Dark Phoenix movie review: Sophie Turner starrer collapses under its own weight, ends X-Men series on underwhelming note
Dark Phoenix wants you to believe that it is complex and challenging, but it is all fluff and does injustice to the ideas it represents.
castJames Mcavoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Jessica Chastain
The X-Men films are the very definition of diminishing returns. When The Last Stand, the third installment to the original series, ran the franchise to the ground, First Class worked as a fairly entertaining reboot and Days of the Future Past turned out to be a surprisingly good sequel. We’re back to the same stage now as Apocalypse doubled up on mediocrity and the new film, Dark Phoenix, pretty much collapses under its own weight, ending a series on a severely underwhelming note.
After years of writing X-Men films, Simon Kinberg directs Dark Phoenix, a move which should ideally work given the singular vision we expect from a writer-director, but nothing really matters in this messy story. The focus here is on Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) who was given a very small intro in the previous film, which itself is an odd decision to begin with considering her arc was already covered by The Last Stand, which Kinberg also wrote.
The narrative remains the same – Grey is supposed to be part of the heroes but discovers a darkness bubbling inside her, and must choose between the right and the wrong. Now this theme is essentially the backbone of every superhero movie, so the execution is where Dark Phoenix could have made some difference – but everything that happens in the film is generic and predictable, peppered with big moments with little consequences. Anyone watching this film would most definitely have seen the previous Jean Grey story, so to expect audiences to be wowed by dramatic beats whose resolution they can see coming from a mile away is just silly. This could have been fixed with a little focus on the characters’ experiencing the rust of the X-Men foundation, but beyond a cardboard cutout arc of Mystique’s boredom with Professor X, who in turn is grappling with being corrupted with power, there is little character development.
This is especially bizarre considering how good Logan turned out to be just a year ago. Dark Phoenix forgets over and over again that good characters are the special effects in a film, and no amount of CGI could compensate for them. It is in fact quite surprising how this film wastes the crazy star cast of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence and other recognisable names by putting them in a plot that resembles a marketable way to sell the #MeToo movement than actually making the effort to add to it. Dramatic beats that are supposed to be powerful and urgent ring hollow. Big action set pieces ensue but they are worthless because they mainly deal with Magneto yet again being dragged into a conflict that he doesn’t want to be part of and switches sides when he feels like it.
The film wants you to believe that it is complex and challenging, but it is all fluff and does injustice to the ideas it represents. The X-Men have always been about what it means to be different in a society that vilifies you for going against the grain, it is therefore painful to see a film about these characters that resembles every other cookie cutter summer blockbuster out in theaters. With the Disney-Fox merger, we should expect another reboot soon, and hopefully we get more Logans instead of this numbing disaster.
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