June 12, 2019

Movie Review: Dark Phoenix

The first X-Men movie appeared way back in 2000. While it is far from the first comic book adaptation to hit the big screen, it seems to be the one that would kickstart the superhero saturated market we have today. Now, here we are, 19 years and 10 movies (12 if you count the Deadpool films, which I guess we probably should) in and we have reached the end of an era. Hugh Jackman has donned the prosthetic claws and coiffed his hair to play Wolverine for the last time and Disney has completed its purchase of Fox, thus making it possible to reunite the mutants with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (thus far dominated by Avengers related characters). The big question is, do you go out with a bang and do you fizzle like a dud sparkler? Sadly, in my estimation, it is the later.

The X-movies, for this writer, do not really fall anywhere in between the really good and the really bad. There is very little rhyme or reason to which ones fall into which category, but it feels like the last few X-titles have put the franchise on a downward slide. I can only hope that means the franchise will rise like a Phoenix to even greater heights if (when) it gets rebooted under the Disney banner.

This last film is simply titled Dark Phoenix and continues with cast that has been built starting with 2011’s X-Men: First Class. It deals with Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) being hit by a mysterious solar flare while the team was rescuing a team of astronauts. The flare unlocks her full mutant potential, but also makes her unstable. She starts to lash out at her teammates, people get hurt, and there is a rush to try either help her or kill her, all while Jean struggles to come to grips with the changes raging inside of her.

The film culminates in a pretty impressive fight in and on a speeding train as aliens are fighting a team consisting of the X-Men and Magneto’s followers with Jean and her powers hanging in the balance. It is a rather exciting sequence, and honestly, the only engaging sequence in the movie. Everything else just failed to really grab me or make me care about the characters.

I am guessing part of my lack of caring could have to do with knowing there were no real stakes for these characters, speaking in the larger picture of their corner of the cinematic universe. Knowing this is the last time we will see this incarnation does not entice me to care. Granted, I should be looking at it as the movie it is rather than what could come down the road.

Even still, when I do look at the film for what it is, I see characters who only exist as elements of the plot, with no real purpose outside of that. I see characters that have little chemistry with each other, further dampening my ability to care. I see a few actors who are clearly better than the material and give moments more weight and gravitas than they otherwise deserve. I see a story that feels like it should be much more epic than it is, I watch it being dealt with in a small scale that seems to put it all in a bubble without bigger picture stakes.

Dark Phoenix plays in stark contrast to its immediate predecessor, X-Men: Apocalypse. That was a film that I also did not care for, but it was a larger ranging tale that was told in a bigger fashion, but failed in the smaller moments. They went from telling a story that was told in large fashion that failed to see the smaller elements to a story that was stuck in the small without reaching for the stars.

I am not quite sure that makes sense. When it comes right down to it, nothing ever came together for me. It is hard for me to point to one failing element, but I never felt involved with the story, the stakes felt to small and things went unexplained. It is not a film that I feel I will ever need to revisit. Fortunately, I will have the handful of solid X-titles to fill my need until we get the inevitable reboot.

Not Recommended.


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