Dan's Review: "Dark Phoenix" a disappointing end to the X-Men Series
Jun 08, 2019 12:11AM
By Dan Metcalf
Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix - © 2019 20th Century Fox.
Dark Phoenix (20th Century Fox)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action including some gunplay, disturbing images, and brief strong language.
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Summer Fontana, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, Jessica Chastain, Kota Eberhardt, Andrew Stehlin, Daniel Cudmore, Lamar Johnson.
Written by Simon Kinberg, based on X-Men comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Directed by Simon Kinberg.
Parting is such sweet sorrow…or maybe not. I pronounced myself “done” with the X-Men franchise after 2016’s disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse, since it felt more and more like an exercise in keeping the series alive than it did with telling compelling stories. Sometimes, it’s time to go and now that 20th Century Fox as sold its X-Men rights (and everything else) over to Disney (hasn’t everybody?) Dark Phoenix represents the swan song for the character arc that began with the Bryan Singer/Brett Ratner series of the early 2000s (there is considerable debate as to where Disney will take the franchise).
It's the backstory of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), whose mutant powers inadvertently killed her parents in a car crash when she was a little girl (Grey is played by Summer Fontana as a child). Jean is taken in by Dr. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy and raised in his school for mutants. With special mutant powers, Jean becomes part of the main X-Men team that includes her boyfriend Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops, Kurt Wagner, a.k.a. Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Ororo Munroe, a.k.a. Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Peter Maximoff, a.k.a. Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Hank McCoy, a.k.a. Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Raven Darkhölme, a.k.a. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). When the team is dispatched to rescue a space shuttle crew from seems to be some kind of solar flare, Jean is infused by some sort of alien entity that magnifies her mutant powers – to point that she cannot control them. Meanwhile, a group of alien shapeshifters lands on Earth, assuming the identities of humans they kill. The leader is Vuk (Jessica Chastain), who seeks Jean Grey in order to exploit her newfound powers to wipe out all human life and take the Earth as the new alien home. When Jean’s powers begin to hurt the X-Men, she leaves to find answers about what really happened to her parents, along with how she came to live with Charles Xavier. The truth is unpleasant, leading Jean to lash out against her mutant friends, leading to tragic outcomes. Vuk eventually convinces Jean to join her and travel to New York, where the alien leader hopes to lure the X-Men into a final battle. As Xavier searches for Jean, he enlists the help of Eric Lensherr, a.k.a. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to help bring his former protégé back to the mutant fold. The aliens, Jean, the X-Men and humans all gather in New York, where a great showdown looms and the fate of the world swings in the balance.
Despite my disappointment with X-Men: Apocalypse, I had higher hopes for Dark Phoenix, especially with the casting of Sophie Turner in the title role (sadly, she gets 5th billing behind McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult, and Lawrence). Turner’s inclusion notwithstanding, Dark Phoenix is ultimately disappointing, offering up a dud third act and an unfitting end to the series. It seems the Fox folks had ideas to take Jean Grey into another realm of the mutant multi-verse made possible by the timeline shifts conveniently provided by 2014’s Days of Future Past, but Dark Phoenix feels like an unworthy destination for this branch of the X-Men saga.
In between, Dark Phoenix is occasionally enjoyable, with lots of cool action and dazzling special effects. Turner’s performance is noteworthy, proving she can carry a film in a leading role, even if the movie lacks foresight and sufficient continuity.
I have another bone to pick with the X-Men creators with respect to continuity. Dark Phoenix is set in the early 1990s, approximately seven years before the nadir of the series that starred Patrick Stewart as Xavier, Ian McKellen as Magneto, and Famke Janssen as Jean Grey. The age difference between Stewart and McAvoy, McKellen and Fassbender, and Janssen and Turner is decades wide, leading me to believe that the producers took a short-sighted and lazy approach to the storyline that is difficult to reconcile. I realize that the “multiverse” and molestation of the X-Men timelines created by time travel and space/time continuum alterations give a little leeway for creative license, but aging main characters 20 years in a seven-year span is a bit of a stretch, even if you’re willing to chalk up such discrepancies to the endless possibilities of comic book creativity. Go ahead and call me nitpicky, but if you’re going to cross-cast actors since the X-Men: First Class ushered in the mutant prequel, at least follow through to a more coherent conclusion.
"Dark Phoenix" Trailer