Written and Directed by: Simon Kinberg
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, Jessica Chastain
Runtime: 114 min
This is the story of one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), 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.
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.
Honestly, I’m going straight to the point, and I’m going to try not to waste anyone’s time since that’s precisely what Dark Phoenix did. Clearly, no one in the production team cared about this movie. Now, after watching the film, it’s pretty easy to understand the reasons behind the constant delays, and the poor marketing campaign (I barely saw anything remotely publicizing this movie). It’s not a complete disaster, it’s not an absolute mess, but the third act is such a stab into the fans’ hearts. Literally, one of the most abrupt endings of the last few years. It really feels like a producer entered the writers’ room and said something along the lines of “let’s just hurry this up, Marvel Cinematic Universe is right around the corner, nothing of what we do here matters.”
I’m not going to lie, it’s actually true. No matter how amazing or horrible this film ended up to be, it wouldn’t really matter, which is probably the most negative aspect of this Disney-Fox merger. Days Of Future Past is arguably one of the better X-Men installments, but Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix feel such a waste of time because they never really explore what the time-travel event really changed, and now time’s up, a complete reboot is coming. The first act of this movie is genuinely remarkable. I felt invested in both the story and characters, I was deeply captivated by what they were doing, and Hans Zimmer‘s score elevates a specific sequence that on IMAX really shows off both the visual and audio’s phenomenal quality.
Until midway through, it’s a pretty well-written, well-performed, and exciting film (with occasional minor issues). However, after a risky yet convincing plot point, Simon Kinberg annihilates everything he was working on until then. From this moment on, I can feel the famous merger being signed, and everyone working on this movie just giving up. The writing becomes atrocious, one of the most forgettable and nonsensical villains ever shows up (and I thought that comic-book adaptations were working past the cliche “bad guys”), characters like Quiksilver are barely in the film (why set up his relationship with his father if they never approach that subplot again?), and the ending lasts around three minutes. Three. In this amount of time, they do the equivalent of the last hour of Avengers: Endgame. Now, try to imagine that epic hour of climactic battles crushed into a couple of minutes…
The cast truly tries. Sophie Turner carries this movie with such an emotionally powerful performance that I almost feel that she alone deserved a positive review. James McAvoy (Professor Charles Xavier) continues his streak of gripping displays (if he doesn’t get a freaking Oscar in the next years, I’ll explode), Michael Fassbender is splendid as Magneto, and Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) doesn’t do much. Nicholas Hoult (Beast) is a pleasant surprise, but Jessica Chastain (Smith) is the only one at fault here. I never felt any interest from the actress in getting into a superhero film, and honestly, it shows. She’s definitely the one that couldn’t care less about what comes out of this, so she just offers a one-dimensional performance for a pretty lousy villain.
The screenplay is filled with characters making uncharacteristic decisions (they feel unearned), and exposition scenes that don’t really do justice to the compelling backstories. Nevertheless, I always feel the need to come back to the ending. I rather have a slow start, but a strong finish than the other way around. Dark Phoenix delivers a fast-paced, entertaining, and captivating first act, but slowly starts to degrade until it culminates with one of the saga’s worst third acts. Sure, the action is great, and it’s quite well-filmed actually, but it all ends so quickly that you don’t have enough time even to try to enjoy it. If it wasn’t for Hans Zimmer‘s score, which completely nailed me to the screen, my brain would have shut itself down before the wrap-up.
It’s a shame that such a beloved franchise like the X-Men has to end like this. Simon Kinberg, knowing that the merger was going to happen, should have changed the last half, and risk a lot more, to be honest. If the movie really didn’t matter, then they should have tried to do something that was never done before, and go all-out. If it fails, it fails, but at least it would have been remembered as a courageous and powerful film. This way, not only it’s a disappointing culmination to a 20-year saga, but it’s forgettable. It’s not even horrible enough for people to remember how bad it was, it’s just … Meh. If they didn’t care, how can they ask the audience to do it for them?
All in all, Dark Phoenix ends up being what everyone feared it would be: a movie that didn’t matter, at all. One that didn’t even try to pay homage to an extraordinary saga that notably influenced the comic-book genre. The worst of all is that everyone can imagine how great it could have been since the cast is perfect (Sophie Turner shines), Hans Zimmer‘s score is sumptuous, and the action is riveting. The worst feeling that a fan can have is that disappointment with how the film turned out to be mixed with the frustration due to how well a fan can imagine how amazing it could have been. However, a flawed narrative with a terrible villain and questionable character decisions ruins those dreams. With one of the most abrupt endings of the last years, X-Men reaches its end as an isolated franchise, and it now rests its hopes on Kevin Feige and Marvel co. that the MCU will do the mutants justice.
PS: as you know, I try to avoid trailers as much as I can. After watching Dark Phoenix’s ones, I can only advise you to not watch a single one. Not even the first one. Especially that first one! I can’t understand how someone approves trailers so spoilery as these ones. Unbelievable.