Dark Phoenix is a commercial and critical bomb, earning just $32.8 million domestically in its opening weekend -- a franchise low -- and a Tomatometer score of 23 percent, leading writer/director Simon Kinberg to fall on his sword. But if there's any silver lining to be found, it's that at least the X-Men sequel isn't Men in Black: International.
Although Sony's revival was the clear winner at the North American box office this weekend, that's not saying much. Like Dark Phoenix, its measly $30 million gross represents a franchise low (as does its 24-percent critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes).
But, of course, Dark Phoenix cost more to make that MiB: International, with a reported production budget of $200 million, which ballooned in part because of extensive third-act reshoots, compared to the Sony sequel's estimated $110 million. Many of Dark Phoenix's problems have already been well documented, but what went wrong with Men in Black: International?
Meh In Black
Ironically, for a franchise that's essentially about making everyday citizens forget their alien encounters, Men in black: International has been regarded as forgettable at best. Although the chemistry of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, already showcased in the much better-received Thor: Ragnarok, is well regarded, the blasé storyline and middling jokes aren't enough to hold the film together. Add in a plot twist choreographed by even the initial trailers, and audiences aren't left with much reason to head to the theaters.
Conversely, despite wearing its “international” theme in its title, the film never uses that to even a fraction of its potential. What little is done with the concept involves tepid jokes, the best of which is already shown in the trailers. The film could have easily taken place in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles or even Chattanooga without missing a beat.
The film also attempts to amp up the “cool factor” of the MIB gadgets, continuing a theme from the previous sequels that gradually but surely ebbs away at the “just another day," more street-level charm of the first.
Star (Lack of) Power
Hemsworth will likely add the film to his growing list of flops: Blackhat, Bad Times at the El Royale, In the Heart of the Sea, Ghostbusters, et al. Basically, everything that's not Star Trek, Vacation or produced by Marvel Studios.
The lack of Tommy Lee Jones and, especially, Will Smith was a sore point among franchise fans, with their absence more than likely serving as a catalyst for the diminished interest in the film. Although they make a cameo of sorts in the film's setup, that too is revealed by the trailers.
The Summer Without a Blockbuster?
Men in Black: International is only the latest big-budget film to falter this summer, critically and, especially, financially. Godzilla: King of the Monsters and the aforementioned Dark Phoenix, both entries in successful franchises, performed far worse than expected.
Although Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel and Aladdin are certified blockbusters, 2019 hasn't been kind to the likes of Alita: Battle Angel and The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, to say nothing of the aforementioned summer misfires. Meanwhile, films like Us, John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu and Shazam! have delivered some of the year's surprises.
However, with Toy Story 4, Annabelle Comes Home, Spider-Man: Far From Home and The Lion King on the horizon, it's unlikely this grim summer streak will continue for much longer.
In theaters now, director F. Gary Gray's Men in Black: International stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Laurent Bourgeois and Larry Bourgeois, with Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson.