4.5 / 10
James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier
Directed by Simon Kinberg
After the events of X-Men: Apocalypse, the X-Men are no longer feared and hated. They are loved and adored by the public. But as Professor X accepts accolades and serves as the face of mutantkind to the media, even he recognizes that their newfound acceptance is one incident away from being lost.
When the Space Shuttle encounters what they believe to be a solar flare in space, their craft is disabled and the astronauts find their lives in peril. The President calls upon the X-Men for a rescue mission and Professor X dutifully obliges despite the misgivings of Mystique. As the young mutants blast off into space, they quickly rescue the shuttle crew as the space anomaly approaches. But despite their best efforts, Jean Grey finds herself irradiated by the mysterious force.
As Jean returns to Earth, everything about her initially appears to be normal. But her powers quickly increase, along with her emotional instability. Soon the X-Men must face off against one of their own as Jean grows increasingly out of control and uncovers secrets about her past and future which could change mutantkind forever.
Dark Phoenix is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action including some gunplay, disturbing images, and brief strong language.
Dark Phoenix starts off strong enough. We see young Jean Grey with her parents and the terrible tragedy that separates them. We also see Professor Xavier reaching out to her and taking her to his school. It’s a touching and hopeful moment. James McAvoy does a great job embodying what makes Professor X the hero he is.
There aren’t many action scenes in Dark Phoenix, but the few that there are end up being somewhat entertaining. None of the big fight scenes have moments that compare to the previous films, but any time you see Magneto destroying things or Cyclops shooting his eye beams, it’s fun to see for an X-Men comic fan such as myself.
Dark Phoenix also does a good job of showing Professor X’s vision fulfilled. Man and mutant live side by side, working together for the greater good. It’s encouraging to see…while it lasts.
This final Fox X-Men film also has a number of Easter Eggs for comic fans. Phoenix’s origin is also a little more in line with the comics. Not much, but a little. There’s also a cameo by writer Chris Claremont. And oddly enough, in the finale, a group rounding up the mutants to lock them up wear arm patches with the acronym “MCU”. Coincidence? Who knows.
What Didn’t Work:
The overall tone is just dull and melancholy. Now the Phoenix storyline in the comics is a tragedy, but this film makes it even more depressing. As already mentioned, there’s very little action and the bulk of the film is seeing your beloved characters tearing themselves apart after having achieved the peace they had been fighting for. It’s just very dissatisfying. The whole depressing tone is further underlined by Hans Zimmer’s lackluster score. It’s a weird mix of…well, noise, and 80’s synthesizer music. I think he was trying to hit a retro tone like “Stranger Things” or “Thor: Ragnarok”, but it just didn’t work.
The story also departs from the comic in weird ways. There are aliens like in the Claremont comic, but not in the way you’d hope. They’re weird shapeshifters with unclear motivations and confusing powers. What should have been a great reveal of a bigger universe ends up being more of a completely uninteresting side story. I would have been more impressed if Simon Kinberg included the Brood, yet he did not. They would have been much more satisfying antagonists.
Dark Phoenix also goes to strange lengths to tear down Professor X. He’s our hero for all of the movies, yet in this final Fox film every character in the movie calls him out as the villain. It felt forced and very dissatisfying.
After watching this movie, Alan Cerny said to me he felt the Phoenix storyline was unadaptable. Seeing as how Fox had two attempts to get it right, I tend to agree with him. I suppose the animated series stands as the best X-Men adaptation of Dark Phoenix.
The Bottom Line:
I’m a big X-Men fan, but I was disappointed by Dark Phoenix. I suppose it underlines that Hugh Jackman is the true MVP of the X-Men movies. But this misstep by Fox definitely makes me more eager to see how Marvel and Disney take the X-Men ball and run with it in the future.