Review: Dark Phoenix

In 2011, Fox rebooted their X-Men franchise with a younger cast. This story set the X-Men in 1962 and focused on the origins of Charles Xavier and Magneto. Eight years and three movies later, our beloved X-Men have time traveled, fought an ancient mutant, and killed off Wolverine. Finally, they’ve landed in 1992 where we get a retelling of the popular Dark Phoenix Saga.

Dark Phoenix opens with the X-Men being national heroes. They head off to save the space shuttle Endeavour from a solar flare. During the mission, Jean (Sophie Turner) absorbs the solar flare. She should be dead but whatever she absorbed has amplified her powers. Scared of what she might do, Jean leaves Xavier’s mansion and heads out on her own. After Jean has a phoenix tantrum an hurts her friends, she’s approached by Vuk (Jessica Chastain), an alien that hopes to capture the power Jean’s body is harnessing.

Vuk manipulates Jean into fighting her friends (very unclear why) and this leads to a big showdown between Jean and the X-Men.

Also, there’s a subplot about Professor X (James McAvoy) being thirsty for attention, hiding the truth form Jean,  and using these young kids for his own personal gain. It also reminds me of one of my favorite memes:

Like the previous films in this new phase, Dark Phoenix isn’t tied to any timeline that makes sense. The use of time and how people age is all over the place and you have to turn off your brain to try and enjoy the film. Did Jean have the phoenix in her at the end of Apocalypse? How old are these people in 1992? Who knows and who cares at this point.

There are plenty of reasons to hate Dark Phoenix but it isn’t a bad movie. It’s just dull and very uninteresting. It’s the kind of movie that would’ve been great 10 years ago before we knew what these stories could be. The film has flashes of potential, only to settle on mediocrity at every turn. It should be an interesting story about Jean and her struggles with her new powers. It starts that way and then swiftly turns into a story about Xavier ignoring child labor laws and sending teenagers into battle. It also devolves into Xavier and Magento fighting (again),  only to kiss and makeup (again) so they can tag team another villain (again).

Sophie Turner gives a good performance as Jean despite 60% of her dialogue being different versions of “I don’t what’s happening to me” or “There’s something inside of me.” I’m not sure if those were her actual lines or they recorded her eating Chipotle.  The biggest travesty of the franchise is the 101 ways they’ve wasted Michael Fassbender as Magneto. He’s incredible, even when they have him dodging metal. There’s a pointless scene where Magneto pulls a subway car up from underground. Completely unnecessary, but Fassbender makes it look cool. Ty Sheridan looks cool as Cyclops even if I spent half the movie reminding myself he wasn’t Ansel Elgort.

Evan Peters literally falls hard once and we never see him again. They really had Quicksilver in concussion protocol the whole film. And poor Alexandra Shipp. She’s doing her best but they give her nothing to do. She even uses an umbrella in the rain…STORM USES AN UMBRELLA. That’s like Superman catching a plane to go fight crime.

To be fair, the final fight sequence on the train has some interesting moments, but we’ve had train fights in almost all of these X-Men films.

There’s a lot going on with Vuk and her alien cohorts that’s never explained. Vuk does something in the third act. If she would’ve did it earlier, Dark Phoenix is a 15 min short film.  Vuk’s powers are vague at best so it’s unclear if this a fair fight or if the X-Men are in trouble. The other aliens seem fierce at first but eventually turn into glorified storm troopers.

Dark Phoenix is a waste of everyone’s talents. There’s enough to keep you engaged but the film is forgettable at best. There’s a rich history of X-Men stories to tell and The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of them. Sadly, they failed to tell a compelling Jean Grey story and end the franchise’s run at Fox on a high note. X-Men fans will have to wait and see what Marvel Studios has up their sleeves. Thankfully, it can only go up from here.

Grade: D

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