5 Ways to Prep: Dark Phoenix
By George Rose
June 6, 2019
It has recently come to my attention that life is busy and complicated and crazy for everyone. I mean, yeah, obviously. But nobody tells you that it gets more insane and fastpaced as you get older. One minute you blink your eyes and the next it’s a week later. Weekends are no longer considered days off but are now just a handful of spare hours to maybe get half your errands done. In your twenties, you can be in a month-long relation that feels like years but in your thirties it’s the opposite. I’ve been with my fiancé for four years now but it feels like just a few months. All of my free time goes towards fighting to make a dollar but, as Tony Stark said in Endgame, time is the one thing money can’t buy.
And without time there’s no movies and without movies there’s no weekly 5 Ways to Prep article. Finding time to write is getting harder and harder, making time for friends is all but impossible, making enough money to attend every Comic Con (let alone getting around to writing about them) feels like a tunnel with a light at the end that never gets closer. All I want to do is complain about this nonstop life but there are those that have it worse and those that have nothing at all. And just when I want to give up and stop chasing all these dreams and juggling all these goals does a movie release come along to remind me what all this stress and work is about: loving movies.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who we are now and what time we do or do not have available for the leisures in life. What matters is that at our core there is a child that used to sit too close to the TV and wonder what it would be like to be a part of the “magical world of make believe.” And for some of those little kids, it was during a time before the internet and the endless catalog of content available OnDemand. It was when you had to pay for a ticket at the theater because it would be almost six months (not three) before you could rent it at the “tape store” or save up your allowance to buy it on VHS or DVD. And it was during a time when Hollywood news was something you had to find in magazines because there was no Google. So when a little boy in the 90’s hated life but found solace in comic books, it’s no wonder the random news of an X-Men movie going into production was enough to make him cry because he wanted to kill himself but now had to postpone the suicide because he couldn’t die before seeing the movie he prayed to God for. And it’s no wonder he cried again when news of a sequel was announced following the first film’s success.
Now I’m not going to get into another teenage-years sob story, but what I’m trying to get across to the handful of you still reading this is that moviegoing is a personal affair. Film critics can have some interesting things to say and internet trolls will do their best to bring down even the most deserving movies, but at the end of the day there is nobody else in your relationship with movies but you and the genres that keep you happy. When the first X-Men came out in 2000, I was a 15 year old at the brink of lost hope and news of a sequel shortly after taught me a valuable lesson: sure, it’s almost pathetic that a film sequel was enough to keep a depressed, bullied teenager alive but - no matter what the thing is - there are things in this world worth living for. X-Men is one of those things.
By the time X2: X-Men United came out in 2003 I was 18 years old and past the emotional turmoil of puberty. I was working at a movie theater and using my chance at free movies to binge watch at the theater before Netflix made it cool to do at home. And when I wasn’t living at the theater, I was home on the budding internet reading about all things movies. One of my favorite sites at the time was Box Office Prophets (this site) and a weekly article they had called “DVD Pick of the Week.” I collected DVDs and enjoyed the voice behind the writer, and always knew BOP to be an edgy, slightly un-restricted view of Hollywood that other sites coward away from. I visited BOP every day but loved the DVD article the most. And when I knew X2 was getting released I knew in my heart that it would be the Pick of the Week. Except, that week there was no article.
Whoever wrote it couldn’t do it that week but there was no mention that it would return. For days I worried the article was over and that they couldn’t just write ONE MORE so that the last could include my beloved life saver, X2. I had felt lows in my life and (as the reviews will verify) X2 was a recent high, among the best superhero sequels of all time. And BOP skipped the article. I was back to a low and this sadness, this anger, this madness led me to do something I never expected: I wrote BOP a letter. I voiced my disappointment and hoped the world would return to normal next week, and lo-and- behold it did. The article returned and even made mention of circumstances that prevented the prior weeks release, but also called out the little boy who wrote an email demanding that article return. That boy was me and if someone had told me then that over a decade later I’d be writing for that website, I would have smacked them in the face and called them a liar.
And here I am now, writing a weekly article that maybe a few hundred or thousand of you click the link for, and maybe a dozen of you actually read all the way to the bottom. And while it’s a huge honor and proves even the most complicated of lives come full circle, I can’t help but wonder if there’s even one of you out there that was sad last week when a 5 Ways to Prep article didn’t come out. I mean, I was super pumped to see Godzilla when early reviews were raves, but last minute reviews brought the average down and I skipped the movie to do laundry. I’m not a teenager working at the movies anymore. I can’t see everything, half of what’s out in theaters can wait to be seen on TV, and if I don’t see the new release on opening night (as I try to do) then I can be almost immediately dissuaded if online chatter isn’t positive. And all the excuses and conflicts in the world still won’t excuse that out there, somewhere, is a little emotional teenager reading these articles - COUNTING ON these articles - and I let them down.
So here I am now, still behind in work and sitting on the couch at 2am writing this article, because this week the last X-Men movie of the franchise as we know it is about to come out. With all the hoopla in 2019 about how Avengers and Star Wars are ending, there hasn’t been much chatter about the X-Men phasing out. Ok, Disney bought Fox so it won’t be long before the team gets a reboot, but this is Fox’s final X-Men outgoing. The franchise that was once just a successful movie with a powerhouse sequel is now a complicated trilogy of trilogies (almost like Star Was). Just like life, the X-Men have grown so big and so fast and now it’s about to come to and end. Well, by golly, not a crazy workload or needy fiancé is going to stop me from writing an article about the last X-Men movie. If not for the little kid out there that missed seeing these articles last week, then for the kid in me that once held these films to such a high regard I let them save my life. I owe this franchise and this website so much gratitude for their influence on me, and I’m here now to spread the good word that Hollywood has the power to change and save lives.
Movies aren’t just for entertainment. They are a lifestyle and I am a proud card-carrying member of those club. As is get older, I may not always have time to see movies at the theater like I used to and I may have to skip an article from time to time, but my love for movies will never die. My loyalty to BOP will never die. And my mission to shepherd the next generation of film fans will not be a job I take for granted. I will never leave without saying goodbye and I’m not leaving anytime soon. I’m here for you because BOP has always been there for me, and X-Men is a franchise most deserving of a weekly article contribution. Without further adieu, friends, here are the 5 Ways to Prep for the farewell to the X-Men franchise: Dark Phoenix!
1) X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)
So there was an original X-Men trilogy, a Wolverine trilogy and a X-Men: First Class prequel trilogy. I try to only ever recommend one film from the franchise and if you were only going to see one, Apocalypse would be it. It’s the film that most immediately precedes Dark Phoenix and gives you the best chance at understanding where we’ll be picking things up. The First Class trilogy mainly focuses on Professor X, Magneto, Mystique and Beast, all mutants with assorted superpowered gifts that they use to fight for and against the world. The third First Class film, Apocalypse, introduced “new” faces like Cyclops. Jean Gray, Storm and Nightcrawler. I say new because it was their teenage introduction to the First Class, but they all appeared as adults in the original X-Men trilogy. Not only is this when Jean Gray returns to the fold but it also dives right in to her potential Phoenix powers that come out in full force in the new movie. And despite mixed reviews and a lowered-than-desired $155 million total, Apocalypse is actually a pretty decent movie. Still, many consider it the franchise low-point but that can be helpful in making Dark Phoenix look better.
2) X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006)
Speaking of low-points, Last Stand didn’t just end the original trilogy; it almost ended the franchise. After director Bryan Singer (now a disgraced sexual predator) released X-Men and X2 to great acclaim, he handed over part three to director-hack Brett Ratner (now a disgraced sexual predator). Rather then took one of the great X-Men comic book storylines - Dark Phoenix - and stripped it of everything good to make the lackluster Last Stand. I can’t really blame him though, because the idea of mutant heroes is enough of a stretch of the imagination and sending them to space was probably too much for a general audience to handle. Still, it’s part of the original story and too much was changed and thrown together for Last Stand to land well with true fans. It was so underwhelming that Fox skipped out on X-Men 4 and went into a Wolverine franchise instead. I said before that usually I only recommend one film from a a franchise but, then again, I never expected the X-Men would recycle storylines in the films, even if the prequels have caught up to the original trilogy. Still, since it happened, it seems worthwhile to watch what Ratner did to the Phoenix saga before Fox tries to apologize to fans with this redo. If reviews aren’t better for this final film, then a fourth film in this prequel series was all for nothing.
3) SHREK FOREVER AFTER (2010)
Regardless of the reviews, Dark Phoenix May be for nothing anyway simply for being the fourth film in the current franchise and we all know diminishing returns set in hard by film four. Pirates of the Caribbean proved that. Transformers proved that. And Shrek proves that. For all the examples I can list that are good comparisons for the X-Men: First Class series, I’m choosing Shrek because it stopped at four movies (plus a Puss in Boots spin-off, which is kind of like Wolverine in a sense). The other franchises JUST KEEP GOING but Shrek came to a solid end, and despite Shrek 3 being a low-point yeah seemingly ended the series, the fourth is a hidden gem with one of Shrek’s best villains and that’s a fate I’m hoping is in store for X-Men. Unfortunately, the writing is already on the wall for its earnings. Shrek 1-4 earned $268 million, $441 million, $323 million and $239 million. First Class 1-3 earned $146 million, $234 million and $155 million. There are two ways we can anticipate Dark Phoenix’s earnings based on these numbers. If there is a similar -26% drop from parts 3 to 4, Phoenix will earn $115 million. Or, if there is a similar -11% drop from parts 1 to 4, Phoenix will earn $128 million. Anything less than $100 million would not only be the saddest of fates for this legendary brand but also the first time one of the films didn’t cross that benchmark. I pray this doesn’t happen, as it will only delay the inevitable Disney reboot. $115-130 million isn’t anything to brag about but it would still be lowest possible earning for Phoenix to save face. At least then they can blame the curse of the “fourth franchise film.”
4) THE MARTIAN (2015)
After Matthew Vaughn revamped the X-Men with First Class, Fox brought back Bryan singer for Parts 2 and 3. 2 was great (Days is Future Past) and 3 was decent (Apocalypse). Then Singer went on to direct Bohemian Rhapsody which made a ton of cash, and then his name kept coming up with regards to sexual misconduct, and now he’s disgraced and back off the X-Men. This time Fox has hired series producer Simon Kinberg for his directorial debut, and while I should be nervous I’m actually kind of excited. Fresh blood is never a bad thing and you’ll never get a more excited directing effort than that of someone’s first time. Then again, maybe the studio steam rolls right over him and is just using the producer as a placeholder for director. Or maybe he’s actually a talent to watch out for. Outside of the X-Men. Fantastic Four and Deadpool films. Kinberg has also produced and received an Oscar nomination for The Martian, proving his talents go above and beyond superheroes. I’m not sure much of that skill spills over into directing but there’s hope that this Oscar nominated X-Men regular won’t completely ruin the franchise the way so many sexual predators before him have.
5) THE HELP (2011)
Of all the returning faces we get with each new X-Men movie, the only new face you can ever count on is that of the villain. While Dark Phoenix is the threat the commercials focus on the most, we know that Jessica Chastain’s character is the puppet master behind the scenes. Early word is that she is playing a female version of Mr. Sinister and that could be cool, but who cares? This is Phoenix’s movie and there are few actors I can’t stand as much as Chastain. The thing is, I used to LOVE her. She is one of the best parts in The Help, and each time I rewatch it her character gives me the biggest smile. But since then, she has played more and more serious roles that scrunch up her face and make her act all tough. What happened to the lighthearted Chastain?! What happened to that beautiful smile? She could have been the next Julia Roberts! After she failed to claim Oscar glory with 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty, it’s been a mad dash to get another chance and it’s just a bit sad to watch. I want to remember her in her great roles like The Martian, Crimson Peak and Interstellar. I really do. But all I see when I see Chastain is Miss Sloane, The Zookeeper’s Wife and Molly’s Game. Ugh, we get it, you want an Oscar. I shouldn’t complain though because nothing is worse than The Huntsman: Winter’s War. And, I’ll remind you again, nothing is better than The Help. It was her first breakout role and remains her nose accessible to date. If anything will keep you from hating her face in Dark Phoenix, it’s her Help-ful smile.
And with that, friends, you’re ready for Dark Phoenix. Stay tuned for more articles to come. I’ll keep shooting for at least once a week but try not to fret until you notice me missing at least twice in row. Then again, with films like Men in Black: International, Toy Story 4 and Spider-Man: Far From Home on the horizon, there’s plenty of movies I can’t wait to talk about coming out in the next few weeks. Stay tuned and, as always, thanks for reading!