DARK PHOENIX review

Dark Phoenix (20th Century Fox)

Synopsis

In Dark Phoenix, the X-Men face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling our of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite – not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.

Review

Dark Phoenix is the twelfth instalment in the X-Men series, and is most likely the last X-men film to be produced by 20thCentury Fox. Following on from X-Men: ApocalypseDark Phoenix takes place in 1992. After the X-Men respond to a distress call from a space shuttle, Jean Grey accidentally absorbs a strange alien power that elevates her mutant powers. After being manipulated by the mysterious Vuk, the X-Men band together to face the Phoenix and Vuk in order to save their friend. 

Now, after the disappointment that was X-Men: Apocalypse my passion for the X-Men slowly faded away. However, after the first few trailers for Dark Phoenix and the fact Disney now owned the X-Men, I really thought Dark Phoenix would deliver an epic and satisfying conclusion to a series that has been with fans since the early 2000’s. 

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Dark Phoenixwas an uninspired and boring finale that contradicted a lot of pre-established information set up in previous movies. 

What bothered me the most was how the characters were utilized. In comparison to films like First Class and Days of Futures Past, this film completely disregards a lot of the development that these characters have been through. Characters such as Mystique and Hank suddenly come to hate Charles and the X-Men despite the overall relationship between humans and mutants significantly improving- even for Magneto, things are actually going pretty well. They really try hard to paint Charles as the villain and I was in utter disbelief. Not only was it weak but it was very unconvincing, turning on Charles didn’t add much to the story and it didn’t make a lot of sense. What’s more is that many of the characters are incredibly underused, so much so that you forget that they’re still there- Quicksilver comes to mind almost immediately. Oh, do you remember when it was revealed that Quicksilver was Magneto’s son? Yeah, neither does Dark Phoenix

For me, what has arguably been one of the most compelling aspects of the more recent X-Men films was the relationship between Professor X and Magneto. But with both Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix their relationship seems to have been mostly forgotten. They barely share any screen time together and when they do you get a glimpse of what once was. So, in terms of characters, they all feel out of character apart from Jean Grey. Sophie Turner did a great job at portraying both the kind and sweet Jean Grey and the darker version. However, her character is held back significantly by an unconvincing villain who really served no purpose. Considering the bombshell they dropped in relation to the villain’s origin, which should have been a massive part of the story, the villains don’t really do much apart from provide a bit of action. What would have served the film better was allowing Jean Grey to be the villain of her own movie instead of being manipulated yet again. 

Out of all the X-Men films, this one was probably the most boring. When audiences watch an X-Men movie, they don’t particularly expect grand and spectacular fight sequences, just look at X-Men: First Class, for example. Yet, I found myself checking my watch within the first hour. I will say that one of the battles towards the end of the film that features a train is pretty cool but it wasn’t enough to rescue the overall experience that was unfortunately dull and anticlimactic. As a finale, there is nothing final about it. Things are left unresolved, the ending is even left slightly open for some reason, and the threat was very non-existent, even in Jean’s case, all she needed was a pep talk and most of the problems were resolved in a 2-minute fight that was neither impressive nor interesting. The final sequences in Apocalypse, despite the overall film being underwhelming, were very cool since you had everyone participating, each character had their moment to show off. So, while the film was definitely flawed, at least we go to see the mutants use their abilities. The final showdown, which should have been a massive team up, was instead a short sequence that was so underwhelming that it can barely be called a final showdown.

Unfortunately, for a film like this, the negatives outweigh the positives. I’ll always love James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Charles and Magneto. From First Class onwards, their performances have always amazed me. While I praise their portrayals, along with Sophie Turner’s, Dark Phoenix misses the raw emotion that has been present in the others. Erik using his rage and sadness to unleash his power, Charles confronting his future self, Erik losing his family, and Charles accusing Erik of abandoning him. All of these moments were brilliantly executed and Dark Phoenix feels incredibly empty of those scenes that really made these X-men movies standout amongst the others. 

I wish I could find something great to say about Dark Phoenix. The X-Men franchise has been very inconsistent but they have delivered some absolute gems and I held on to the belief that this film would provide a fantastic conclusion to a very jumbled universe, but Dark Phoenix raised more questions than answers and, ultimately, presents a very uninteresting finale that fails to utilise some of the X-Men’s best traits and overwhelmingly fails to produce the same kind of energy as its predecessors, meaning that its re-watchability value plummets hard.

Verdict

Dark Phoenix did not have the spark a phoenix should have. 

5/10

Dark Phoenix is being directed by Simon Kinberg. James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender are confirmed to return to the roles of Charles Xavier, Mystique and Magneto respectively. Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp and Kodi Smit-McPhee will also return.


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