‘Dark Phoenix’ Movie Review: Say goodbye to the X-Men as we know it


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*Minor Spoilers Ahead*

Fox’s “X-Men” saga comes to an end with “Dark Phoenix”. Based on the quintessential comic book run The Dark Phoenix saga, it marks the directorial debut of long-time X-Men franchise Simon Kinberg. The narrative will put the spotlight on Sophie Turner's Jean Grey as she fully transformed into the “Dark Phoenix” teased at the end of “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

‘Dark Phoenix’ Movie Review: Say goodbye to the X-Men
‘Dark Phoenix’ poster/Fox

Aside from Turner, “Dark Phoenix” also sees the return of James McAvoy as Professor X, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult's Beast. Newer cast members like Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, Evan Peters as Quicksilver, Alexandra Shipp as Storm and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, meanwhile, are involved as well.

This will be the final instalment of the “X-Men” franchise that was a major factor in the comic book movie renaissance in the 2000s as the film series is expected to be rebooted under Marvel Studios following Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s TV and movie assets early this year.

‘Dark Phoenix’ Movie Review: Say goodbye to the X-Men
‘Dark Phoenix’ cast/Fox

A not so great start...

“Dark Phoenix” offered Fox a second chance to get the “Dark Phoenix” storyline right after the critically-panned “X-Men: The Last Stand” from 2006 - a film which Kinberg co-wrote. Sadly, the latest fell flat regarding capturing the scale of its source material. To the uninitiated, the project had a tumultuous production with multiple release delays. The whole third act was reshot and got caught in the industry-shaking Disney/Fox sale. Wrapping up a 20-year franchise is hard enough, having to do that in this circumstance is much worse.

All that said, while there’s an amalgamation of factors leading to “Dark Phoenix’s” lackluster final cut, its major problem primarily stems from the lack of build up. The odds were already stacked against the project even before production began. There’s only so much Kinberg can do in two hours to execute the narrative effectively. While Turner does a great job selling the psychological conflict that Jean goes through, it’s difficult to get invested in her story considering this iteration of the character has just debuted not long ago.

So much wasted potential...

This doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have done a better job. In fact, “Dark Phoenix’s” first 20-25 minutes did a great job setting what ideally would’ve been a character-driven narrative. But as it added layers and layers of story, it began to be too complicated to make sense. The movie aimed to be bold as it should be considering its source material, but instead, it ended up pulling punches and just go with the most uninteresting route.

Speaking of performances, it’s important to note that none of “Dark Phoenix’s” flaws can be traced to the ensemble cast. McAvoy and Fassbender, as always, brought their A-games - it’s difficult to see their level of acting skills get swallowed up by the film’s other issues. Lawrence, who had been accused of cashing in on these films actually flexed some of her Oscar-winning acting muscles on her final outing as Mystique. The younger cast showed so much potential in their respective roles. It’s such a shame that it will no longer be realized considering the upcoming reboot. Shipp and McPhee were scene stealers, Sheridan did his version of Scott Summers justice, and Peters was charming as ever playing Quicksilver - although it’s odd how he basically went MIA for most part of the film.

Chastain’s villainous character had no business being in this film- her motivations were so badly established and her acting prowess wasted. “Dark Phoenix” would’ve played out the way it did without her in the mix. Kinberg would have achieved the narrative throughline he wanted in other ways.

‘Dark Phoenix’ Movie Review: Say goodbye to the X-Men
Sophie Turner as Jean Grey and James McAvoy as Professor X in ‘Dark Phoenix’/Fox

Admittedly, “Dark Phoenix” is a decent directorial debut for Kinberg. There were some gorgeous shots peppered throughout the movie that looked like they were directly pulled from a comic book panel and the pacing, for the most part, was okay. Han Zimmer’s music worked well with the movie. But decent doesn’t cut it for a movie that closes out one of the most beloved superhero franchises. The only consolation here is that at least the “X-Men” saga didn’t end with “Apocalypse” which was an infinitely worse movie.

RATING: 6.5 out of 10

Watch full trailer here:


— ALD, The Summit Express


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