Movie Review by Daniel DeRey
Dark Phoenix is written and directed by Simon Kinberg and is the final film in the 20th Century Fox X-men movie franchise. The plot revolves around Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) who, after risking her life on a mission in space, comes in contact with a strange cosmic force that amplifies her powers, but also makes her very unstable, and causes her to lose control. It’s up to the Charles Xavier and the rest of the X-men to see if they can stop Jean and help her control her powers before she causes any more harm, and before an evil alien (Jessica Chastain) can use Grey’s new powers for destruction.
This is one of the most forgettable X-men films that has ever come out. Kinberg as a first time director and long time writer/producer for the franchise seemed like he was only put in the director’s chair due to having no one else to take the spot, and only had the goal of getting this series of movies to the finish line before Disney reboots it. The whole movie never escapes the fact that it feels like the people involved were under a tight schedule, and did not want to do it. There are moments where the film feels sloppily put together, especially during the action scenes.
Some of the action sequences, however, are very enjoyable. The opening space mission where all of the X-men are involved trying to save a group of astronauts is one of the most exciting scenes in the entire film, and unfortunately delivers a false promise for the rest of the film. Unfortunately, some of the action sequences near the end seem like characters are bouncing around with a lot of frantic movements that make it hard to see what’s going on. Despite Magneto and Nightcrawler having a couple of interesting and exciting moments, most of the film’s climax had me wondering when the movie was going to end, which is not ideal for a superhero action film.
In regards to the overall plot of the story, what doesn’t work about Jean’s arc are the turns between her being scared of her powers and actively using them to cause destruction. Even though you sympathize with Jean and want to see her overcome her problems, she seems to go back and forth between an innocent person losing control and an actual evil antagonist. The motivations of the characters can change at the tip of a hat. Someone who seems even-tempered and rational can decide that they want to murder Jean, and someone adamantly wanting to kill her can change their mind even faster for no real reason. Some may complain about Charles Xavier making too many immoral mistakes, but the film does a good enough job explaining that these mistakes were made, and showing their consequences.
One of the things to be commended in the film is the score by Hans Zimmer. The score was one of the most riveting things in the fight scenes. The scenes that were supposed to be big and dramatic did feel very dramatic whenever Zimmer’s music cued up. Every action scene felt like it was more original and important because of the orchestrations, especially during the moment’s when Jean Grey is showing off her full powers as The Phoenix. The intense film score was also the only thing that made the villains even a little bit captivating to watch.
Another problem with the film is its villains. The aliens in Dark Phoenix are some of the most boring villains that have ever been in an X-men movie. These aliens, that mostly spend their time in the form of humans they’ve killed, have the most basic of abilities with invincibility and super strength. These “characters” feel so half-baked and non-important that Jessica Chastain’s character, Vuk (the lead villain), only has her name mentioned once in a subtitle. One of the biggest annoyances is that many of these aliens feel like dollar-store versions of the Skrulls from Disney’s Captain Marvel, which only came out this past year. These villains rarely feel threatening, have zero personality, and their leader, Vuk, has the most generic villain dialogue this side of Malekith the Accursed.
The acting in the film is really good, as you would expect seeing from these actors, some of whom have had three other films to get acquainted with their characters. James McAvoy is just as perfect as Professor Xavier as he was when he first showed up in X-men: First Class, and the same goes with Michael Fassbender as Magneto. Sophie Turner, however, is the one whose performance is crucial to making this movie sink or swim, and she excels, even during the moments that don’t quite make sense for her emotionally. She hits it out of the park and makes you believe what she’s going through, and even sympathize with her as she does some very horrible things. Tye Sheridan as Cyclops does a great job at showing the conflict of someone desperately trying to save a loved one even though there is the chance that they may be beyond saving. Nicholas Hoult as Beast, who has constantly delivered in this franchise, gets a lot more emotional scenes to shine with, and the scenes where he gets distraught or angry are some of the most emotionally captivating. Jennifer Lawrence in her fourth run as Mystique, clearly looks like she doesn’t want to be there, although she seemed to be trying a little bit harder than she did in X-men: Apocalypse. It was clear by her delivery and her refusal to wear the blue makeup in several scenes that she is just trying to get this franchise over and done with. Even though Jessica Chastain is trying as the villain, the script and character she has to work with give her absolutely nothing of value, and she just comes across as boring throughout the whole thing.
Overall, Dark Phoenix is not a disaster but rather a very disappointing drag, which is a shame considering that the Fox X-men films are responsible for the genesis of comic book movies that we have today. It’s sad to see a group of talented actors in a franchise with so much cinematic history going back to the year 2000, with a group of comic book characters that are so beloved, reduced to a very generic, run of the mill franchise closer that ends on a whimper rather than a bang. The actors are great as usual, the music is nice, and the opening scene is very exciting, but as a whole Dark Phoenix adds nothing new to the world of mutants and I’m going to give it a very generous C.
See ya at the next show,