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Dark Phoenix (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Dark Phoenix


Starring Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, Jessica Chastain, Scott Shepherd, Ato Essandoh, Brian d’Arcy James, Halston Sage, Lamar Johnson, Kota Eberhardt, Andrew Stehlin, Daniel Cudmore, Summer Fontana and Hannah Anderson.

Screenplay by Simon Kinberg.

Directed by Simon Kinberg.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 114 minutes. Rated PG-13.

So, the reviews are out, and they are not pretty.

As Marvel fans, my daughter and I have been anticipating this fourth film of the X-Men First Class franchise, particularly with the focus on the origin story of the beloved-yet-complex character of Jean Grey (played by Sophie Turner).

And frankly, Sophie Turner did not disappoint. Her mutant-like ability to capture an otherworldly energy, float around in outer space (without a suit), telepathically read people’s minds, and flip cars with her mind are incredible. But as my kid told me: “she can just do that.” No acting or CGI needed.

If only Sophie Turner had the power to re-write the script, fix the poor direction and gaps in both timeline and story.

Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender are a few of the star-studded cast members returning to their earlier roles of Raven/Mystique, Hank/Beast, Professor Charles Xavier and Erik/Magneto. Each seemed to put their hearts into their performance but had way too little to work with in dialogue.

Jean’s story begins with a long-ago car crash. She miraculously survives unscathed, with nary a scratch. This captures the attention of Professor Xavier. He comes to the hospital to invite her to join his school of “gifted” students. How he knows of her situation / involvement / gifts is left unmentioned; the audience is left to assume that he is ever knowing and monitoring for children with similar gifts.

The story then fast forwards to 1992. The mutants are doing well interacting with the general population of Earth. In fact, Professor Xavier, already wheelchair bound, has a direct line with the President of the United States.

The X-Men are activated for a mission into space to recover stalled astronauts. They find an energized anomaly in space and while they are able to recover an astronaut crew, it is not without a near death experience for Jean. This leads to her supercharged alter-ego Dark Phoenix. Already with superpowers, Jean finds herself like any modern-day teenager, feeling great one moment and completely out of control the next.

Unlike other Marvel films that have homed in on comedy to lighten its more serious plot points, Dark Phoenix takes itself way too seriously for it to be enjoyable.

When you write a franchise, usually the villains become harder to face and eviler as the films progress. However, in Dark Phoenix, it is hard to even figure out the true villain. Is it Jean Grey? She certainly causes a lot of conflict and damage. Is it Jessica Chastain’s Smith/Vuk – the alien hunting down Jean for her power? Is it Professor Xavier choosing prestige over his wards’ safety, causing anger amongst the other X-Men? We never really know.

For the record, Jessica Chastain should have demanded eyebrows. Or at least a real villain plot line. She spends the entire breadth of her role trying to find Jean, to channel the energy and save her dying alien race. In the end, she doesn’t even do anything with the power she may or may not possess. (It’s hard to tell!)

The aliens were so terrible at their job in fact, that we didn’t realize the big fight had happened until the credits rolled, making the conclusion to the X-Men universe a major let down.

One more thing that is impossible to overlook is the timeline. We first meet Erik, Charles, and Raven when they are small children in 1944. Eighteen years later (in 1962) they have aged into fine young adults. From there, they do not age. In fact, Raven, Charles, Erik, Hank, and all the other X-Men present in First Class age maybe five years in the span of three decades. Maybe all of these X-Men have the mutant ability to look young, or maybe it’s just a continuity error. Either way, these characters look great for eighty.

It takes a lot for me to tell a friend that I am not willing to watch a film with them. Keep in mind, I watched Suicide Squad in theaters three times. Still, I cannot find any justification to re-watch this film. Not even friendship.

Bonnie Paul & Leni Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: June 7, 2019.

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