Dark Phoenix never rises from the ashes of a weak script that feels as hollow as the last season of Game of Thrones.
Score: 2.5 / 5
Dark Phoenix marks the end of the X-Men film franchise as we know it. The next time we see the X-Men, it will be a brand-new cast and part of the larger Disney ran Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the past 19 years we have followed the X-Men through so many journeys, some good, some bad, a couple amazing, and a few terrible. Dark Phoenix unfortunately isn’t one of the good, definitely not amazing, but more somewhere in-between bad and terrible.
Dark Phoenix’s plot revolves around the mutant Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) gaining some sort of cosmic powers that make her highly unstable leading to outbursts that cause pain for all those around. Throughout the story the mistakes of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) haunt them as Grey’s powers reveal some questionable decisions about Grey’s past. Along the way there is also an alien race that is sort of like Captain Marvel’s the Skrulls but more powerful? They want to turn Grey to their side or take the cosmic powers for themselves. So, there is the set up and what follows is… not that exciting.
The idea of an X-Men turning evil sounds great, but that’s not what this movie is, and characters are not given room to transition from one reason to act to the next. It’s funny because this feels like it has one of the same problems that Sophie Turner’s other big franchise had. In Game of Thrones it felt like things were getting rushed to reach some conclusion. That’s the Dark Phoenix except there isn’t anything fun they are rushing to until the last 15 minutes of the movie.
The majority of the movie is slow, with puzzling decisions that maybe would have felt right if there were plenty of scenes before and after to let the characters breathe and reach the logical conclusion that the plot needs them to have. There’s only one character who feels like they still have depth and that is Magneto (Michael Fassbender). If there was one good thing that came out of the new run of X-Men movies, it’s Fassbender’s performances. Capturing a tortured man who can never get away from pain and feeling forced to bloodshed to try and take the pain away. That said, if you haven’t seen the other movies you will likely see the depth but not the understanding of his pain. That’s better than the rest of the cast though as the journey to the end of this movie just feels hollow. Nothing feels earned.
The only positive moment of this movie is the climax. The action and display of powers is awesome and fun to watch. Why wasn’t the whole movie like this? The answer is they wanted to tell a personal story about Jean Grey kind of like Logan did for Wolverine. Problem is they decided to make an X-Men movie and not a Jean Grey movie, so it only felt interesting when we had a real X-Men moment at the finale. This could have been a very interesting tale of someone going through a very painful confusing evolution, but it rarely keeps its focus on the character that the story is supposed to be about.
One other thing I can say positively is that the special effects are on point. When mutant powers are on display, they do look good, and again that finale is pretty fun to watch. The cast all do what they can, but Fassbender is really the only one who knows how to take mediocre writing and make it seem like deep thought-provoking character growth.
The X-Men deserved a better send off than what we received. Dark Phoenix is a mess that is difficult even for me to find a lot of positives to say about it. I would recommend skipping this movie, go back and watch Days of Future Past, Logan, and the Deadpools and let your memories of the 20th Century Fox X-Men have something fond to look back on.