X-Men: Dark Phoenix Review - Den of Geek

Writer-director Simon Kinberg, making his official debut behind the camera after years of writing and producing a number of Fox’s X-Men and Marvel-related titles, seems to have his heart in the right place (he has publicly stated that he wanted to make amends for the way the story was handled in The Last Stand). But he’s hampered by the limitations of the franchise as it’s been configured on screen, the indifference of key members of his cast, and the sense that everyone is just trying to get the movie over with before Fox’s new owners, Disney, hands the keys to this particular vehicle back to Marvel Studios.

Oddly The Last Stand, as maligned as it was and still is, presented the Phoenix as it was originally conceived in the comics: a long-repressed manifestation of Jean Grey’s own personality that was unlocked by the unleashing of her full powers. It was only later that the “Phoenix Force,” as it was renamed, was explained to be a cosmic mass of energy with some form of sentience and intelligence to it. Kinberg’s new version of the story finds a middle ground: the Phoenix is an ancient, destructive entity from deep space, but it also brings out the worst in Jean, played here by Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones).

Turner’s Jean Grey was a supporting player in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and that’s one of the problems that’s immediately apparent: We barely got to know her in that crowded and muddled film, so why should we necessarily care what happens to her here? X-Men: Apocalypse also introduced a young Cyclops/Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) and the beginnings of these two characters’ longstanding comic book love affair. But in the current “First Class” movies–in which the characters inexplicably don’t age even though we jump a decade ahead in each one–we’re supposed to just catch up with the fact that Scott and Jean are now passionately in love.

The Scott/Jean romance was a central component of what made the “Dark Phoenix Saga” so tragic on the page; here it barely registers. It doesn’t help that the older versions of these characters from the first three movies (played by James Marsden and Famke Janssen) still linger in our memories. The retconning and recasting over the course of seven films (not including the Deadpool and Logan spinoffs) prevents the relationship between Scott and Jean here from having any kind of gravitas, and sadly neither Sheridan nor Turner are up to the challenge of making it happen through sheer presence or ability. They’re simply too young, and Turner does not have the chops to make Jean’s tragic descent into insanity and rage as emotionally powerful and compelling as it should be.

At least she’s trying, which can’t be said for some of the other members of the cast. Jennifer Lawrence is all but checking her watch during her scenes as Mystique. It’s more than clear that neither she nor Michael Fassbender as Magneto really want to be there, but at least Fassbender has the professionalism to see it through even though his arc is yet another tired retread of the same anti-hero trope that he’s played to much better effect in the earlier films.

Nicholas Hoult’s Beast/Hank McCoy probably comes across the best, and both he and James McAvoy as Professor Xavier give the impression that they’re not just phoning it in. While Jessica Chastain proves that she can be suitably reptilian in a villainous role, her alien leader is horribly underdeveloped, and the rest of her cohorts are a bunch of well-dressed yet indistinguishable baddies who are there merely as fodder for fight scenes–much like the handful of new mutants who are introduced and dispatched in the same fashion. And bringing aliens into a series that has been solely earthbound until now feels as random and disjointed as dropping the Venom symbiote into a park for Peter Parker to find in Spider-Man 3, even if said extra-terrestrials are lifted right from the comics.

You May Like Also

  • Share on Facebook (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on Twitter (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on Linkedin (opens in a new tab)
  • Writer-director Simon Kinberg
  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix Ending Explained
  • X-Men Movies: Best Watch Order
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
  • the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • tortured X-Men continuity
  • Read more of his work here.
  • Share on Facebook (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on Twitter (opens in a new tab)
  • Share on Linkedin (opens in a new tab)
  • Jean Grey and Dark Phoenix: The Important X-Men Comics to Read
  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix - Easter Eggs and Reference Guide
  • The Many Different Versions of the X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga
  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix Trailer Breakdown and Analysis
  • Black Friday 2021’s Best Video Game Deals: PS5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and More
  • Best Tech Deals for Black Friday 2021: PC Gaming, VR, Mobile Devices, and More
  • The Best Geeky Holiday Gifts on eBay For Everyone On Your List