NYCC 2018: Five Reasons Why The Dark Phoenix Footage Proves the Movie Will Be Garbage
While I was at New York Comic Con, I attended the Fox Showcase at the AMC on 34th. There I joined an audience that got a look at 13 minutes of Dark Phoenix as well as a Q&A attended by the director, Simon Kinberg as well as stars Tye Sheridan and Sophie Turner.
Now it goes without saying that the latest in Fox’s X-Men titled films hasn’t exactly had a great time when it comes to marketing. First there was an initial release date move, moving the film from December 2018 to February 2019. The excuse then was that reshoots were taking longer than expected and in order to accommodate the cast, they were moving the date. We didn't hear much else about the film. The trailer was released late September (around 1 am...almost like they didn't want anyone to see it) with the February 14th date at the end of the trailer and not even 24 hours later, Fox said they were shifting the date again from February 2019 to June 2019. How does that happen? How do you release a trailer for a film, WITH A DATE ON IT, then 24 hours later change that date to 5 months later? How is no one talking about these things before they happen? The "official" reason from Simon Kinberg is because the want to take advantage f the Chinese market and box-office but buried in that excuse is also an admission that more reshoots were needed for the 3rd act of the film (That's a GREAT sign...right???)
Needless to say, this Fox Showcase Q&A (from a moderator, not the audience) with a 13 minute taste of the film felt more like a weak attempt at damage control than an confident showcase of a product people can put their faith in. Compare this to the Alita: Battle Angel Q&A that happened right after where one couldn't help but feel the confidence and excitement to get that movie in front of audiences as soon as possible.
So let me go through my list of grievances with what we were shown and heard from Dark Phoenix:
Greatly misunderstanding the Mutant/Human Dynamic (again)
The footage opened up with a space shuttle coming across some disturbance above the earth and getting damaged. This leads to the President of the United States calling Professor X for help. Now I was prepared for this story-line as it was one of the reveals presented earlier this year. I hated it then, I hate it even more after seeing it. Right out the gate we’re shown how little Fox, Kinberg and everyone involved with making X-Men movies understand the characters they’re dealing with. The idea that the President of the United States has an “X-Phone” (No lie, it’s like Jim Gordon’s red bat phone, except it’s black & has an X on it) that calls Charles Xavier directly is insane. Yes, the Government has worked with the X-Men before but it’s never in an official capacity or something that they're proud of. It's like keeping a boyfriend/girlfriend secret. But it gets worse. After the mission is successful the X-Men come home to…cheers. Not just cheers but signs reading “We Love the X-Men” and little children with X-Men dolls (Nightcrawler and Mystique figurines….really…I’m dead ass serious). Kids with Nightcrawler dolls. Cheering. For Nightcrawler.
The whole purpose of the X-Men is that being a mutant, even a “good one”, is a thankless job. Even if I buy the President calling the X-Men to help, I do not buy the idea that humanity lines up to cheer on the X-Men. X-Men comics repeatedly show that even when they save the day, they’re still greeted with hate, “Filthy mutie” signs and fear. Humanity FEARS mutants. See, the core issue I take with Fox's X-Men films is that Fox refuses to recognize that humanity is the true enemy of the X-Men/Mutants. Odd considering that Fox also puts out The Gifted weekly and that show seems to understand that point perfectly. Yet Fox is intent on making the X-Men look like the Avengers. This just seems to confirm that while there is a different director, the same pattern of not understanding the characters is continuing.
Lack of Consistency
The X-Men movies have always suffered from a lack of consistency and continuity and this film seems to be no different. It’s no secret that in X-Men Apocalypse, Jennifer Lawrence made it clear she didn’t want to be in that blue makeup for Mystique for an entire movie. And I understand that. Who wants to sit in a chair for hours being painted blue and having scales glued on? But Kinberg should have done a better job of laying out which scenes Lawrence would look human and which she would look like Mystique so that it would make sense for the character. When the X-Men go on their mission and the world is watching, Mystique is blue. However when she comes home to the mansion and she confronts Charles, she looks human (not blue).
This might seem like it’s a “small nitpick”, but in truth it’s a huge inconsistency for a character who has spent the last few movies on a “Mutant and Proud” kick. Why would Mystique, who isn’t ashamed of how she looks, look human when she’s home around her fellow mutants? This brings up a common issue I have with these films. Even outside of the complete and utter disresepct for the source material, these movies continually mess up the development of characters using the rules and story they've already told. Wouldn't it make more sense, and add more to Raven's anger at Charles if he tells her she should look more human in public while letting her true form show when she's on the grounds of the mansion? Granted we already had this exchange in First Class but at least it would make sense.
But it’s not just Mystique. The same random hopping between looks happens with Hank McCoy. Since Days of Future Past, Hank can change from looking human to being covered in blue fur basically depending on his mood (kinda like the hulk). As long as he doesn’t get too excited, the serum he developed can suppress his furry look. In Dark Phoenix, when Xavier gets the call from the President, Hank looks human. But a few minutes later when the team is walking to get on the X-Jet, Hank is now covered in blue fur and looking like Beast. Why? Hank’s fur doesn’t give him extra powers. It’s the result of him injecting himself with what he thought was a cure but instead sped up his mutation so that he couldn’t even hide it. It’s one of the fundamental things about Hank McCoy. He thought he could "cure" his mutation but he only made it worse, going from a mutant that could hide to one that now gets stars anytime he's out in public. But now with Dark Phoenix, his fur seems to be nothing more than a wardrobe change that he can perform with the same ease as changing a pair of pants. This is just more evidence that after First Class, Singer and Kinberg worked hard to undo certain source material related characteristics for no good reason other than they didn’t like how they looked.
Bad Costume Choices
I get that the inspiration for these uniforms are the Grant Morrison uniforms. I even appreciate them finally getting something that’s ‘comic accurate’. But truth is, I never liked those uniforms in the comics and they look even worse in live action. I don’t know who made the decision to go from the nice, individualized costumes at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse to these cheap looking uniforms that remove any form of individual flavor, but they made a bad choice. At least in the comics the Morrison uniforms looked badass. In Dark Phoenix the X-Men look like they’re heading to a 3rd graders X-Men themed slumber party wearing Party City costumes that don’t match in real life the images used on the website. What’s must frustrating about this is that this was shown at New York Comic Con, where you could literally walk the floor of the Javits Center and see hundreds of cosplayers that managed to design better X-costumes than those being used in a big budget movie. Embarrassing.
Ignore the Little Details That Make Way for Larger Issues
Question: How does Quicksilver run and use his powers in zero gravity? In order to rescue the astronauts, Nightcrawler teleports Quicksilver over to the shuttle and he propels himself by pushing on the seats to try to grab all the Astronauts and push them back to Nightcrawler. But…there’s no gravity. So how does his speed work? Easy answer? It shouldn't. Now look, we’re talking about a movie that has mutants with super powers, so a suspension of belief is needed for anything to happen. But my issues is, by not having any kind of explanation (a simple throwaway line from Hank saying Quicksilver’s suit is specially equipped to operate in zero gravity) opens up the film for larger plot breaking inconsistencies down the line. And this is especially true for Quicksilver, who always seems to do the impossible at some point in these movies, only for him not to be able to do it when it matters the most. So, he can help break Magneto out of the Pentagon, but Charles and Erik don’t bring him along to stop Mystique from shooting someone (DoFP)? He’s fast enough to literally stop time and save everyone from an exploding X-Mansion (well almost everyone) but can be stopped by Apocalypse? Yes, this is Sci-Fi and suspension of disbelief is required but there also needs to be consistency. I had this same issue with the last season of The Flash where in one scene Barry is so fast he's able to have a long conversation with Iris in "Speed Time" but then 2 episodes later is caught leaving his cell by the equivalent of a nanny cam. Set your rules then stick to them.
Repeatedly Acting like Kinberg isn’t Part of the Problem
Bryan Singer is a predator. It’s good that Fox finally decided they need to let Bryan Singer go after they could no longer ignore the allegations against him. Never forget that they quietly took him off the press tour for Days of Future Past then brought him back for Apocalypse when they thought the coast was clear. So Fox doesn’t get any kudos for finally doing the right thing with Singer. However, one thing that struck me during the Q&A was the subtle shade that was thrown by Kinberg, Turner and Sheridan that suggested that the real issues on the creative side were because of Singer and now that Kinberg is directing, all those will go away.
Kinberg has been right there beside Singer making terrible decisions on the X-Men films since X3. One could even argue that being the writer for X-Men: The Last Stand, Fantastic Four and X-Men: Apocalypse should be evidence enough that Kinberg has been part of the problem. One word that Kinberg kept bringing up during the panel was “grounded” and it just made me roll my eyes. We’re talking about a story involving mutants with incredible powers and an incredibly destructive space entity that takes over one of the characters and makes her ridiculously powered. And Kinberg is talking about “grounded”?
See, I’m smart enough to know what this is. Kinberg is trying to say that the real issue with X-Men Apocalypse is all the CG and over-the-top scenes. The reality is, X-Men Apocalypse was doomed from the start when they cast the great Oscar Isaac then threw him in a costume that made him look like Ivan Ooze. The real issues with Apocalypse were the misuse of characters of color that either barley spoke or were completely misused (They seem to "fix" that with Dark Phoenix by not even having Lana Condor's Jubliee even in the film). Kinberg’s scripts are basic and routinely take the great actors cast in the X-Men films and either ignore them or completely misuse them. Kinberg has been part of the problems with Fox’s X-Men universe and putting him in the director’s chair isn’t going to fix that. Thinking otherwise is more fantastical than anything we’ve seen in a X-Men film.
Kinberg and Fox are trying to tell us that Dark Phoenix isn’t the mess of a film we know it to be. After watching the 13 minutes of the film at NYCC, I’m convinced it’s nothing new but just more of the same. They wanted a “grounded” take on Dark Phoenix and now was the time to finally bring the story into live action in it’s own movie. So ignoring that X3 also did the Dark Phoenix, the Dark Phoenix SAGA is called a saga for a reason. You first have to tell the story of Jean and the Phoenix, then her turn to the darkness then her eventual fall. It would be something different if this was a story that has been unfolding since 2011 but it hasn’t. Jean Grey only joined these movies in 2016’s X-Men Apocalypse and even then they only threw hints of the Phoenix at the very end. Also, none of the younger X-Men (Jean, Scott, Storm, etc) got any significant development in the last movie so Dark Phoenix not only has to tell the Phoenix Saga but also add some kind of development to all these characters. That’s probably why this film was originally going to be a two-parter. It got reduced to one and now it’s going to be a mess.
Thankfully Dark Phoenix and New Mutants (hahahahahaha...I guess that’s still happening) will be the last abominations from Fox regarding the X-Men. It can't all be over soon enough.
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