Fueled By A Weak Script;
Little To No Emotion;
After twenty years under the Fox banner, the current iteration of the X-Men has come to a close. There have been highs and lows, and unfortunately, the series limped to a disappointing close before it eventually gets folded into the MCU, hopefully to be revived for the better.
I really enjoyed First Class and Days of Future Past and while Apocalypse was a letdown, it still had its moments. So does Dark Phoenix, but ultimately it is not at all satisfying as either a blockbuster or an X-Men entry. There are good actors present, but they cannot rise above the material they are given. James McAvoy, Sophie Turner, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence try, but they can only do much with Kinsberg’s writing and direction. I really wanted to like this and hoped the consensus opinion would be unfounded, but I simply couldn’t find much to admire about this outing.
The biggest issue I had was that it simply couldn’t muster any real emotion. We’ve been following these characters for years and given the nature of the Phoenix Saga (which I loved in the animated series as a kid, though I never read the comics) and the end of the X-Men as we’ve come to know them, the film should have carried a lot more weight. And while it’s possible that Jennifer Lawrence could have done more as the lead Sophie Turner, even her arc didn’t have the impact that it should have. Fassbender seems to bring the most gravitas (and he’s always been great as Magneto, for my money), but the script is so uneven that some powerful individual moments aren’t enough.
Another problem is logistical inconsistency. It may seem like a minor gripe, but this series of films has spanned several decades, and most of the characters (most notably Beast, Xavier and a few others) don’t appear to have aged…at all. When he’s in his normal human form, Hank McCoy still looks like he’s under 30. How is that possible?
I had no issue with the overall plot, but its execution was off. Jean hiding (or being hidden) from her emotional trauma and using that to fuel the turn as the Dark Phoenix could have worked much better with more substantial writing behind it. If done properly, it could have achieved a similar level of catharsis as Logan, but instead we will forever wonder “what if?” Also, given how great the Quicksilver sequences have been in recent films, the fact that he spends the majority of this film on the sideline is a major letdown. And Jessica Chastain? For all the hype around her secretive involvement, her villain turned out to be very one-dimensional and, frankly, lame. Which is a shame, given how incredibly talented she is.
It’s certainly not all bad. Aside from a few cheesy CGI shots, I really liked the visual effects. The movie looks very good on the surface, and the final showdown is a lot of fun to watch, with the set piece on the train providing some cool action that utilizes everyone’s powers well. I’m sure some of the characters that popped up throughout the movie are featured in the comics, so I assume hardcore fans got a bit more out of that aspect than I would have. And although it felt disjointed (likely from the rewrites and reshoots), ultimately it was an entertaining enough two hours. But given where this series started and where it has gone, I was really hoping for much more.
Dark Phoenix is Written and Directed By Simon Kinberg
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