When I sat down to watch X-Men Dark Phoenix, I kept in mind the numerous negative reviews I had already seen. The countless critics and fans saying that the film was the worst instalment in the franchise to date. That this was the film to finally overcome the stank of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, to even take the spot of X3 as the worst one ever. And…it was alright.
Is this film good, no. But is it the steaming pile of rubbish that the world is trying to convey it as? Honestly, no. There are issues here, don’t get me wrong, but the film remains entertaining in its stupidity and cheapness. And after what, ten?, eleven film?, I just want something that I can sit back and devour, without too much thought or care. And I truly don’t understand the world’s obsession with this film needing to be good, because it was destined not to be. Most people turned their backs on this franchise after the third movie obliterated half the cast, and a new generation also abandoned it after the release of Apocalypse, which again was a film that people expected so much from. And I don’t know why. These films ignited Hollywood’s interest in the superhero genre and they also have lasted longer than the MCU in terms of history, over fifteen years later and these films are still being made after all.
My basic point being, why would FOX give money, time and creativity to a money sucking franchise when half the fans have discarded it and they are on the brink of merger with Disney? There is no reason. In fact, many people seemed to think that the film would never be released. But Disney confirmed its intention to release all upcoming FOX projects – including Dark Phoenix and New Mutants.
And so Dark Phoenix will now be known as the final hurrah of the X-Men franchise, and yes it’s sad in some ways and in others, it was never going to end in a way that would make the fans happy. So I think what we got was decent and basic and fun.
Written and directed by Simon Kinberg, who coincidently also wrote the screenplay for X3, the film once again tries to tackle the Dark Phoenix storyline. One that has since become legend, not only among the X-Men comics, but also among comic book stories in general.
And in some ways this film is far more accurate in its tackling of the source material than X3 ever was.
Like in the comic, the phoenix force is drawn to Jean during a mission to space, which leads our favourite telekinetic mutant now flowing with fiery pink energy. It isn’t long before Jean’s new heightened abilities start manifesting, threatening to hurt and even kill the people around her. Lost and frightened, Jean soon finds herself being manipulated by an evil alien race, who want the phoenix energy for themselves.
First of all, the story isn’t great and sadly it’s lack of anything interesting or noteworthy is made worse by the overall cheapness of the production. Very few characters use their powers throughout the film, with Mystique not even bothering to use her abilities once in the whole movie. Everything also feels small, with the sets and locations looking more necessary than cinematic. Again this probably stems from FOX being the process of merging with a much bigger studio, and it shows.
Sophie Turner, fresh out of the snows of Winterfell, is truly the star of this movie and she gives a strong and raw performance. One that is arguably too good for the subject matter she has been given to work with. The rest of the cast also give strong performances, which is surprising because they easily could just fake it for a quick buck, but they don’t. Even Jennifer Lawrence, who infamously wanted out of the franchise, gives a sweet portrayal of her very reworked Mystique. And although her death wreaks of an actress wanting to take on more serious roles, the performances of McAvoy, Hoult and Fassbender make you care about her loss.
Sadly other cast members also do draw attention for the wrong reasons. Evan Peters barely appears in the movie, most likely because his work on POSE got in the way. Which truly is a shame, seeing as Quicksilver has always been a highlight of the prequel trilogy. Jessica Chastain also seems weirdly miscast in her role as the evil alien queen. I like her as an actress but I’m beginning to question the roles she chooses to take on. In fact, this feels almost like the complete opposite of Lawrence, with us seeing a serious actress wanting to be taken in a much lighter way. But at the end of the day, she basically plays an evil Groot with blood-bending powers. Not exactly the same calibre of nemesis as Apocalypse, but I guess it’s the best we could ask for.
And that’s it. There’s sadly not much else I can say about the film because there isn’t much else to say. The special effects are fantastic, as usual, and the way the mutants use their powers to eradicate the alien foe is both creative and just cool to look at.
And now we can bid farewell to these characters forever. Because the next time we see them will most likely be in another five to ten years, with a new cast, director and cinematic universe. Maybe we’ll even see the Dark Phoenix saga being tackled once again in future, but hopefully to rapturous applause instead of unenthusiastic moans.