This article originally appeared on VICE US.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix was a pitiful end to the long-running franchise, and not even Sophie Turner's post-Game of Thrones viral stardom could save it from box office disaster. It only pulled in $33 million in the US during its opening weekend, tanked even harder during its second weekend, and is now on track to be an even bigger flop than that brain-bleedingly bad Fantastic Four movie. Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg told KCRW recently that the movie's failure is "on [him]," but apparently, Kinberg messed up more than just Dark Phoenix—because he passed on a potential X-Men movie that might have actually pulled the franchise out of its nosedive.
It turns out that longtime X-Men editor and composer John Ottman pitched a script for a spinoff movie about the Beast to Kinberg, but the guy was too wrapped up with Dark Phoenix to give it a read. But last week, Hollywood Reporter sat down for an interview with Ottman and shared the entire first draft of the unmade film, called Fear the Beast and, uh, it's actually really, really good?
Fear the Beast is a small, contained story centered around Hank McCoy, a.k.a. the Beast, and feels more akin to the character studies of the early 2000s X-Men than any of the recent, overblown entries into the franchise. The plot centers around a doctor who shares a similar mutation as McCoy. When he goes missing, McCoy treks up to Canada where he discovers that the guy has gone fully feral and is terrorizing a fishing village.
The idea for Fear the Beast initially came from Ottman's assistant, Byron Burton, while the pair were working on that last horrendous X-Men movie back in 2016. Burton pitched Ottman on the idea and cranked out a rough draft in only two weeks. Ottman was reportedly so impressed by the script that he helped with a rewrite and brought the thing to the bigwigs at Fox.
"We wanted to have the tenor of John Carpenter's The Thing where you are in this inhospitable environment," Ottman told Hollywood Reporter. An X-Men spin on Carpenter's horror classic is kind of brilliant, especially looking at how Logan bent genre conventions already. But unfortunately, Fox told Ottman that he'd need to get Kinberg's blessing to get Fear the Beast made, and Kinberg... well, he never read it.
Per Hollywood Reporter:
Kinberg politely declined to read the script to avoid becoming unduly influenced by it. Part of Kinberg's rationale was he was thinking of reintroducing Wolverine back into the X-Men world following Hugh Jackman's retirement, so the use of Wolverine in any other movie would only muddy the waters. Ottman had no hard feelings, though by this point he'd become so attached to the idea that he would have pushed to direct the film himself had Fox been interested.
Kinberg went on to put out Dark Phoenix and the X-Men franchise as we know it is effectively dead, at least until Disney decides to officially wrap them into the MCU. Thankfully, Burton and Ottman's script is out to the public now, so if you're an X-Men fan still harboring any notions about actually going to see Dark Phoenix, save yourself the money and pain and read Fear the Beast instead. You're welcome in advance.