Currently in theaters is X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the seventh and final installment in the main X-Men film franchise, and twelfth overall installment in Fox’s extended X-Men Cinematic Universe (XCU). Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for the early press screening, courtesy of 20th Century Fox, Allied Marketing, and Regal Cinemas. Due to a media embargo, this review was delayed in its publication in keeping with that agreement.
Written and Directed by (longtime X-Men screenwriter and producer) Simon Kinberg, in his directorial debut, X-Men: Dark Phoenix kicks off in 1975, with a flashback of a young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones) in a tragic origin story of the telekinetic/telepathic mutant first coming to realize her superpowers in one of the most horrific ways possible, only to later be adopted and taken in by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy of Split/Glass) who grooms her into a full member of the X-Men. Flash forward to 1992, and Jean Grey goes along with the X-Men on a seemingly routine mission to investigate a strange phenomenon happening in space near Earth which is threatening a NASA space shuttle. The group encounters a strange solar-flare like energy, and in the process of rescuing the astronauts, Jean Grey is hit by, and seemingly infused with, this energy. As the story unfolds, her powers increase dramatically, and she begins to lose control. After some new information comes to light, and a couple catastrophic occurrences take place, she flees to Genosha, the remote all-mutant nation led by Magneto (Michael Fassbender of the revived Alien franchise) to seek help and refuge, but ultimately this only leads to causing more problems for her and everyone else, especialyl with a strange group of aliens now on Earth seeking out the young mutant who is infused with a cosmic power they hope to acquire and/or control. As one would expect, all hell breaks loose in an over-the-top, big fight conclusion to the franchise.
Now, if all of this sounds a bit familiar, well, that’s because it kind of is. Back in X-Men: Days of Future Past, all of the original X-Men movies (everything from X-Men 3: The Last Stand and before) was completely erased and retconned, including Jean Grey as Phoenix in X3. While this definitely isn’t the same story, it’s still very similar, and still very much unlike the original comics it was based on (The Dark Phoenix Saga, which you can read all of in the Marvel Legends graphic novel collection, just FYI). This is very unfortunate, because while the comics were absolutely stellar, and made for some of the best storytelling in X-Men history, this movie just quite frankly wasn’t.
Sadly, the plot was very formulaic, often one-dimensional, and honestly just came off as a rather rushed, phoned-in, and far too basic superhero movie. What was once the tragic story of Jean Grey, with multiple layers, tons of character development, and of course catapulting the X-Men into the cosmic scale, to say nothing of the introduction of so, so many now-iconic characters in the universe has now been reduced to little more than a big explosion-ridden alien beat-em-up with little to nothing else actually going on. It was quite clear from watching this that the creative heads behind this one either didn’t know anything about the source material, or otherwise didn’t care.
Sure, the effects were cool, sure, a “summer blockbuster” movie has to have all the big explosions, big fights, and bad guy beat-em-ups along with giving all the fan-favorite characters some time to shine, but that was literally all this 114-minute-long movie was. This was absolutely not the fault of the cast, as everyone (especially Sophie Turner and James McAvoy) did their best to make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what, but the simple fact is that good actors can only do so much if they’re given a fairly lousy script.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is just honestly not very good. It’s a paint-by-numbers script, phoned-in, and over-produced to the point of being quite frankly boring. The biggest tragedy is that Fox, Kinberg, and company took one of the greatest stories in the X-Men comics and transformed it into nothing more than another bland, soulless, action movie, taking away all of the things that made that story great and replacing it with a bunch of shape-shifting random aliens that had nothing to do with the original story, just so we could see the X-Men beat up a bunch of bad guys while mostly ignoring everything else worthwhile, to eventually lad us with perhaps the most “meh” ending we’ve seen to a franchise since Fox ruined The Fantastic Four a few times. – 4.0/10
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine