If you have been following my site for a while you know I’ve had a very rocky relationship with Fox’s X-Men series (For my best shots of the series click here). I like about half of them (I haven’t seen Deadpool or Logan but I strongly disliked Once Upon a Deadpool if that counts). However, I loved X-Men Days of Future Past but was very disappointed by X-Men Apocalypse. I found it irritating and extremely frustrating to watch (I hated the character of Apocalypse soooo much). I actually prefer Batman v Superman over X-Men Apocalypse.
Now we have Dark Phoenix, which has gone through development hell and has been dumped by Disney after their acquisition of Fox. It also features the beloved ‘Phoenix Saga’ storyline which was so poorly handled in X-Men: the Last Stand. One would hope they could learn from their mistakes and end on a high note. Unfortunately Dark Phoenix is a weak movie that even franchise fans are likely to forget very quickly. It’s not the worst of the group but certainly not one I can recommend.
I must start by saying nothing in Dark Phoenix irritated me the way Apocalypse did in X-Men Apocalypse. In fact, nothing got much of any reaction. It was all pretty bland. Most of the actors do a good job with what is asked of them. The problem lies with the script and terrible dialogue. The one exception is Jessica Chastain: who really needs to be more careful with her big budget film projects. She is terrible in this film.
The rest of the cast feels laden with a dull and robotic script that even they can’t elevate. For example, James McAvoy does a fine job in his scenes but they decide to write Charles Xavier as an insufferable egomaniac for some bizarre reason. He’s supposed to be the moral center of the saga and it feels very odd to end his character by literally replacing him as leader and calling into question all he has accomplished.
Michael Fassbender as Magneto does his normal ‘I’m a villain but actually not a villain’ routine that is so tired but he’s a good actor and handsome enough for me to give him a pass. And then Jennifer Lawrence is so obviously done in her role as Mystique that her scenes are a snooze. Nicholas Hoult (Beast) has a super cringe-worthy use of the F word, and Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), Alexandra Ship (Storm), and Evan Peters (Quicksilver) are just arm candy or tools for exposition. The script doesn’t allow them to be anything more.
As far as the ‘Phoenix Saga’, Sophie Turner is fine as Jean Grey (I also think Famke Janssen is fine in The Last Stand). Unfortunately the script doesn’t allow us to connect with her character, as it takes us from one action set-piece to another. It’s a strange choice because they established her powers in Apocalypse, so they had a jumping off point for her dealing with those powers from the beginning of the film. Why they decide to retcon all that I will never know. The whole point of Jean Grey’s character is she is battling between the light and darkness and here she comes across as more of an unstable crazy person, which isn’t as interesting.
The only version of Jean Grey that’s gotten it right is X-Men: the Animated Series and perhaps that’s where it belongs? On television a complex character like Jean can have many episodes to flesh out the struggle in a way a movie can’t (yes I am actually recommending television over movies!!).
There are some entertaining action set pieces in Dark Phoenix, and like I said, the acting is decent, but it leaves the viewer wanting more. It’s not a disaster. It just feels like a weird way to end the franchise and a missed opportunity. I liked it better than the other ‘bad’ X-Men movies, but I certainly can’t recommend it.
4 out of 10