‘Dark Phoenix’ Director Simon Kinberg on Film’s Failures: ‘It Didn’t Connect Enough With Audiences’

The first-time filmmaker offered a candid response to the critical and box office reception to his X-Men feature during a recent radio appearance.
Sophie Turner, Michael Fassbender, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Simon Kinberg. Actor Michael Fassbender, actress Sophie Turner, director Simon Kinberg, actor Tye Sheridan and actor Evan Peters, from left to right, pose for the media ahead of the press conference for their new movie "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" in Seoul, South Korea, . The movie is to be released in South Korea on June 5, 2019Film X-Men Dark Phoenix, Seoul, South Korea - 27 May 2019
Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, Simon Kinberg, Tye Sheridan, and Evan Peters
Lee Jin-man/AP/Shutterstock

Simon Kinberg isn’t burying his head in the sand. After opening his feature filmmaking debut, the critically savaged and drastically underperforming “Dark Phoenix” last week, Kinberg popped up on KCRW’s “The Business” (via EW) to open up about his perceived failures on the X-Men feature.

“It clearly is a movie that didn’t connect with audiences that didn’t see it, it didn’t connect enough with audiences that did see it. So that’s on me,” Kinberg said.

The film debuted last weekend during the crush of the summer movie-going season, where it pulled in only $33 million in domestic dollars, a far cry from the receipts of recent X-Men features like “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Logan.” With an estimated $200 million production cost (and that’s before marketing) and uninspiring foreign numbers, the film will likely go down as the franchise’s biggest bust ever.

And that’s to say nothing of the critical response, which walloped it with enough bad reviews to ring in a dismal 23% Rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest rating of any X-Men movie ever.

During his appearance on “The Business,” Kinberg was honest: there were many issues that contributed to the film’s lackluster reception, from messed-around release dates to the transition from Fox to Disney in the months leading up to its premiere. Still, he remained positive. “I loved making the movie, and I loved the people I made the movie with,” he said.

Last week, a new report from Deadline revealed extensive behind-the-scenes drama on the production of the film, including the reveal that the film was originally set up as a two-parter. The new movie is based on one of the franchise’s most famous comic book storylines, one that Kinberg wanted to adapt faithfully after botching the first “Dark Phoenix” movie adaptation as co-writer of 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

Deadline reports Kinberg was planning a two-part “Dark Phoenix” movie before 20th Century Fox changed its mind and ordered just one movie. Kinberg re-wrote the script to accommodate the change.

As has been previously reported, Kinberg’s original movie changed significantly in reshoots. Fox used test screenings to help determine which parts of the film needed to be reworked and it was ultimately Kinberg’s ending that changed the most.

While Kinberg is not entirely out of the superhero fray just yet — he’s a producer on the also-reshoot-plagued “The New Mutants” and the “Deadpool” films — he’ll next direct the female-centric spy movie “355,” starring his “Dark Phoenix” star Jessica Chastain.

And he’s excited to see what Disney and Marvel will do with their new X-Men properties. “I love these characters. I’ll be super excited to see what Marvel does with them,” Kinberg said.

You can listen to Kinberg’s entire interview over at KCRW’s “The Business.”

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