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Dark Phoenix Director Simon Kinberg Owns Up To Film's Failure

Simon Kinberg isn't afraid to admit his mistakes.

The director did just that when speaking to KCRW during a recent appearance on the outlet's The Business podcast. 

Getting remarkably candid, Kinberg opened up about the critical and commercial failure of Dark Phoenix, his directorial debut and the final film of the X-Men movie series to come from 20th Century Fox, which the Walt Disney Company acquired in March of this year. The filmmaker took the blame for everything that went wrong with Dark Phoenix — from the exhaustive reshoots to rewriting the ending (and working on the script during production) to the multiple release date changes. 

"I'm here, I'm saying when a movie doesn't work, put it on me," said Kinberg, who noted that it's difficult to talk about Dark Phoenix in a negative context because he genuinely loves the film and "had an amazing time" making it. Ultimately, though, he feels the onus is on him to express regret and remorse over Dark Phoenix crashing and burning with moviegoers and critics: "I'm the writer-director of the movie. The movie didn't connect with audiences, that's on me."

As for what might have saved Dark Phoenix from its grim fate, Kinberg doesn't believe that there's anything that could have been done to yield a different outcome. Would changing the film's release date yet again have helped it? Probably not. Did the massive box office success of Avengers: Endgame, the biggest superhero movie in recent history and now the most profitable film of all time, somehow impact Dark Phoenix's performance when it opened on June 7? Maybe, but Kinberg just can't get behind the idea that another film is to blame for Dark Phoenix's bombing. 

"I always felt that we had a tough date for this particular movie. It wasn't made as a classic superhero movie, it was made as more of a dramatic, intimate, smaller film. Originally it was going to come out in November [2018], then it was going to come out in February [2019], and those were the date that I felt like it actually would have felt more appropriate to," he said. "Coming out five, six weeks after what may well be the biggest movie or the second biggest movie in the history of cinema, that also happens to be also in the genre of superheroes, was tough for us, and I always anticipated that it was going to be tough to be in the tailwinds of that movie. But I wouldn't blame it on the weekend."

The tense atmosphere behind the scenes at Fox didn't make production on Dark Phoenix easy either, and the "thousands and thousands" of layoffs taking place at that time affected several of the studio's important arms.

"The marketing and publicity side of Fox were very badly hit, and I noticed it because ... I was going to marketing meetings every week and there were people who weren't there anymore," Kinberg stated. "They were people that I worked with for many years on many movies that I made."

Kinberg also shared that he's actively trying to keep himself from thinking about how differently Dark Phoenix may have fared if it wasn't delayed or if it had been better marketed. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter: what happened happened, and Kinberg is taking it as a learning experience. 

"I mean honestly, there's no way to know, and that's the thing that I think can drive people crazy and keep them up and be thinking about a movie's failure years later," he said. "If the lesson you've learned is that you had the wrong date or you didn't have good marketing — that's not a lesson."

Kinberg's comments here are refreshing. It's not often that the architect of a box office bomb comes forward and says, "Hey, I maybe didn't make the best decisions creatively or from a production standpoint. I still love the film, but I understand why it failed." What's even more important here is Kinberg's mention that Dark Phoenix floundering taught him a lesson. The flick will probably do the same for the powers that be at Marvel Studios, who are looking to bring the X-Men and several other comic book characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In working out the best way to introduce the mutants in a whole new movie franchise, Marvel can turn to Dark Phoenix and pinpoint the exact things not to do... like attempting to adapt the Dark Phoenix storyline all over again... or overhauling the third act after it's already been shot... or delaying the film multiple times. (You get the picture.)