Film Review: X-Men – Dark Phoenix

After nearly 20 years, we’ve reached the end of the X-Men franchise under Fox. Although Dark Phoenix wasn’t intended to be the end, the Disney acquisition changed this and thus it was billed as an epic finale to the long-running series. Simon Kinberg was entrusted with this film, which was interesting itself considering his poor track record when it comes to these kinds of films, but was he able to deliver this time around?

No, not really.

Set in 1992, in a world where apparently nobody ages, an accident causes Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) to inherit an enormous amount of power. Growing stronger, more unstable and dangerous, it’s up to the X-Men to save/stop her. Sounds interesting, right? Well, the term “missed an opportunity” is going to be thrown around a lot by myself, as this is how I felt watching this film. The potential was massive, and it was almost all wasted, what follows is a rather dull, messy affair.

Anyone who has watched this franchise will be well aware that the timelines are a mess, but here it becomes almost laughable. In the universe, we are just 8 years away from when Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) are supposed to look like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, yet they haven’t aged a day since First Class which was set 30 years before the events of this film. Why do I bring this up? Because, quite simply, it’s laziness, and that seemed to be a recurring theme in Dark Phoenix. Kinberg ignores a lot of what has come before, instead, he is focusing on a plot that is devoid of much logic and feels very familiar and generic that lets down a lot of it’s characters, which was sad to see. Kinberg wants us an audience to care about relationships that we’ve never seen before and characters that we’ve barely spent any time with, and Dark Phoenix does nothing that would make people care any more than they did in X-Men: Apocalypse.

Alongside this, is the other glaring problem with Dark Phoenix, and that is that it is rather dull and forgettable in terms of story, in all honesty, not a lot happens until the third act. It plods along like an average drama, with a lot of filler and exposition and not enough action to maintain audience interest, which is a shame, because when Dark Phoenix does deliver the big set pieces and the action the audience expects, it’s actually quite entertaining. The problem is, it’s extremely rare that this happens and I often found myself sitting through long portions of the film not caring, just waiting for the next set piece to come along and engage me again. I don’t mind a bit of character development or slow portions in films, sometimes they’re necessary, but it is executed so poorly here, I didn’t care at all, the villains are also horrifically one-dimensional and boring, Jessica Chastain is completely wasted in her role. With the film focusing on Jean Grey and emphasizing the sheer amount of power she has, we as an audience barely get to see this power, it’s limited to a couple of scenes and it leaves a lot to be desired, I felt massively short-changed.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom, as much as I have criticized Dark Phoenix, it does have some redeeming qualities. The cast, for the most part, do the best with what they were given, which wasn’t a lot. Sophie Turner does an excellent job portraying Jean Grey and her struggles, I wasn’t sure if she would impress in a leading role, but she proved me wrong. McAvoy and Fassbender were good, and the rest of the X-Men did fine when called upon, which wasn’t often, sadly. Visually, the film looks pretty nice and is well shot, if the film was written as well as it looked, this might have been a far more positive review. The action sequences, when they occur, are entertaining, and Hans Zimmer’s score is absolutely fantastic and probably Dark Phoenix‘s biggest strength, I probably won’t ever watch the film again, but I’ll happily listen to the score over and over!

I never really at any point completely hated this film, I was just extremely frustrated at the massive wasted potential and I questioned a lot of choices that the film made. There are a few glimpses of really good stuff, but that only adds to the frustration as you’ll likely question why the whole film couldn’t deliver this. You can certainly tell that this was never intended to be an ending to the franchise, because it doesn’t once feel like a finale. It’s hard to care about the characters, the writing is poor and the plot is devoid of much substance, Kinberg has had a second attempt to tell the same story and it seems that he somehow did a better job the first time around, overall, which is pretty shocking.

Dark Phoenix is completely forgettable, and it’s a shame that the Fox era is fizzling out on such a dull note. I think it’s safe to say that not many people will be mourning its demise, and most will be itching to see the X-Men finally join the MCU. I know I am!

I give X-Men: Dark Phoenix a 4.5/10. 

 

 

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