Is this an end of an era type scenario we’ve entered? Ever since the Disney acquisition of Fox, the X-men franchise’s future seems both secure and insecure at the same time. No one can really say what the future holds for Professor X and his gifted students. Nevertheless, we extend ourselves into a mutant that fans got a taste of in The Last Stand, Jean Grey and her Dark Phoenix side to her abilities. Although I wouldn’t exactly call myself an X-Men fan, I understand the potential of where you could take the complexity of these characters, how you could expand on the detailing. This was proven to me in Logan, a film that I would hold as high as the caliber of The Dark Knight. Dark Phoenix felt like one of those times, unfortunately what I watch was something which I have accused other X-Men films of being, bland and unfulfilling.
What can I say that was fulfilling about this film though? Well for starters, the performances were once again great. I don’t think I need to go into detail about James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X or Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast because anyone who has seen previous X-Men films will already know the answer. I will however say that I enjoyed Sophie Turner’s performance as Jean Grey, it was certainly a factor that held this film up. She does very well to snap through changes in her emotions as someone who is coming to terms with the enormous amounts of power in her and understanding how to use them, something that is explored more heavily than in The Last Stand. All returning cast members as previously stated fill their roles as they have done numerous times before.
The film also features some creative action. It’s always been a crowd-pleasing moment in the X-Men films when the mutants use their powers in clever ways and Dark Phoenix shows this in ways that feel fresh to the eyes. The film’s final action sequence takes place in a freight train and the film makes use of the claustrophobic space to make the action feel much more open.
The buck stops there unfortunately for Dark Phoenix. I feel that it is an unfair assessment that the X-Men films have outstayed their welcome in modern cinema, although they pose no threat in overtaking the MCU in popularity, they still remain very popular and more so with the success of Logan and the two Deadpool films. Instead of pushing forward, Dark Phoenix actually takes several steps back into the extent of these characters who many have followed for 19 years. The way the story of Dark Phoenix is pieced together felt too familiar and a narrative that has already been heavily explored leaving many to wonder what else is there to discover? The story guides you down many pathways that don’t reach their destination and it’s as though your jumping from one pathway to another in each of the film’s acts.
The biggest let-down of all however is the cheap, cookie-cutter dialogue. Each character is telling us how they feel rather than showing it, which is so wasteful as you have talented performers to help tell you how their feeling through facial and body language. I believe the dialogue plays the biggest part of why this film is so bland, it seems to dominate the film which doesn’t allow any sort of imagery to work on its own.
The obvious debate amongst the mutant factions of Professor X and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is whether or not Jean Grey’s enhanced abilities are a threat. While that is going on there is a group of aliens led by Vuk (Jessica Chastain) who want to harness Jean Grey’s power for their own means. However, at no point do these aliens feel like a major threat or antagonist because the entire time they are on the screen, they are moving from one place to another just following Jean Grey. The audience knows nothing about them because they are introduced with no explanation, the only information we get is that they’re shapeshifters and nothing else. These aliens come across as very lazy and I bet if you cut out their involvement from the film, the conflict would have felt more human.
The worst assumption you can have about Dark Phoenix is that this is the last of Fox’s X-Men films because it doesn’t feel like the big ending to a lengthy franchise. The ending felt very anticlimactic as though they’re still preparing to make more films even though the franchise’s future is up in the air.
With the point of the Phoenix is rising from the ashes, Dark Phoenix was released with a perfect time to solidify the recent triumphs of this franchise and end as the old saying goes “always leave them wanting more”. Dark Phoenix has now made it certain to me that I’ve had my fill of this franchise. This film from start to finish is an uneventful story that as it progresses digs itself deeper and deeper into the ground. Maybe with an introduction to the MCU, the X-Men can become reinvented whilst keeping its serious undertones. For now, Dark Phoenix has buried the coffin of the X-Men franchise in an undignified way.