X-Men: Dark Phoenix
The X-Men movie franchise has had a long run. Under the studio banner of 20th Century Fox, this classic cinematic world of mutant superheroes and villains, which started back in 2000, paved the way for the modern age of superhero feature films. The franchise has hit some lows (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as well as some highs (Logan), and even finally produced a near-perfect representation in the series’s spin-off endeavours of the R-rated comic book character Deadpool. Now, 19 years since it all began, the final movie, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, is released. Does the series go out with a bang or does it fizzle out?
On a rescue mission in space, the X-Men team are caught in a dangerous situation as their fellow member, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), makes contact with a mysterious cosmic force, absorbing its awesome power in its entirety. Back on Earth, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the rest of the X-Men begin to notice a change within Jean, who is unable to control her incredible newfound power and an unstable rage. As she becomes a threat to them all, Xavier and his team try to quell Jean’s unruly behaviour, but the young woman has also attracted the likes of Magneto (Michael Fassbender) as well as Vuk (Jessica Chastain), an alien shapeshifter, who both want something different from her cosmic powers.
Directed by Simon Kinberg, Dark Phoenix seeks to retell the iconic “Dark Phoenix Saga” story arc from the X-Men comic books. Of course, 2006’s The Last Stand was the first attempt to imagine that narrative on the big-screen, but ultimately proved problematic, especially since the movie’s plot was drastically different from its comic book source material. Kinberg approaches this project with a slightly more faithful adaptation of the popular storyline, presenting the cosmic entity (the Phoenix Force) that enters Jean Grey’s body and using aliens (Yuk and her followers) to frame the narrative. Thus, this gives Dark Phoenix a few more sci-fi elements, ever so slightly expanding the franchise into the cosmic realm of outer space.
Unfortunately, most of this movie simply doesn’t work and ultimately ends up being a colossal disappointment from start to finish. What’s most prevalent throughout the entire film is its lacklustre presentation, not so much in technical terms but rather in its theatrical storytelling elements. Basically, Dark Phoenix has all the right ideas but is horribly executed and feels extremely generically boring. Kinberg, who also penned the script, provides bland plot beats that don’t really amount to much beyond the surface. This also makes the various characters totally drab and uninteresting. Even the third-act showdown is rather dull and feels anti-climactic. In addition, the film’s marketing definitely spoiled the ending twist (something that we all knew was coming), rendering that particular moment to be more muted in its “shock and awe” impact.
One of the picture’s most frustrating faults lies with the characters and how they are all represented. Of course, the acting talents of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and several others are perfectly fine, but they are woefully underutilised. The cast must perform poorly written and constructed characters and story arcs. Even Sophie Turner and Jessica Chastain (who play important roles) can’t make either Jean Grey or Vuk wholesome or anything more than one-dimensional caricatures. The entire cast is unequivocally wasted here and that’s a crying shame.
In the end, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is just a cinematic disappointment for both comic book fans and casual moviegoers out there. Whether viewers have good, bad or indifferent feelings about the series, it’s a real shame to see a beloved franchise end in such a messy and unsatisfying way. Let’s hope that the “House of Mouse” has big plans for the X-Men in their expansive cinematic universe of superheroes in the near future and we all can forget about this movie.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is released nationwide on 7th June 2019.
Watch the trailer for X-Men: Dark Phoenix here: