X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) Review: The End?
Imagine a superhero film that has all of the characters you’ve known and loved for over a decade, coming together for an ensemble film unlike anything you’ve seen before, for one stunning conclusion. If you thought of ‘Avengers: Endgame’, you could hardly be blamed. However the description also fits for another superhero film this year, albeit with far less anticipation. ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ chronicles the last hurrah of the current cast, with an ending that fits the franchise completely. With clunkiness, entertaining highs and forgettable lows.
The year is 1992, and the mutant threat is now on the cover of magazines, with a direct line to the president. Complete with a rotary phone with an X where the dial is meant to be. X-Men movies are all about evolution, and the films have now evolved to have as much sophistication as the 1960s Batman TV show. Nevertheless, the superteam is the first line of defense when a space mission goes awry. Not everything goes according to plan, and X-Woman Jean Grey pays the price.
What I liked most about this particular X-Men film is how it handles its patriarch Charles Xavier. For the first time in franchise history, the bald beacon of righteousness has less footing on the moral highground. He comes off as a deadbeat dad who’s partial to corporal punishment and frequents a bottle of very expensive whiskey to battle his demons. If anything this was a welcome change for the character. Did the movie do anything with it? Not much. But at the very least, it makes it more believable when Jean Grey goes into full villain mode.
Sophie Turner returners as Jean Grey, and delivers the same ruthlessness that she was able to delve into in the later seasons of Game of Thrones. She carries the narrative well, especially when acting off of her sleepwalking costars. Particularly Jessica Chastain who plays…nameless alien who looks like Jessica Chastain. When Jean suffers the influence of the magic cloud from space, it’s convincing. Moreso than when the franchise did the same storyline in 2006 with ‘X-Men The Last Stand’.
To further touch on the good, the X-Men working as a unit is an incredibly satisfying experience. The fun of the team has always been how different the heroes’ powers are. It’s a welcome break from the monotony of cyber suits and super soldiers we tend to see. The problem is, several times in the film the characters seem to have super amnesia, getting themselves into situations they could’ve easily escaped from in prior scenes.
Maddening as that may be, I was able to ignore those problems and enjoy the character work on display. It’s standard superhero flair, and not at all anything to write home about (especially as a review), but it didn’t evoke the gut negative reaction that the worst superhero flicks tend to do. It’s edited well, shot pretty impressively, and the dialogue may not be incredible, but I never heard a line that sent my eyes to glance quickly at the ceiling. What I’m saying is, ‘X-Men Dark Phoenix’ isn’t the worst superhero film of all time, and it’s a blessing that that’s the case.
Still, not as bad as I expected is not going to get anyone running to the cinema. And definitely not what you hope for a grand finale. It’s not a bad film. It has silly elements, but there are also very excellent moments for characters who have been a part of superhero films for two decades. The ‘X-Men’ franchise just missing the 20th anniversary mark with ‘X-Men Dark Phoenix’, is as perfect a metaphor as the stumbling franchise fumbles its way into the arms of Disney.
Rating: Catch It On Cable.