Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg feels that the biggest mistake made with X-Men: The Last Stand was the fact that the film didn’t include the cosmic aspects of the story. This will be Kinberg’s first time at the helm, but he also worked as a screenwriter on the much maligned third installment in the franchise. He’s actually previously apologized for not doing the iconic X-Men tale justice.
“The Phoenix Saga” and “The Dark Phoenix Saga” were two related arcs published in Uncanny X-Men in the late 70s/early 80s. These classic stories were written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Dave Cockrum, and later John Byrne. Marvel’s Marvelous Mutants have come a long way over the years, but this tale remains one of the X-Men’s most well known and influential. Fans were incredibly excited when the second of Bryan Singer’s well-received X-Men films, X2 – still considered by many to be the franchise’s best – ended on a note that perfectly set up the story for the next film. However, Singer went on to direct the mediocre Superman Returns and the movie was left in the hands of Brett Ratner. The results were disastrous and most fans feel that X-Men: The Last Stand is the worst film centering on the team. This undeniable failure is likely what caused Fox to give the story another chance at a proper adaptation with Dark Phoenix, which will be Kinberg’s directorial debut. Producer Hutch Parker has likened the film to a Hitchcock-esque psychological thriller.
Speaking to Digital Spy, Kinberg explained that he feels the biggest mistake made with The Last Stand was that they didn’t explore the cosmic side of Jean’s story. He stated:
I really felt that one of the mistakes we made with X-Men 3, which told in a way the Dark Phoenix story but it was the subplot of that film, one of the mistakes we made was that we didn’t go cosmic with it, like the comics. I think that was a time in superhero movies where that just wasn’t being done, and now we live in a time with Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok and so many comic book movies are interstellar and cosmic that we felt like this was an opportunity to do our version of that.
It’s easy to forget how different the superhero movie landscape was when X-Men hit theaters in 2000. There was a feeling at the time that audiences weren’t ready for the bright costumes of comic book superheroes. The first two X-Men films did their best to keep the essence of the team intact, but attempted a more grounded approach to the look of the X-Men themselves. If Fox felt that viewers couldn’t handle comic-accurate costumes, it’s somewhat understandable that the writers chose a different approach to “The Dark Phoenix Saga”. If the film borrowed anything from the comics, it was more a very loose adaptation of the Ultimate version of the story, which focused on mental illness rather than anything cosmic. The even larger issue was then overstuffing the movie with a plot line about a mutant cure, which was lifted somewhat from the Joss Whedon/John Cassaday run on Astonishing X-Men. These two stories didn’t mesh well and at times relegated Jean to a background character in her own movie. The end result was so different from the original arc that it was barely recognizable as an adaptation.
It’s heartening that getting the story right is so important to Kinberg. He wrote the script for Days of Future Past, another excellent entry in the X-Men franchise, and it’s understandable that he wants to do right by fans here. This is also likely the last release with this cast now that the merger between Disney and Fox is a done deal. If the movie may suffer from anything, it’s that many of the characters we’re supposed to care most about were introduced in the overstuffed mess that was Apocalypse, a film that gave viewers little reason to care about them. Although, it’s been suggested that the film is being hurt by the Disney deal itself. Of course, none of this is insurmountable, and the fact that Kinberg has such a strong desire to give viewers the Dark Phoenix that they deserve should set fans’ minds at least somewhat at ease.