Written & Directed by: Simon Kinberg
Let me preface this review by saying I’m not an X-Men fan. That’s not to say I dislike the franchise; I just never got into it. I saw the first three movies when I was in middle and high school and liked them well enough, but I never read the comics or watched the cartoons as a kid, and I haven’t seen the newer movies. Most of what I have gleaned about the franchise beyond that is from video essayist Lindsay Ellis’s “Loose Canon” series on YouTube. That said, a film adaptation of another media should be able to stand on its own for an audience that might be less familiar with its source material. Does Dark Phoenix manage this? Not really.
In Dark Phoenix, the telepathic and telekinetic mutant Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) absorbs what appears to be a solar flare during an outer space rescue mission. But whatever is now inside her is enhancing her already frighteningly strong powers, and she soon begins to lose control. She is pulled between her friends and colleagues who want to help her (James McAvoy’s Professor Charles Xavier, Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven/Mystique, Tye Sheridan’s Scott Summers/Cyclops, Alexandra Shipp’s Orono Munroe/Storm, Evan Peters’s Peter Maximo/Quicksilver, and Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler), those who want to kill her (Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto and Nicholas Hoult’s Hank McCoy/Beast), and a dying race of aliens who want to use her, led by a being named Vuk (Jessica Chastain).
For a movie called Dark Phoenix, there’s surprisingly little focus on the eponymous mutant. There’s plenty of discussion and fighting among the people around her, but most of Jean Grey’s scenes are limited to her looking anxious, crying, or destroying everything–not a great use of a complex and interesting character played by an incredibly talented actress. Honestly, most of the talent in this movie feels so wasted.
The cast is incredible, but it feels like they’re giving maybe 70% at most, which might be because of how cheesy and predictable the dialogue is (including gems like “You want to fix me.” “I don’t need to fix you. Because you’re not broken,” “Your emotions make you weak.” “You’re wrong. My emotions make me strong,” and an extra melodramatic “NO!” exclaimed by Cyclops toward the end of the movie that made me laugh out loud). Maybe the cast just wasn’t feeling the script (which I can absolutely sympathize with). Maybe they just received some really weird direction. Either way, the acting is forgettable at best and cringe-worthy at worst.
Not everything about the movie is awful. The CGI is gorgeous, especially in some moments between Jean and Vuk toward the end. There are some decent action scenes. And while Sophie Turner is given a disappointingly small amount to work with, the scene at her childhood home (SPOILER – highlight to read) confronting her father (whom she believed to be dead) is both heartbreaking and nerve-wracking, thanks to some stellar acting and directing. But these few things aren’t enough to make Dark Phoenix a good movie.
If you’re a hardcore X-Men fan, maybe you’ll appreciate this movie more than I did. If you like cool CGI and fight scenes, maybe you’ll enjoy yourself. But I would advise saving your money and waiting for this one to hit Netflix if you want to see it.
Have you seen Dark Phoenix? Well, what did you think?