This morning, X-Men star Sophie Turner revealed she will appear on The Late Late Show with James Corden tonight to debut the first trailer for the latest X-Men film, next year’s Dark Phoenix. Interestingly, the announcement on Turner’s Instagram account appears to confirm that the film will lack the “X-Men” moniker altogether in its final theatrical title.
Rumors of the sequel dropping “X-Men” from its title began in April when the film’s logo was unveiled at CinemaCon lacking the overt namedrop to Marvel’s Merry Mutants. These rumors were further fueled when a licensing event in Las Vegas the following month saw “X-Men” omitted from a teaser poster. In fact, the poster bears the exact same title and typeface as the trailer teaser released this morning on Turner’s Instagram, and then later, on the final poster which followed swiftly after the teaser’s reveal.
The title change is an unusual branding move for Fox, given the name recognition the X-Men franchise carries worldwide; even 2009’s inaugural Wolverine solo film linked the prequel to the main franchise with the title X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Reducing the title simply to “Dark Phoenix” may create added pressure for the studio to ensure less comic book-savvy audiences are aware it’s an X-Men film, a move that will presumably be achieved by augmenting the visibility of its returning ensemble cast.
In fact, the omission of “X-Men” from the final title could be a strategic branding move in it of itself. The previous film in the franchise to carry the moniker was 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and while it was technically a commercial success, the film performed well below the studio’s expectations, earning 27% less at the global box office than 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and garnering a mixed reception from fans and critics alike. The reduced title could be an attempt by the studio to distance itself from the last X-Men ensemble film, taking cues from more successful spinoffs that have been released in the interim.
Outside of the main series, Fox has released five spinoff films, and the most recent four haven’t included “X-Men” in the title at all. 2013’s The Wolverine was the first spinoff to drop “X-Men” from its title, and it significantly outperformed its 2009 predecessor both commercially and critically. 2016’s Deadpool became an instant hit with audiences, going on to become the highest-earning X-Men film to date. Last year’s Logan went one step further, dropping any reference to the X-Men and Wolverine in its title completely, and going on to box office success and widespread critical acclaim, including an Academy Award nomination.
The commercial and critical success of the X-Men spinoffs despite lacking “X-Men” in most of their titles has given Fox the confidence to streamline the titles of their films moving forward, evident both in February’s Dark Phoenix and August’s The New Mutants, itself a riskier move given that the film features entirely new characters unlike Logan or Dark Phoenix. And given the impending acquisition of the entire franchise by Disney to take effect by next summer, there may never be a Fox-produced X-Men film to carry the “X-Men” name in its title ever again.
Written and directed by franchise veteran Simon Kinberg, X-Men: Dark Phoenix stars Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Alexandra Ship as Storm, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler. It is scheduled to open in theaters on February 14, 2019.
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