Movie Review Monday: X-Men: Dark Phoenix
The latest superhero film hit theaters over the weekend in the form of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The end of this current iteration of the X-Men as we know them, the film follows the team having to fight against one of their own after a mission in space goes awry. This conclusion to the X-Men was written and directed by Simon Kinberg, who has been a long-time producer and writer in the X-Men franchise. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender return once again to reprise their roles as Professor X and Magneto, and Sophie Turner also headlines as Jean Grey. The film’s cast also includes Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Jessica Chastain, Evan Peters, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. The film has already claimed the lowest box office opening of any film in the X-Men franchise.
The movie begins in 1975 with a young Jean Grey in the car with her parents. They differ on which music to listen to in the car, and Jean uses her telepathic powers to change the station. Whenever it all becomes too much for her, though, she screams for quiet and the car flips in an accident. When Jean awakens, she is told her parents are dead by Professor Charles Xavier. He offers to give her a home at his school for special people, and while she is initially skeptical, she finally accepts. From there, the film picks up with the X-Men being tasked in 1992 to rescue astronauts from a failed mission in space. During the rescue mission, Jean absorbs a solar flare-like energy but manages to survive. After they return home, though, Jean begins to show a sensitivity to her surroundings and seems unable to control her powers, which puts the rest of the team in a precarious position.
So far critics have been murdering this film in their various reviews, and while X-Men: Dark Phoenix is not the best film in the franchise, I didn’t think it was the worst either. There are several things I can criticize from the forced characterization of Professor X to the mess that is the second act. I think that the dialogue is not as strong in this installment, and a lot of Sophie Turner’s lines revolve around how many different ways she can say that she doesn’t know what is happening to her. Also, the film lacks some of the emotional weight of past films in the franchise with moments like Mystique’s death not hitting hard until Hank and Magneto’s conversation later in the film.
However, there are some good moments in this movie as well. Jean’s background is tragic and tough to watch but a good catalyst for her breakdown, and Turner does well with what she is given. While I might not have been a big fan of Xavier’s storyline and some of his ambivalence, I did appreciate the depth of the relationship between he and Jean; his care for her is one of the most moving aspects of the film. Michael Fassbender also manages to somewhat steal the show as Magneto. The film continues to play with his dark past and how that collides with his want to protect other mutants. Additionally, his and Hank’s background with Raven/Mystique is key to some of the developments in the story, and their shared grief provides for some powerful moments.
Overall, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a bit of a mixed bag but does attempt to wrap up the franchise neatly before it changes hands to Disney and Marvel. Attempting the Dark Phoenix storyline again was always a bit of a gamble, and it is fair to say that there are plenty of moments that don’t pay off. However, there are some good performances present, and the complicated relationships between the various characters still make it enjoyable. At the end of the day, I am not sure I would recommend a trip to the theater for X-Men: Dark Phoenix, but true X-Men fans will probably want to see it for a proper farewell to these beloved characters.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.