For China, Dark Phoenix is about as bad as Game of Thrones Season 8
But for some Chinese viewers, seeing their favorite couple back together makes a bad X-Men film worth it
China has many dedicated X-Men fans. On social media, they meticulously break down the series’ confusing timeline and write stories about how the X-Men stories would unfold if they took place in China.
Some fans even crossed their arms in the shape of an “X” and cheered “mutant and proud” at the China premiere of Dark Phoenix, the final installment of the 19-year-old 20th Century Fox franchise adapted from the popular Marvel Comics series.
But the X-Men finale hasn’t excited fans as much as Avengers: Endgame, which tied up the first decade of storytelling in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on online comments and reviews of Dark Phoenix, released in China on June 6, this finale might be better compared to a different series finale: Game of Thrones.
Yup, many users on Weibo are debating whether Season 8 of Game of Thrones or Dark Phoenix is worse.
“Pay attention if you want to see Dark Phoenix. The movie’s at about the same level as the new Fantastic Four,” said one Weibo user, referring to the 2015 Marvel film, also produced by 20th Century Fox, that bombed at the box office and has a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Even Game of Thrones Season 8 is better than this.”
Some GoT fans are still so traumatized by the final season, which wrapped up three weeks ago, that they simply can’t believe Dark Phoenix could be so bad.
“Some friends say the plot and character twists are more awkward than Game of Thrones Season 8,” one Weibo user posted on an account is dedicated to posting GoT-related content. “I want to say that’s really wrong. Nothing has weaker plots and characters than Game of Thrones Season 8. Nothing.”
Many complaints about the final X-Men film center on Jean Grey, who’s supposed to be one of the most fierce and powerful mutants. But in the film, she doesn’t appear to have that much control over her own destiny.
“Isn’t this… X-Men: Confused White Phoenix?” one Weibo user asked.
“Don’t call it Dark Phoenix,” another person wrote in a Zhihu post. “Call it The Big Show of Jean’s Confusing Behaviors.”
Apart from the main character, people are also not impressed with the underwhelming alien villain or with certain out-of-character developments with Professor X, who is willing to sacrifice a mutant to save a human. Fans also said the movie has some similarities with the movie’s resemblance to Captain Marvel.
However bad the reviews, though -- and they are really bad -- some say the film was worth it just for the last five minutes alone.
There are spoilers ahead for X-Men: Dark Phoenix, so read no further if you don’t want to be spoiled.
The end of the film features what Chinese viewers called a sweet and touching moment between X-Men villain Magneto and the mutant group’s leader and mentor, Professor X. Many Chinese fans are obsessed with the bromance between the two characters (and actors), even coupling them up in their imaginations and dubbing the relationship “EC,” an abbreviation of Eric Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier.
“For the beautiful love of EC in the last five minute, I want to watch Dark Phoenix for the second time,” one Weibo user said. “I must have gone insane.”
“Oh my god, Magneto proposed,” another person wrote on movie review site Douban. “I’ve given my gift money.”
And some are seeing their chess game that closes the film as something more meaningful.
“I believe everyone guessed that Magneto was holding a diamond ring in his hand but were more surprised to see it’s a chess piece,” a Weibo user posted. “This is the diamond ring for EC.”
Unlike Avengers: Endgame, which was breaking records in China before it even opened, Dark Phoenix pulled in just over 80 million yuan (US$11.6 million) on its opening day, according to Taopiaopiao, a box office analytics app operated by Taobao.
(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, owner of Taobao.)
That’s far less than the estimated US$107.2 million that Avengers: Endgame made in China on its first day. Dark Phoenix is even trailing behind Godzilla, which earned 136 million yuan (US$19.7 million) on its opening day in China, according to Taopiaopiao.
For all the suffering Dark Phoenix has inflicted, though, it seems one character that’s been with the franchise from the original 2000 film got off easy. Mystique, also known as Raven, dies in the film, but Weibo users aren’t so sympathetic.
“Raven suffered less than I did,” one Weibo user said. “At least she didn’t have to sit through two hours of this movie.”