No further words are needed to say about the X-Men films. For 20 years, they helped pave the way for comic book movies, but a little historical revisionism has led people to realize that these films weren’t as great as we thought they were. Don’t get me wrong: films like X2, First Class, and Logan were great and Days Of Future Past was good in spite of its ramifications to the timeline (I consider the Deadpool movies to be their own thing), but the rest ranged from okay to insultingly awful. They never really matched the coolness and insanity of the comics and cartoons that we grew up on. Now, this franchise is coming to a close thanks to the Fox acquisition from Disney, but before that, they released the subject of today’s review, which is considered to be the worst X-Men movie to date. Does it deserve that title? Well, let’s find out. This is Dark Phoenix.
In 1992, the X-Men are sent on a mission to rescue astronauts in outer space. During the mission, Jean Grey gets hit by a solar flare that’s actually a massive power entity that causes Jean to lose control of herself. Now, the X-Men must save her from succumbing to this power while a strange alien group seek to use said power. This is the second time that Fox has adapted the Dark Phoenix Saga. They did this in X-Men: The Last Stand, where they fucked it up royally along with the other issues with that film. Well, Fox decided to try this storyline again and while it’s a bit closer to the source material, they still fucked it up. What these filmmakers don’t realize about the Dark Phoenix Saga is that it’s part of a larger storyline and was preceded by the Phoenix Saga. The original storyline in the comics was a large, epic drama that dealt with the X-Men having to face off against an old friend who has been corrupted by an outside power. This is something that has to be built up to like Infinity War and Endgame and Fox hasn’t really done that.
I will say this about Dark Phoenix: most of these actors are pretty good. But the material that they were given doesn’t give them much to work with since the writing is complete garbage, not helped by flat delivery from nearly everyone. Sophie Turner deserves a lot better. She was great in Game Of Thrones and she’s doing her best as Jean Grey, but like I said, the material isn’t there and she spends most of the movie whining and losing control. They don’t even do a good job explaining the Phoenix Force. In The Last Stand, it was another side of Jean, a darker aspect of her persona. Here, it’s an alien force that apparently destroys everything it touches, which makes the following scene from Apocalypse pointless.
James McAvoy as Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto were the best characters in the film, mainly because we spent the last 3 movies getting to know them. Xavier still runs the X-Mansion and the X-Men are now world-renowned heroes. Feels like we’re missing something between this film and Apocalypse. Also, he’s part of the reason why shit hits the fan as he previously blocked out Jean’s memories that involved the death of her parents (well, one of them actually). It’s fucked up, but he’s done worse shit in the comics. Magneto goes through the same arc as the one in X-Men: Apocalypse: he’s living in peace and then something drags him back into action. Beast was wasted as a character and him joining up with Magneto after a certain scene made no sense. The younger X-Men don’t really do much outside of the space mission at the beginning. Cyclops is a whiny little puppy who’s attached to Jean, Nightcrawler and Storm have no character at all, and Quicksilver doesn’t have a cool scene. The villains of this movie are these shapeshifting aliens, who are not the Shi’ar and I consider them to be Great Value Skrulls, whose leader is played by Jessica Chastain and is manipulating Jean into giving in to the Phoenix Force. She was inconsequential and these aliens only exist because the writers needed a threat and they couldn’t fully commit to the original storyline.
But the worst character in this movie is easily Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. You thought she was bad in X-Men: Apocalypse? She’s even worse here. She was performing like she knew this was the last film in her contract, so she just phoned it in, collected her check, and then bounced. When she died, I felt nothing. The fact that the trailers gave it away neutered what should have been a shocking scene that rose the stakes. And then there’s that one scene that Fox released a few days before the film came out.
So many problems here. For one, Xavier has a good point since he’s doing everything he can to make sure that mutants aren’t hated. All of the big world-threatening incidents, a mutant was the cause of. One more incident and they’ll be seen as the enemy (which is exactly what happens in this movie). Good PR makes a difference. Also, how dare you, Mystique, for suggesting that Xavier never risked anything when he took a bullet to the spine and is left in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. And let’s look at the worst part of that scene, the “X-Women.” Bro, that shit is so cringe. I’m a progressive who supports feminism, but this is not the way to do it. All this does is give more ammunition to the anti-SJW crowds who have intense hate-boners for Brie Larson and Captain Marvel. What have the women in the X-Men done to overshadow the actions of the men? I’m talking about the movies here. Most of the badass X-Men women from the comics and cartoons (Storm, Rogue, Psylocke, etc) have been severely downplayed in the movies for the males, so there’s nothing in these movies that justified that X-Women line nor does it come back up later on in the movie. It’s just bad writing trying to score brownie points from the “YAAS QUEEN” crowd. Okay, I’ve gone on for too long on this point. Let’s move on.
Honestly, there’s not much else to spoil from this movie. It’s mostly uneventful and goes in a direction that you’d expect. In terms of action, there’s nothing that mind-blowing about it and the same goes for the special effects. It’s standard superhero fluff we’ve already seen. The rescue mission at the beginning was alright and the final climax takes place on a train. Apparently, this movie had a different climax that took place in outer space, but it was changed in the last minute of reshoots because the filmmakers thought it would be too similar to the climax of Captain Marvel. Speaking of Captain Marvel, they originally planned to have Skrulls in this movie, which explains those shapeshifting aliens. I think it’s safe to say that the Skrulls were better utilized in a better movie. Jean Grey “dies” and the movie ends on Xavier and Magneto playing chess in Paris along with a flaming phoenix in the sky. The moment the credits started playing, I got up from my seat ready to leave.
I give Dark Phoenix a 3/10. It’s not the worst X-Men movie by a mile, especially when X-Men Origins: Wolverine exists. But that doesn’t change the fact that this movie is dull, generic, mostly forgettable, badly-written, filled with wooden acting and so-so-at-best action, and straight up boring. I was seconds away from falling asleep while watching this film, that’s how bored I was. While it’s much more faithful to the source material it’s based on, I’d rather watch X-Men: The Last Stand instead of this because that movie was at least entertaining and had cool moments. Dark Phoenix, on the other hand, is a movie that I’m guaranteed to forget about by the time this review is posted. This is supposed to be the conclusion of the entire X-Men series and instead of going out with a bang like Avengers: Endgame, they went out on a whimper like the final season of Game Of Thrones. Thank goodness Marvel is getting the rights back. Hopefully, at some point in the future, they can do the X-Men right. You know what? If the Disney+ streaming service ends up being a huge success, they should do an X-Men series on there instead. New Mutants is coming out next year, but do you really care at this point? It’s been pushed back so many times that the hype surrounding it is damn near at zero. I hope the post-Fox future is bright for these merry mutants.