WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES (2019)

 

Director: Simon Kinberg

 

Starring: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Jessica Chastain

It’s the final hurrah of the X-Men in this iteration.

 

Despite that X-Men: Dark Phoenix tried to escape the superhero clutches by simply titling itself Dark Phoenix but that didn’t stick when initial test screenings were deemed horrendous, so out came the old X-Men moniker! Alongside that, the movie has been pushed back from release date to release date and it’s clear Fox was having trouble pretending to have faith in this movie. However, first-time director Simon Kinberg has held staunch on his dedication to the project.

The Dark Phoenix story is one of the more iconic in the X-Men canon and 2006’s The Last Stand (a movie written by Kinberg) dealt with it in…interesting fashion – including the Juggernaught, bitch. Dark Phoenix is the culmination of two decades of mutant movies and finds Sophie Turner’s Jean Gray possessed by an unstable cosmic force that turns her into the most powerful force on Earth, deeming her the greatest threat to the X-Men, mutant and humankind combined. A movie bathed in production issues seemingly from day one, everything seemed stacked against Dark Phoenix succeeding in completing the saga in a breath-taking way. As it turns out, every fear was validated upon release – Dark Phoenix is a steaming mess of poor story, dialogue, action and, indeed, acting. There’s not an awful lot to like here. Also, I can assure you this is no bandwagon review, this is a frightfully bad movie. It does start with a car crash…

 

The main issue is the structure and narrative, they are all over the place. In trying to create something deep, challenging yet true to the franchise, Kinberg has instead crafted something empty, soulless and happily at the low end of the franchise. Despite sharing the same story as The Last Stand, that movie at least had other story beats going for it to keep it at a mediocre level. The writing here doesn’t allow for connection to the characters or the slightly ludicrous cosmic possession to really be interesting. The action scenes really don’t hold much weight – the final battle on a train has moments that pop but, still, there’s a lack of tension that is wholly detrimental – and one of the movie’s major moments is on full show in the trailer which almost gave me a reason not to watch this. Emotional reaction = zero because of it. The dialogue is just bad, highlights included Jennifer Lawrence finally saying what she’s been gagging to say for years regarding the franchise in “I’ve been thinking of moving on” and Tye Sheridan’s ridiculously limp Cyclops fronting up to Fassbender’s Magneto with the damaging threat of “I will FREAKING kill you” – and at that moment I wanted the screen to collapse. Surely the acting was better? Maybe? No. Sophie Turner’s horrendous accent was on par with her cardboard acting, James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier was strangely off-colour, Tye Sheridan lacklustre and Jessica Chastain rendered pointless with a terrible character choice. Literally, most aspects you can think of fell into negative territory which is a big shame.

 

Howard Zimmer’s score was great, that can’t be denied but also should be seen as a surprise. Now, in fairness, the opening half hour or so are fine, it’s when the movie really kicks in Dark Phoenix territory that the movie takes a nosedive. A huge chunk of the movie is disjointed, boring and unfocused leading to the standard effects-laden finale and Kinberg’s weird homage to The Dark Knight Rises…just not as good.

 

With Disney acquiring 20th Century Fox and, specifically, the X-Men franchise, the movies won’t end, they’ll just now fall under the MCU umbrella (you would have to imagine) so future iterations will look and feel a lot different to the collection of movies and characters we are used to. Those first two X-Men movies, First Class, Days of Future Past and Logan have provided some real genre highlights which makes it all the harder to stomach that Dark Phoenix was such a disappointing end to a fairly beloved saga/franchise. Kinberg’s utter dedication to the cause is admirable but the finished article is anything but. Disjointed, messy and flat out bad – and not just Sophie Turner’s accent – Dark Phoenix is a miserable end to the X-Men saga as we know it.

June 5th 2019

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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