Dark Phoenix is the 12th film from Fox X-Men/Mutant universe and its final film. This is now the second time the Dark Phoenix storyline has been adapted from the comics, the first time being in X-Men: The Last Stand and now in Dark Phoenix. Some unknown entity has been absorbed by the powerful mutant/X-Men, Jean Grey. Already being unstable with her powers, Jean Grey loses all control and is overtaken by the force that is in her as she becomes the Dark Phoenix. It’s up to Professor X and his team of mutants to save her and help Jean control this new found power. Dark Phoenix has been torn to pieces by critics, receiving a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes and has gone under massive reshoots that restructured most, if not all, of the third act. This has not been an easy journey to the cinemas for Dark Phoenix and all involved. I can say that this movie is nowhere near as bad as some critics are making it out to be, but this is not a good movie if you can even call it a movie. Dark Phoenix feels more like a strung together compilation of scenes, packaged together and called a movie. While there is some merit in a few of those scenes, this is an overall bland movie with no style of its own and a depressing atmosphere for the whole film.
I’ve come to really love this new cast playing younger versions of previous X-Men we’ve come to know in the original trilogy. And in this movie, they all do their best. Sophie Turner can convince the audience of this power, taking control of her and not have it seem ridiculous or cartoonish. She plays both sides of her personality with confidence and authority, and I think she grounded the film and held it together. Michael Fassbender is magnificent as Magneto. When watching this movie, I feel all the pain this character has endured over the past few films. Fassbender embodies this character, even when the film sets up a somewhat forced way to bring back Magneto for this film. Tye Sheridan is an actor who has interested me since I first saw him in Mud with McConaughey. Cyclops is a character I feel Fox has never really known how to use correctly. In this movie, he probably gets the most to do out of all the X-Men movies, but he also has the worst line in the entire film that it is so bad it’s laughable. Jennifer Lawrence actually had a pulse this time around. In Apocalypse, she just phoned in her performance, and it looked like she didn’t want to be there, easily the worst part of that movie. But here, you can tell she put some effort in, maybe it was because she knew this would be the last time.
Dark Phoenix takes liberties with two characters that I felt were out of place from what we have seen from these two in the previous movies. Professor X and Beast. Professor X becomes a fame seeking, ignorant character who loses a little bit of love for teaching students. The X-Men are finally accepted by the world at the beginning of the movie, and it all goes straight to Charles’ head. Beast goes through a rollercoaster of morals and decisions he makes, and most of it doesn’t fit with his character at all. I was really disappointed with the presentation of these two characters.
The story structure and how this film is constructed is by far the biggest failure of Dark Phoenix. There is no flow to Dark Phoenix, it feels like scenes were shot and then just strung together with no thought on how to make this a coherent and exciting film. I think the person responsible for the failure of this movie is its first time director and longtime writer/producer, Simon Kinberg. You can tell in every scene that this is a first time director. The X-Men films have always been stylized and had a flavor of its own to it. Dark Phoenix has no style and is just a bland film. There is no levity throughout any of this movie. It feels depressing and dreary. This is not a fun movie to watch.
The last act was reshot entirely, due to the original ending resembling a recent comic book movie. My guess is Captain Marvel since these two movies have a lot in common story wise. Instead of a space battle, we get a fight on a train. This sequence was the best part of this movie. The action feels kinetic and has a lot of energy compared to the rest of the film. This third act saves this film from being a train wreck. The X-Men each get a moment to shine and show off their ability. I actually think this is one of the better X-Men fight scenes in all of the movies.
Dark Phoenix is an unfortunate stumble to the finish line for the Fox X-Men universe. I hate seeing it end on such a low point like this. This franchise deserved better. Dark Phoenix is not the worst movie I’ve seen, there are a few things to like about it, but Dark Phoenix is still a bit of a hot mess in its storytelling. I guess this is the end for these characters until a few years from now when the mouse will reboot them into the MCU. It’s the end of an era, and I’m sad to see it go.