And there it goes, the X-Men franchise, out with a whimper. Dark Phoenix, the final film in the FOX reign for our mutant heroes, is a dull, lifeless affair filled with a bunch of decent actors slumming it for one final paycheck. Perhaps one day we’ll get a retelling of one of the best comic book stories of all time, but with two bites at that apple it’s doubtful it will be any time soon. It’s a shame, because in the right hands, this could’ve been a lot more interesting, but really I’ve never fully bought into the FOX group of movies. For every perfectly understood character like Wolverine, there’s an abortion of character like Kitty Pryde (not your fault, Ellen Page). But I digress.
Dark Phoenix is the fourth film since the movies were kind of sort of relaunched with X-Men First Class. For some strange reason the powers that be decided to tie the movies directly to the original trilogy, which resulted in enormous plot holes and weird connections. Because Jennifer Lawrence is a likable (and bankable) personality, they turned Mystique into a hero. Now, she’s leading the X-Men in a space mission to rescue a group astronauts. It’s here where Jean Grey faces off against a solar flare that is really a powerful, evil force looking for a host (never mind the fact she already showed signs of having the phoenix force in the last movie. The force continues to make Jean do bad things, and when she accidentally kills Mystique, a plot point that was unforgivably spoiled in the trailers, she turns to Magneto (Michael Fassbender) for help. Oh yeah, and there’s an alien race that takes the form of high-heeled wearing Jessica Chastain, that wants to harness the power for themselves. And then a bunch of fighting.
The whole thing is just an unengaging mess that wastes so much potential. Nothing has any resonance, nothing makes much sense. Professor X (James McAvoy) is now a complete dickhole for, I guess, reasons. Magneto looks pretty spry for being in his sixties. Evan Peters pops in for a scene as Quicksilver because it’s probably all they could contract him for. Writer-director Simon Kinberg, who can also take partial credit for ruining Fantastic Four, is uninspiring on both counts. Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, the titular hero/villain was stilted and awkward in her previous outing, but actually does a better job here despite being saddled with terrible material. It doesn’t help that she has zero chemistry/connection to her Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). The reason the MCU has become such a force, and the reason that DC and FOX (excepting Deadpool) are lagging, is because the MCU is made by people that love and respect the source material, rather than creators that are just trying to check certain boxes and leverage a built-in audience with their own interpretations of characters and themes.
I went into Dark Phoenix with no expectations. I expected a middling effort but got so much worse. But hey, it’s not as bad as X-Men: Apocalypse at least.
My Grade – D