SYNOPSIS: 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.
What We Thought:
Watching the latest X-Men movie Dark Phoenix really made me sad. The first X-Men movie came out in 2000 and garnered in modern comic book movies especially for Marvel based characters. That movie helped set the tone, along with Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, for what comic fans would come to expect from our favorite heroes. Without these movies would the MCU exist? Maybe, maybe not. Now that the X-Men will be joining the MCU thanks to Disney’s purchase power, Dark Phoenix was one last hurrah for Professor X, Magneto, Beast, and others in the X-Men standalone world. That hurrah wasn’t much unfortunately.
This new film isn’t as bad as X-Men: Apocalypse but it’s nothing I’d watch again. No one besides Michael Fassbender seems to be trying and most just seem to be there for the check. The Dark Phoenix storyline in the comics or even the 1990’s amazing animated series is a beloved story. This takes the basis of that and bores you to death with it. If you aren’t familiar with The Dark Phoenix Saga or the cartoon, the idea is Jean Grey has something bad happen to her and she rises from the ashes like a Phoenix. It’s an extremely well known story that had been seen before in X-Men: The Last Stand but X-Men: Days of Future Past erased that storyline out of existence in the movie world.
That’s one of my biggest issues with the latest X-Men movies, a total lack of story/character continuity. When they recast the X-Men and went younger with X-Men: First Class that story took place in the 1960’s. The follow up films went about a decade further each with Dark Phoenix taking place in 1992. Well besides Jean Grey, not one other character shows any sign of aging. The same actors play the same characters they did in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and now the 1990’s without a hint of aging. Sure some of them can shape shift or take any form they want, but Professor X, Magneto, Beast, all of them should be much older if we first start seeing them DECADES ago previously. There is no story continuity with the original earlier X-Men films and you can say Days of Future Past did retcon that, but it’s still sloppy to me. One major character you see from the early 2000 films into this series dies (with no crowd reaction) in this film which makes no sense if they have been in all 7 films. It’s like the writer of each movie just ignored previous plots and characters from the movie before it. I understand these are prequels and prequel writing can be tough to connect to films, but put some thought into it.
My biggest issue with this film (besides the first hour or so going nowhere) is the acting. No one wants to be there besides Fassbender. He’s a tremendous actor and is at least trying to act in this one. James McAvoy isn’t bad, but seems to drop down to the level of others around him. For a movie about Jean Grey going through some issues, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of emotions in the character besides getting angry and CGI showing her destruction. As much as I love Jessica Chastain, she is not necessary in her role. Like Oscar Isaac in Apocalypse and Cate Blanchett in Thor Ragnarok, the characters they play don’t require the caliber of talent cast in that role. Chastain’s character is pretty void of emotion and it also requires a lot of CGI/stunts. Her stunt double was necessary, but an award worthy actress like her wasn’t.
I will say the train sequence in the third act is pretty damn cool. The X-Men get to fight the bad guys and there is some top-notch action. Beast gets to go full beast mode (pun intended). We get to see some great sequences with Nightcrawler, Storm, and others in and on the train. It’s a 100% improvement over the final CGI-mess in Apocalypse. It reminded me a bit of the final action sequence in First Class.
Now that Disney owns everything I’m curious to see how the X-Men get pushed into the MCU. I hope they recast everyone, avoid origin stories and just merge everything. The New Mutants is still expected to come out at some point, but that movie is allegedly a mess so who knows. If Dark Phoenix is the last X-Men movie pre-Disney then the franchise is going out with a whimper instead of the bang it started with.