X-Men: Dark Phoenix: The Most Obnoxious End To A Beloved Series
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
The X-Men franchise though, extremely beloved has also been terribly inconsistent. The installment in ‘The Last Stand’ fared disappointingly and made for an average addition to the franchise. But, the reboot, ‘First Class’ and its sequel ‘Days of Future Past’ proved to be promising additions with an entertaining premise. Now, with Dark Phoenix, the franchise not only gets back to square one with a terribly dull deliverance, but it also bids an underwhelming and incoherent goodbye to the X.Men series, leaving fans all across the globe truly devastated. Dark Phoenix’s poor performance at the box office is another glaring indicator that no matter how many millions one spends to have a film visually spectacular, it doesn’t stand a chance if it is not backed by a story that has something truly unique and entertaining to say. With an absolute lack of it, X-Men: Dark Phoenix ends up being all talk and no action.
Set in 1992, Dark Phoenix begins in a world where the humans have finally accepted to co-exist with the Mutants. The film opens with X-Men setting off on a rescue mission to space after receiving a distress signal from the space shuttle Endeavour. During this mission, Jean (Sophie Turner) is hit by a solar flare like energy emerging from the shuttle and ends up absorbing all of it into her body. As a result of absorbing the cosmic force, she becomes the most powerful creature in the universe and with her dangerously wavering mental state, she poses a threat to the world. Whether or not the X-Men intervene and eradicate her from destroying the world forms the crux of the film.
Simon Kinberg, who has produced and written many of the previous installments wears the director’s hat for the first time with Dark Phoenix. It is shocking to note that a writer who has been this closely associated with this franchise can deliver a final installment that is as underwhelming as this. For starters, Apocalypse barely introduced the audience to the new X-Men team. Everyone including Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Jean Grey herself had small bits to play in the previous franchise. Jean Grey’s inner battle with the darkness in her is something that was never properly established. Without ever being familiarized with her character properly, how can one relate to a full-blown film centered on her?
Throughout the film, even though Vuk is painted to be the villain, somehow Jean Grey seems like the real villain. How can someone who is a part of the X-Men’s team to serve the greater good be prejudiced this easily? Even though she tries to silence the darkness within her, once unleashed, how can this dark side of hers be this ruthlessly cruel? The questions that these characteristics of hers arise in the mind of the viewer is never answered in a justifiable manner.
It doesn’t even take Vuk much effort to manipulate Jean, just a few whispers here and there does the job. Even when Jean goes rogue, the scenes depicting her cruelty seem to be utterly inconsistent. It is understandable that Jean’s rebellious side keeps her from listening to Charles any longer. But here, there is no convincing transition. Every uncharacteristic behavior of hers appears deliberate and cinematic rather than actually coming across as realistic.
Furthermore, X-Men is a franchise that is known to beautifully embrace the unique personalities of its characters by allocating them their own space in the film to grow and thrive. The way the directors have treated each of these characters have been unique too. But in Dark Phoenix, none of the X-Men are given the space they deserve. Characters like Cyclops and Nightcrawler are merely made to follow the orders from Mystique. Even Jean is never her own person. She is portrayed to be a mutant who is either controlled by Charles or Yuk and it doesn’t even take them much effort. This problematic depiction is also one of the reasons why the film disappoints you.
The most pressing problem that eventually sinks the film is the absence of a worthy conflict. The film is desperate to make Vuk it’s antagonist but truth be told, Jean Gray should’ve taken her place instead. Without a conflict to drive the plot, the entire journey seems pointless and appears randomly put-together.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is surely the installment with the most uninterested performers. All the actors including Jennifer Lawrence and Sophie Turner never comprehend the nuances of their characters effectively. They remain unaffected no matter what chaos unravels in the film. As Charles Xavier, James McAvoy’s performance is repetitive and lacks imagination in its portrayal. Even Michael Fassbender as Magneto barely has anything significant to do in the film. Once again, Magneto is forced to change his mind within the blink of an eye and made to do things he seems disinterested in.
Visually, the film is laden with larger than life CGI but even these heavy-handed visual effects cannot save the film from the shoddily executed train wreckage sequence in the climax. No matter how the makers justify it, it remains unclear how a group of mutants having a showdown inside a train can still not bring to a halt. The CGI and visual story-telling is all fluff and lacks the depth to be applauded.
Hans Zimmer’s music appears to be a rehash of his work in Interstellar and Batman V Superman. You can’t help but be disappointed by the lack of originality.
On the whole, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a sloppily directed installment with a pointless premise. It is most possibly the worst way one can conclude a beloved franchise.