Out of all the comic stories I’ve read and seen adapted to film, I’ve always been most drawn to the X-Men sagas. I saw in them amazing, fantasy story-telling that paralleled society’s shortcomings and spoke volumes about integration, equality, morality and basic decency.
And I’ve mostly enjoyed, except for that disastrous X-Men Apocalypse, witnessing these themes played out in the almost 20-year period since the 2000 release of X-Men. Action packed and not overbearing, the films maintained the messaging of the powerful mutant tales without being burdensome. Unfortunately, I can’t make that last statement with this latest, and final 20th Century Fox installment, DARK PHOENIX.
Like 2017’s Logan, which validated director Simon Kinberg’s desire to have a more dramatic, character-driven version, “Dark Phoenix” is a darker (no pun intended) X-Men story – meant to draw emotion and bring an end to some of the mutants stories as we know them. However, where character development and melodrama worked for the former, it failed to do the same with “Dark Phoenix.”
In the film, Jean Grey (portrayed by Sophie Turner) and the X-Men team are called on a dangerous mission to save astronauts, who are stranded in space and threatened with destruction from an unidentified force in their path. It’s during this rescue that a near fatal event occurs and the team returns with Jean – but maybe not the Jean who departed. In her transition to the “Dark Phoenix,” Jean sets off a series of actions that divide the X-Men and confront them with the challenge of pursuing one of their greatest threats – a member of their own team.
What should have been a grand finale, especially with the great performances served by Jennifer Lawrence (Raven/Mystique), James McAvoy (Professor Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Magneto), Sophie Turner (Jean Grey/Phoenix) and Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy/Beast), ended up being dampened by shallow storytelling.
But the action scenes? Not as much nor as solid as the previous films in the rebooted series, but wait for the train scenes! Best action in the film, hands down.
With the success of films like Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, and the new version of Aladdin – that finds Princess Jasmine more in control and expressing her own agency, another woman-led comic or fantasy film is a welcome addition. And I loved the added debate in the “Dark Phoenix” about women’s contributions to the team and Charles’s internal struggle with his ego – which may or may not have contributed to the problems the X-Men are facing.
In sum, although I’m not mad at “Dark Phoenix” and did find several things about it entertaining, I can’t say that I was completely satisfied with the storytelling. What worked so wonderfully in Logan, which was character-driven but still maintained its grit, fell disappointingly short in “Dark Phoenix” – which wasn’t gritty enough to balance the drama and subsequently lulled when it shouldn’t.
But hey, it was way better than Apocalypse! My hopes are that if and/or when Marvel reboots the series, now that Disney owns that characters again, we’ll get the grit + solid story + entertainment – and maybe we’ll even get a properly done Storm film!
I rate DARK PHOENIX 2.5 out of 5 beats on the MMTrometer. The film opens nationwide June 7.
Until next thought, Thomasena
This is the story of one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters, Jean Grey, as she evolves into the iconic DARK PHOENIX. During a life-threatening rescue mission in space, Jean is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet. The film is the most intense and emotional X-Men movie ever made. It is the culmination of 20 years of X-Men movies, as the family of mutants that we’ve come to know and love must face their most devastating enemy yet — one of their own.
DARK PHOENIX Official Channels
OFFICIAL SITE: www.DarkPhoenix.com
|Starring||James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, and Jessica Chastain|
|Directed By||Simon Kinberg|
|Produced By||Simon Kinberg, p.g.a., Hutch Parker, p.g.a., Lauren Shuler Donner, Todd Hallowell|