When looking through the history books in the superhero film genre, there were a couple defining points that changed the course of how mainstream audiences viewed our spandex wearing Caped Crusaders, and X-Men was one of the biggest game-changers. In 2000, Fox/Marvel put out the first X-Men film, choosing to take their characters seriously, and in real life situations that made people not only relate and empathize, but opened up the possibilities of more hard hitting and serious storytelling in Superhero films.
This needs to stated because when going into ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’, the conclusion to this game-changing saga, it is clear that whatever spark of pushing the genre forward into new and excited avenues is dead and gone, replaced with the same old rehashed plot points that may have seemed new and fresh in 200, but in 2019 feels stale, and frustratingly mediocre.
This wouldn’t be the first time Fox/Marvel have dropped the ball on this property, even worse this particular story line. Director/writer Simon Kinberg, who wrote the first attempt of the ‘Dark Phoenix’ story (X-Men: The Last Stand) had gone on record saying that this new vision of the story gives him the chance to fix his mistakes made on the widely not-well received predecessor. The unfortunate truth of ‘Dark Phoenix’ is that it neither corrects past mistakes but doubles down on many of them.
The main character in this film, Jean Grey, played by the talented Sophie Turner, does her best trying to carry the weight of this film, however it is a very difficult feat when the source material only works due in part to how much time they take to have you connect and relate to the X-Men as a whole, which a 2 hr movie simply cannot accomplish. Telling the ‘Dark Phoenix’ story in one film is like starting the Marvel Cinematic Universe not with Iron Man but with Avengers: Infinity War, a load of character who’s names you know, however never given enough time to connect to them.
There are some characters that have been built within the X-universe over time, James McCavoy and Michael Fassbender who had entered the franchise in ‘X-Men: First Class as the young Professor X and Magneto. For me the biggest crime this film committed is in the character assassination of Professor Xavier. Not only did they introduce new conflicting information regarding his character, but they unintentionally make him the villain in this film. Magneto, as well as the remaining “First Class” Cast of Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult (Mystique and Beast) all do fine in their roles and the acting surprisingly stays fairly strong with them and with all of the other actors in this film. The biggest problem in this film is the inconsistent story, and an overall directing by Simon Kinberg.
As this franchise is one to do, continuity from ‘Dark Phoenix’ from it’s direct predecessor ‘Apocalypse’ is already muddled, particularly when you look at the Quicksilver/Magneto relationship as well as how exactly Jean Grey obtains the super-cosmic power known as “The Phoenix Force”. The film constantly undercuts it’s emotional moments by adding nonsensical logic behind each characters decision. The characters don’t seem to make choices on their own, rather are placed strategically on the directors chessboard to come to a 3rd act, that reportedly needed to be entirely re-shot due to being to similar to “certain Disney Marvel Properties”.
To the films credit, the 3rd act does elevate the film to being at least entertaining with all of the action and fighting, but again, there are no stakes, and you feel nothing towards the characters. As for the villains, an alien race spearheaded by Jessica Chastain, they not only serve little to no significance in the overall story, but are barely even in the film until the good guys need something to punch.
Overall, ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ is a rushed and bland film, that may entertain a passive audience that may not have as much investment in the characters going into the film. But to conclude an almost 20 year in this fashion honestly leaves me disappointed, and wanting more for the characters that I grew up with and have loved for so long.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix gets a 4/10