‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ Review: A Disappointing End to a Franchise Ripe for Revival at Marvel

Here’s our review of ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’, which closes out the films with this cast and crew as Marvel prepares to take over the franchise going forward….

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

If at first you don’t succeed, the ‘X-Men’ film universe will try and fail again.

That’s the easiest way to describe the latest — and final — movie from this franchise as ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ lands in theaters on Friday. This will be the last film with this particular cast as Marvel now takes over the X-Men universe as part of the massive FOX sale to Disney that officially closed earlier this year.

‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ takes another stab at telling the famous ‘Dark Phoenix’ story from the comic books, which remains one of the most popular and critically acclaimed arcs in X-Men history. The previous attempt at telling this story — 2006’s ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ — was a half-hearted version of ‘Dark Phoenix’ combined with a mutant cure plot that essentially ended that series of films before the franchise was rebooted with 2011’s ‘X-Men: First Class’.

Now the new version of ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ is better than ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ but the bar was set awfully low to exceed those expectations.

While there have been incredible films coming from the ‘X-Men’ universe — ‘X2’, ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan’ are shining examples and arguably three of the best superhero films ever made — the movies mixed into the middle of those are largely forgettable.

The original ‘X-Men’ movie from 2000 wasn’t bad but it was also a cookie cutter introduction story that really served as a Wolverine origin story more than anything else. ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ was probably the strongest movie from the latest iteration of the characters that also combined forces with the past cast in a time traveling tale that really worked.

Outside of that, the majority of the other films just haven’t resonated with audiences or critics and there’s a reason so many people are enthusiastic to see what Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige has in store for these characters now that they’ve been returned to Disney.

Hopes should be even higher considering Feige cut his teeth in the X-Men universe and he’s said numerous times that this is a part of the Marvel Universe that is very near and dear to his heart.

Where Feige succeeded in building a massive and complex world at Marvel that lasted for over 20 films all culminating in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’, these X-Men movies have largely felt like cobbled together pieces of the same puzzle that never quite fit together. There was no overarching story, although the actors and actresses made numerous appearances in the various movies.

The same can be said for ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’, which feels like a movie that picks up in the middle of a story when it starts and then rushes to the finish line without making any real emotional connection to the plot much less the characters. It’s standard popcorn fare with the same tired plot tropes that dominated so many of these mutan movies.

When ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ is over, you won’t be angry that you spent money on a ticket — but you’ll also likely leave the theater telling yourself that it wasn’t necessarily worth your time either.

With that said, let’s get to our full review of ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ in theaters nationwide on Friday…

PLOT

The movie opens with a familiar scene from ‘X-Men’ history with Charles Xavier introducing himself to Jean Grey for the first time when she’s still just a child. Fast forward to 1992 and the X-Men are viewed as saviors and heroes, who are called upon for a rescue mission after a NASA shuttle suffers a disaster in space courtesy of a strange solar anamoly.

The team mounts up and heads off to save the day — much to the chagrin of Raven/Mystique, who believes Charles Xavier’s loyalties to mankind are somewhat misplaced.

Once the arrive at the shuttle, the crew is rescued but the commander is left behind after he attempted to fix the malfunction that caused the disaster in the first place. Jean Grey is whisked over to the shuttle to help hold it together while Nightcrawler rescues the final astronaut.

While he escapes with the commander in tow, Jean is caught in a wave of this unknown space anomaly that absorbs itself into her being after destroying the entire ship at the same time. When Jean awakens, she’s physically fine but the power growing inside of her is unlike anything ever witnessed before.

As this happens, an alien arrives on Earth seeking the powerful force that now lives inside Jean Grey and we’re not exactly sure why she’s there (outside of Jessica Chastain playing the character) but apparently she’s determined to harness this weapon for her own use.

Mayhem ensues as Jean suffers under the weight of this incredible power while two factions are formed — one who wants to save her and the other who wants her dead.

ACTING, DIRECTING AND SCRIPT

The new cast of this latest iteration of ‘X-Men’ movies has been good enough, although no one really stands out when the material just isn’t very good.

Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain are award winning actresses but both of them fail to deliver anything memorable in this film but it has nothing to do with their acting chops. Instead, it’s a predictable script with too many speeches and dialogue that will make you roll your eyes far more than jump out of your seat.

Sophie Turner absolutely looks the part of Jean Grey and she delivers the only real emotional resonance in this film, although her American accent leaves something to be desired.

Still she’s the high point when it comes to performances because everybody else just seems to be going through the motions. Nobody is particularly bad but great actors like Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy can only do so much with substandard material.

The story isn’t bad so much as it’s just not fleshed out whatsoever.

The film moves so quickly from Jean being imbibed by this cosmic force to her breaking bad that there’s no real connection to the character between the two points. It’s almost like the writers were trying to get from A to Z as quickly as possible without actually bothering with the rest of the alphabet.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?

That’s a long list and a little tougher to explore without spoilers.

The main problem with this movie is that we’ve been here before and it’s rather evident that the filmmakers didn’t really learn from the sins of the past. We’re getting a rushed version of a truly great story that should take two or three films to really flesh out but instead this is all jam packed into one movie that doesn’t really bother much with an intricate plot but rather just sticks to the same old formula.

The mutants are beloved. A mutant breaks bad. The mutants are hated and now it’s up to the X-Men to save the day.

The villains in this movie are completely forgettable but perhaps worse is the fact that we never truly find out what they hope to accomplish. Yes, they are bad guys looking to do bad things but the motivation behind those acts are just completely unexplored.

There are just a myriad of problems that plague this movie to the point where you’ll watch this film once and probably never long to watch it again.

If there’s one major compliment to be paid — there’s a battle sequence that takes place in the latter part of the movie that really is the saving grace of this film. The special effects team and stunt coordinators deserve a standing ovation for that particular piece of ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’.

FINAL VERDICT

It’s understandable why filmmakers keep coming back to this ‘Dark Phoenix’ saga for the ‘X-Men’ movies but they’ve now tried twice and failed on both occasions. If there’s another attempt at the ‘Dark Phoenix’, hopefully it’s in Kevin Feige’s more than capable hands because it’s tough to imagine he would try to stuff this entire story into one movie rather than a much grander scale that would really allow these characters to flourish.

Unfortunately, ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ isn’t a grand sendoff to these actors but rather a movie that will have you begging for Marvel to finally take over and fix all that’s been done wrong before.

‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ gets 2 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale.

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