I’ve always been a much bigger fan of the X-Men than any other Marvel Comics group. Sure I read a decent amount of Spider-Man back in the day, but the X-universe has always been tops for me. This love is due in no small part to the excellent and colorful 1990s animated series. Though the animation hasn’t held up, the writing is tip-top. As such, I’ve given the X-Men film series a pretty generous berth. Hell, 2000’s X-Men really began the modern comic book movie craze. So for that alone it’s important. The makers of Dark Phoenix want you to remember that history too; their latest promo celebrates “20 years of X-Men” in a very Avengers: Endgame-esque video.
I’m not sure if this marketing idea is from Disney now that they own Fox, or from the people at Fox trying to piggyback off the nostalgia of comic book movies. Either way, as much goodwill as I have toward Dark Phoenix going in, this feels a bit hollow, a bit needy.
Yes, the X-Men franchise is the first of the modern superhero movies. In 2000, Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor X made their way to theaters in what is still considered a pretty good movie. Since then (which, I’d like to remind you, is 19 years ago, not 20) X-Men has remained one of the most hit-and-miss blockbuster franchises in history. The James Bond movies have a higher hit rate than the X-Men films do.
There’s not a ton of new footage for Dark Phoenix in the video; instead it focuses on several of the previous X-films. Several, not all. It doesn’t include any of the Wolverine-centric spin-offs, of which there are three, nor the two Deadpool movies, which don’t belong there anyway. If you’re wondering if there is any footage from X-Men: The Last Stand in the package, no there is not. In fact, at the very end of the video, it lists films “now available in a variety of formats.” These include only X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse. Burying the worst film of the bunch, I see.
So let’s take a second to talk about the difference between the accomplishment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the not of the X-Men franchise. The MCU consists of 22 films in a span of 11 years. X-Men, even including the spin-offs, has only 11 films in 19 years. The MCU is fully connected. The X-franchise is infamous for broken continuity. The MCU owns even its weaker entries while the X-Men films clearly do not.
I’m not an MCU shill by any means, but an attempt to equate the X-Men films with the MCU in terms of accomplishment leaves a sour taste no matter how you slice it. And I’m excited for Dark Phoenix! It does seem like they’re setting up Dark Phoenix as the end of the line, which is probably for the best.