The issues with Dark Phoenix's production - or at least how Fox failed to control leaks about reshoots and poor audience testing - have shaped the release's story in a way that really hasn't helped it at the box office. Unfortunately for the studio, it's all ran away from them a little, with talk of why such major story changed were made springing up that seemingly aren't even true.
For some reason, the film-makers have allowed the information that they completely redid the ending to get out and then James McAvoy did an interview that seemed to hint at why it had happened. He spoke to Yahoo Movies UK and revealed not only that “the end changed a hell of a lot" but also that it was done because it was too much like a recent comic book movie:
“The finale HAD to change. There was a lot of overlap and parallels with another superhero movie that came out... a while ago. And we had no idea that we were...”
Perhaps because of the cosmic elements of Dark Phoenix, that comment led to rounds of speculation that McAvoy meant Captain Marvel. After all, there's space, there's an alien race that disguises itself as humans, there's a supremely powerful female character realising her own potential... But no, according to Simon Kinberg, we've all been assuming it was the wrong movie.
It wouldn't have made sense anyway, because Dark Phoenix was originally completed before anyone had even seen Captain Marvel. All that had been released by the time reshoots kicked off was the first trailer, and everything hinted at in there that looked similar to Dark Phoenix remains in the final version of Dark Phoenix anyway.
Kinberg, meanwhile, spoke to io9 to reveal that it was actually Captain America: Civil War that informed their decision to reshoot Dark Phoenix:
"My original ending didn’t have the entire X-Family together the way they are in the film now. More than Captain Marvel, you could see a lot of Civil War in that ending. 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 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."
That's an intriguing idea. Presumably, the original ending would have featured a far smaller battle, with Jean at its heart and presumably Vuk involved. If we're looking to speculate on how the ending would have gone based on the way the film develops up the final act, you'd have to suspect a triptych battle like the Civil War one would make the most sense.
In that respect, we should have got Professor X vs Magneto vs Jean, which would have been great, or perhaps Jean vs Beast vs Cyclops. Both trios were formed around the death of Mystique, which ended up being brushed aside way too much and that sort of final fight would have made up for that sidelining. But that's apparently not the direction they went for.
According to Deadline, the climax would have been three heroes against Vuk in a much more intimate battle than the ending we got with all of the alien cannon fodder:
"We heard that in one cut, Jean Grey dies, which wasn’t received well. But overall, the major ending change-up, executed in reshoots, entailed going from an intimate ending with Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) against Jessica Chastain’s Vuk."
Despite Kinberg saying the film was changed because of similarities to Civil War, Deadline also say that it came down to how the original ending tested - which fits with reports of disappointment at early cuts:
"The feeling from the audience in testing was that they wanted to see all the X-Men heroes fighting in the end."
In the end, we got a bigger action sequence set on a train, because X-Men movies really like trains. It wasn't as good.
Because everything in this crazy world is cyclical, the mention of Civil War being the reason Dark Phoenix's ending changed calls back to another story that's been doing the rounds this week - the tale of the sadly abandoned X-Men Vs Fantastic Four movie that probably would have been better than most of the films released on either of those character groups since it was canned.
Like the early version of Dark Phoenix, the film (which was planned in 2010) would have taken a lead from Marvel's Civil War, with Johnny Storm unwittingly causing a catastrophe in New York that would have led to a Superhero Registration Act that would have kicked off a war between superheroes.
On one side, we would have seen the Fantastic Four and on the other the X-Men, with a key battle between Mr Fantastic and Wolverine that would have led to the former stretching his arms into atom-thin blades and cutting Logan's arms off. In the end, the war would have led to peace, but then the post-credits scene would have set up a Secret Invasion movie with a Skrull invasion.
It all sounds great, but then First Class was a hit for Fox and they pushed ahead with keeping the X-Men separate (rumour has it, Daredevil and Deadpool would have been involved somehow too) for Days Of Future Past. Can't help but think it would have been a better world if we'd got the crossover instead...
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