by Kyle Arango
The Fox X-Men series has had one of the most perplexing runs of any franchise of recent memory. They started the whole superhero genre, as we know it in 2000, and have been on a rollercoaster ever since. They have had all time great films like Logan or Deadpool, and terrible films like The Last Stand. Dark Phoenix is now ending the current run of the X-Men. While it’s not going to blow you away with an incredible story, Dark Phoenix succeeds at closing out the franchise and being an entertaining few hours at the movies.
Dark Phoenix is the continuation of the newer series of X-Men films that began with First Class and up to most recently Apocalypse. Here, in this story we see the X-Men as a complete team who assist the government in times of need. One mission goes awry in space and Jean Grey absorbs an astronomical amount of energy which changes her personality. Now, it is up to the X-Men to help her and not let her power fall into the wrong hands. If I try to explain this plot any further, you will get confused and the film knows that, so it refuses to explain the plot any more than surface level. This was a troubled production with the release date being pushed back nearly two years and conflicts about actor’s schedules and reshoots. Throw in a first-time director and Disney buying Fox and you have a mess of a film. However, this is not a dirty mess. Meaning, this film has many problems, but its passable.
The biggest flaw Dark Phoenix possesses is the script. The Phoenix storyline in the comics is considered one of the best ever so they have rich material and it feels as if the filmmakers had something there they were excited to lose. Unfortunately, the troubled production shows in the final product. The main characters like Charles Xavier or Hank McCoy have character arcs that take them in a direction different from previous films. This was a welcome change and I was excited to see where it went. Unfortunately, the arcs never really end. They get forgotten about because they had to reshoot the entire third act and arcs went by the wayside. Speaking of the third act, that is without a doubt the part of this film that stands out like a sore thumb. It just comes out of nowhere and while the first two acts are terrifically paced and work together nicely, the third act feels like it was quickly rushed to just end the film. It has some really neat action scenes that made my jaw drop, but it was empty spectacle because the story felt incomplete. That feeling you had in Game of Thrones last season comes in around here, unsatisfying but not a wasted journey.
One of the strongest aspects of these newer X-Men films has been the casting of the actors in their particular roles, and that is no different in Dark Phoenix. James McAvoy chews up the screen with every moment he has and even when he is not there his presence is felt. He does some physical acting I have not seen since DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street that is just a joy to watch. His counterpart Michael Fassbender as Magneto is, as always, wonderful, although he is not given much to do. Sophie Turner is the star here and she delivers a performance where you can feel the conflict inside her by the expressions on her face. Nicholas Hoult brings the humanity that you can always expect from him. Jennifer Lawrence actually tries in scenes, probably because she knew her role wouldn’t be to big in this one. My favorite character in this series has been Evan Peters as Quicksilver who has stolen the show in last two movies. What they do to him in this film was terrible and I feel it was because of schedule, but I was extremely disappointed with his screen time. Other actors like Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Kodi Smit-McPhee are all fine and serve their roles well. Only major disappointment is Jessica Chastain because she plays a nothing character. She’s a great actress, but her character could’ve been cut out and nothing would’ve changed.
While not without its bumps and bruises, Dark Phoenix manages to be a surprisingly entertaining film that will fit nicely into this summer blockbuster season. The actors are terrific and there is some incredible action set pieces, but the story does feel ‘thrown together’ at the end. Regardless, this is nowhere near as bad as people are expecting and it stands head and shoulders above X-Men Apocalypse. If you are a comic book movie fan, this film is well worth it.
The Verdict: 3.5/5 Stars