“Dark Phoenix” combusts into flames, but does not rise from the ashes like the title might suggest.
Fox’s final entry in the “X-Men” franchise ends the series on a weak note.
The film sees the X-Men embark on a mission to save endangered astronauts on a space mission gone awry. Upon saving the crew, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is imbued with power via solar flare.
Grey becomes consumed with uncontrollable power, the likes of which the team has never encountered. She threatens to tear apart what remains of the team and wreaks havoc among millions.
“Dark Phoenix” stars Turner, James
McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and Jessica Chastain.
It’s helmed by longtime “X-Men” producer/writer Simon Kinberg in his directorial debut.
“Dark Phoenix” features somewhat compelling performances from Turner, McAvoy and Fassbender. However, with stilted and emotionally distant material, the film lacks heart.
One of my main criticisms is that it focuses heavily on the newest members of the team. They debuted in the previous film, “X-Men: Apocalypse.”
Since we’ve barely seen these iterations of Grey, Scott Summers and others, there’s a lack of emotional investment in the story that revolves around them.
Imagine if the original “Iron Man” film was directly followed up by “Avengers: Endgame.” The story wouldn’t be effective because you haven’t spent the necessary time with the characters to become emotionally invested. This is a big issue with the gigantic story of “Dark Phoenix,” which should have been at least a couple of films down the line.
There are rare glimmers of promise throughout. Kinberg directs the film in a more grounded and personal manner than in prior “X-Men” films. There’s more focus on the characters than action sequences, and occasionally the dramatic beats work. As a whole, the impact of the story never quite coalesces.
Another aspect that drags the film down is the waste of Chastain’s performance. I consider her to be one of today’s best actresses. However, based on her performance, you’d likely think the opposite.
Her character is incredibly one-note, poorly written and all-around dull. The material is so wooden and forced that no performer could have made anything quality out of it.
The performance and writing are so dull that anytime she was onscreen, I longed for the film to cut away.
Her character is one of the most unnecessary antagonists I’ve seen.
It’s also apparent that the third act of the film was reshot and reworked. Multiple delays in the film’s release were due to the reconstruction of the ending.
Despite some semi-
entertaining action, the ending struggled to generate a sense of excitement or finality for the franchise.
Even details such as McAvoy’s bald cap or character makeup are noticeably off due to the rushed reshoots.
Kinberg is clearly passionate about the characters within this universe. However, the material doesn’t quite stick the landing in terms of impact.
If there’s any saving grace to be found, it would be the performances of McAvoy and Fassbender, and an excellent score from Hans Zimmer. Zimmer is one of the top film composers of all time. He does what he can through music in order to compensate for the dry material.
“Dark Phoenix” marks a disappointing finale for the franchise, even though it was never intended to be the final film. I think audiences will find solace in the upcoming reboot of the “X-Men” franchise at Disney and Marvel Studios — a result of Disney’s acquisition of Fox. Although this film is a low point for the X-Men, there are better days on the horizon for fans.
As an alternative, I would suggest seeing the excellent films “Booksmart” and “Rocketman.”
I give “Dark Phoenix” 2 stars out of 5. “Dark Phoenix” is rated PG-13 and runs for 1 hour and 53 minutes.