space, doing battle against an armada of invading alien ships, it winds up being you guessed it- almost exactly two minutes. Okay, we have two movies, with strong females, getting accidental cosmic superpowers, while also being lied to by their mentors, leading them to ultimately encounter shape-shifting aliens, and have a climactic space battle against an armada of ships for exactly two minutes, But come on! Those sorts of coincidences happen everyday in Hollywood! It’s not like the X-Men and Captain Marvel are dealing with the same aliens invading Earth, right? Ha, one are the D’Bari and one are the Skrulls and Kree, They’re not the same, right? Right? They’re the same freaking aliens, aren’t they? Yep! The D’Bari, who end up as the alien race in “Dark Phoenix”, and who go unnamed for practically the entire movie, (which should already tip you off that this was changed during reshoots) were originally meant to be the Skrulls. In fact, in the comics, the D’Bari basically get one panel in the Dark Phoenix saga, in which they’re being wiped out by Jean Grey. And that’s it. That’s all the characterization they ever get. Not much to build an entire villain civilization around for your new movie, FOX. for further proof that these shape shifters were originally meant to be the Skrulls, we turn to an interview with the actor of Cyclops, Tye Sheridan. “There’s this huge battle between the guards at the U.N. and Jean Grey,” “and all the guards turn out to be Skrulls,” “and then Jean and Scott are – Scott is fighting Skrulls in the fountain.” And for further proof, we turn to the head Skrull- I mean, sorry, head D’Bari herself, Jessica Chastain, who had this to say about her character. “So it was always, like, everyday, kind of trying to figure out, “Who am I?” “You know, the mystery of “Who is this character?” “and then understanding that, also with the reshoots, you kind of go,” “Oh, it’s changing again.” “You know, I mean, it was like a constant evolution.” So, how was “Dark Phoenix” expecting to get away with using the Skrulls when it’s clearly a Marvel property? Well, in truth, the question should actually be asked the other way. Many fans had assumed that the Skrulls couldn’t appear in the MCU because of their connection to the Fantastic Four, a Marvel property whose film rights were sold to FOX, back in the days when Marvel was bankrupt. Ha, Marvel being bankrupt. Man, if at first you don’t succeed, sell sell sell to Disney. But seriously, the Skrulls first appeared in Fantastic Four #2, and then again in Fantastic Four #18, that was their origin. Seems like it should be a slam dunk for “Dark Phoenix” to use the property, except, like all things in life, it’s more complicated than that. According to a tweet from “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn, The Skrulls actually have shared custody between Marvel and FOX. “Some specific Skrulls are at FOX. The scrolls as a whole are co-owned.” So, apparently Marvel gets custody Wednesdays and every other weekend. But in all seriousness, how did these two movies end up like this? The “Dark Phoenix” saga is, at its core, a very different story from “Captain Marvel”. In the X-Men, “Dark Phoenix” is all about a team of mutants being forced to stop one of their own from turning evil. Captain Marvel, meanwhile, is the exact opposite, The story of a solo pilot in a cosmic case of Stockholm Syndrome. So what happened? Well James McAvoy, the actor who plays Professor X, may have summed up the situation best. “We’re trawling through the same source material, it seems.” Obviously, the “Dark Phoenix” saga and “Captain Marvel” aren’t the same comic, but in a lot of ways, they may as well be. Before the X-Men were canceled in 1970- Yeah, that’s another surprise! It was such an unpopular comic when it was first released, that it was cancelled for half a decade in the 70’s! Anyway back then, Jean Grey often went by the moniker “Marvel Girl”, and Captain Marvel is just Marvel Girl after a few promotions, right? No, obviously, I’m just joking, but the two do still share a remarkable heritage. When Jean was brought back for the “Dark Phoenix” saga, it was by comic writer Chris Claremont. Claremont took Jean Grey, who at the time was considered a throwaway character, and made her a star. I mean literally he made her a star, but Claremont’s career as a comic writer, and reviver of throwaway characters was far from over. Fast forward a few years, and Claremont is working on a comic called Ms.Marvel. Maybe tempted to believe that this is an evolution of Marvel Girl with a bit more maturity, But actually Ms. Marvel was an entirely different character. Not Jean Grey, but Carol Danvers. Carol would decades later take on the mantle of her predecessor and become Captain Marvel, but only after Claremont’s lobbying for his female spin-off to take over for the traditionally male role. Both characters revived and molded in huge ways by Claremont. And so in a lot of ways, the source material really was the same. Even all that being considered though, obviously, the impending acquisition of FOX by Disney didn’t help things along. Captain Marvel may not have killed Jean Grey, but The Mouse certainly did. First, we saw what they did with the Skrull in Captain Marvel, much to everyone’s surprise, they’re the good guys in that movie. Would be confusing for audiences to see them acting good in one movie, and then suddenly turning heel in the next that happens only a month later. Or worse for Disney, Dark Phoenix releasing before Captain Marvel, and now the MCU’s big female hero flick gets railroaded, as audiences grapple with the inconsistent Skrull treatment, and “Dark Phoenix” gets there first. The Mouse sacrificed Jean Grey for Carol Danvers. This was honestly crucial, since Disney clearly has plans for the Skrulls moving forward, They know where Marvel’s headed into the post-“Endgame” phase of movie, and the Skrulls are 99% certain to factor into that. Kevin Feige, the mastermind behind the MCU, has been very upfront when speaking about a branching division of Earth-centric films and space-centric films, and with that comes the continuation of the story of the Skrull, as they are heavily involved in some of the most iconic Marvel stories out there, specifically “Secret Invasion”, where fan favorite characters are suddenly replaced by doppelganger Skrulls. That is an impossible plotline to pass up, but two movies using the same characters would have just caused both of those movies, and specifically that race of characters to suffer. And so, just like a divorce with joint custody, the primary caregiver is the one who gets the say. And in this case, we’re all forced to bow to the will of Disney Especially a struggling studio that’s looking to get a 71 billion dollar buyout, FOX. And that’s kind of sad, as we’re going forward into a world where Disney is going to own all but the DC Superheroes, we may want to pause at this moment and think about what this really means. Sure, it means awesome things, like Wolverine and Hulk finally sharing the screen together, But it also means no more FOX taking chances, and doing things differently. No more baffling “Fantastic Four” movies, as they desperately try to hold on to the IP, giving us movies that we can laugh at for decades to come. No more Universal giving comic book movies to Ang Lee. But with two or three movies coming out each year into the foreseeable future, Disney is gonna have to start to learn that some things are just gonna have to overlap, or we may end up with a lot more Dark Phoenixes on our hands. But hey, that’s just a theory! A Film Theory! Aaaaand cut.