I have been a avid fan of the 90’s x-men fox-kids cartoon. While a big Patrick Stewart fan I have never really liked the early 2000’s x-men movies. I am in the McAvoy professor X camp ever since the opening scene of First Class. Even after I saw Logan. I even casually liked X-Men Apocalypse. So imagine how happy I was when Dark Phoenix was announced , the movie that would tie in one of the best cartoon arcs with the professor I liked most of them all. Yes I liked McAvoy X more than the animated one. Now that the movie is finally out on Blue-Ray I finally got a chance to see this one (did not have the money to see it in theater before). Now that I’ve seen it I really wish I did not spend any money on it.
I really don’t like to be overly negative about a franchise that I so far have really liked. So I would like to start of with something positive…………..Man that would have been nice. If I could say that at least the action was good or how it is neat that the costumes pay tribute to the classic comic look. I guess McAvoy’s and Fassbender’s acting is solid…enough. I genuinely tried to be invested in this movie but everything felt off to me. How did this turn into such a dumpster fire? The ingredients for greatness are there, they even had some great subplot ideas , but nothing is ever used. This movie is not about the X-men at all. It’s all about Jean Grey and the actual X-Men that are in fact still X-Men are just present. There is no team, this is a movie about clashing ego’s and division, which could still wok had they not focussed on that one singular character and made other characters actually compelling.
I knew this movie had received lackluster reviews before watching this , but so did Apocalypse and I enjoyed that, even on second viewing. I reviewed basically all the McAvoy X-movies well above the general critic reception. This movie gets a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes and I still think that might just be a bit to lenient. I actually found this movie to be unwatchable. How could this have happened to such a beloved series of mine.
Well let me start with highlighting how atrocious the writing of this movie is. We begin with an exposition scene on Jean, how she lost he parents in a car crash. The plot twists that follows about 45 minutes in is already clearly telegraphed here. One of the parents survives..but of course is afraid of Jean and gives her up to Xavier. We do not see this yet but we do already know it is going to happen. Meanwhile the doctors are talking to each other over a 8 year old Jean fading in and out of consciousness wondering how to tell Jean her parents are dead..which is not true. So the drama of this scene has been amped up, while in actuality they would not even have to deal with that situation. The sheer negativity of kid Jean in the scene where she first moves too Xavier’s school for the gifted added to that already telegraphs we are in for a rough ride.
Twenty minutes in we see an interesting conflict forming though. Charles is now a hero as his X-Men save the day where they can, working with even the president himself. Now that he is being praised Charles pushes his X-men to risk themselves so he could get more praise, much to his sisters Mystique’s dismay. During a mission Jean, who now like all other X-men can breathe outside of our atmosphere, explodes by solar energy but turs out to be okay. Charles gets to shake hands with some big wigs and loves the outcome of events while Mystique sees they nearly lost a team member.
Two camps form, do the X-men have to sacrifice themselves for the weak and those who formerly hated them or do they also need to look out for themselves. While this is a weird route to take Charles Xavier I sort of liked it as it made him more than a standard good guy. The brother sister rivalry rising again could be very interesting….and it is completely discarded after an event about 35 minutes in. After that it becomes the big character betrayal show. Beast wants to murder someone, Charles refuses to take responsibility for his actions and becomes a self righteous sack of excrement , Jean claims she can’t stop killing, while she only had one incident of her dark side harmed people. Magneto has become an shinng example of self control and so on. I wondered if this was supposed to be set after Apocalypse or if this was like a universe of it’s own. Which is never a good thing.
Except for Hank (beast) Charles and Jean all characters are paper tin. Mystique has some good lines but those never go anywhere in the end. Of course there is also the aliens who want to take over the world using Jean and the Phoenix form, but without any effort these Aliens can already pose as high level security people throughout the entire movie… so I am not sure how they would be unable to achieve the same feat trough subterfuge. They are very powerfull on their own regardless, but fine. Jean can’t read their minds out of plot convenience, which again feels supercheap and as we ping pong around allegiances we see some pointless action scenes leading to a cringeworthy ending that once more is very untrue to the very natue of the x-men and the school for the gifted as established earlier. Ouch that was rough.
Luckily the random flight suits they found have been replaced by actual x-men uniforms that do not look edgy this time. In fact it resembles to look the x-men had back in the earliest days of Scott and Jean. Nice? No they do look very tacky, I liked the look of the first-class suits, which also referenced the traditional design but this felt cheap. Like as in.. lets not waste money on this so lets hoist them in a cheap overall with an x on it. Everything felt so budgety.. Scott wears his visor off missions instead of his sunglasses, which dehumanises him , Mystique looks very much like a cheaper makeup job and even beast’s blue face felt off. It is hard to describe how cheap and proppy things felt. Take scots vizor for example, it’s nice they gave him a visor but they made it silver. Which does not match his outfit, or even regular clothing all that much.
Why would it be designed that way by Hank, who designs all their stuff why not make it blend. Why did he rebuild the black bird again, after in the last part it nearly killed everyone and it actually killed Havoc. (The Black Bird looks cool though) Nightcrawler’s face has become less detailed somehow and Quicksilver’s slow time scenes aren’t as fun and smart as in the other movies either. The movie makes some weird choices for example Magneto’s powers now no longer have his sound effect of warping metal, now when he and Jean duel, they just hold their hands up and movie magic does the rest. Apocalypse, Days of Future past and even First Class had some rich effects here we see some cheap glows and battles that mostly involve telekinetic throws and the effect that are there are weird. We see Jean EXPLODE insde an exploding space ship and when she falls out unharmed everone is just like… “well thank the writers for that’ while no one wonders why she is not harmed more. Or how she survived floating trough space for a sold minute. Nightcrawler had to have a fsh bowl taped to is suit to survive in space.. luckily there is ducktape and a fish bowl on board of the blackbird… but hey thats writing again. Whle the movie doesn’t look “wrong” I felt it was on a very tight budget on everything which kills any suspension of disbelief. You can not get sucked into a movie when you notice the studio’s budget choices.
With actors like McAvoy and Fassbender you are sure to have a few good scenes in you movie and they do deliver a solid performance. However the poor writing does present itself in what McAvoy can do with the character. His decisions lead to a major death and Jean going insane and when confronted by it he refuses to accept his role in this. He even takes the loss very well, which feels like a betrayal of the character. In the scenes where Charles is like this McAvoy plays him apathetic and somewhat arrogantly which feels like both a mismatch to who Xavier should be or to the tone of the scene. It just is not the Charles we have loved for the past three movies. Same goes for Fassbenders Magneto, who now is an bit of a recluse on the small island (and I mean like 100m2 or so small) of Genosha, which is off the american coast now. His pain is gone… he is in control of it now as he accepts it is a part of him. Yet he is very happy to fall of the bandwagon and kill again without much semblance of the plagued man that is Magneto. This man now is a guru of calmth and tranquility. It’s not bad.. I just could not believe it this time around.
Which brings us to Sophie Turner. Lovely girl and I am sure she plays her version of Jean in the way she wants, because she is a solid actress. Yet Jean here felt so flat to me, I never felt she was in actual pain or actually confused. I never actually saw killing intend in her eyes.. unless it was CG’ed in.and even then that’s mostly due to the color signifying that things ae about to get real. Her shouts, her cries her emotions it all felt very contained and flat. Which before I liked about her acting. I like how Sansa is like that as well instead of all the over dramatic soap stars. This is not Sansa we are talking about though, in fact it’s not even really Jean. We need a rawness, a ferociousness and an unfiltered energy that goes beyond control.
Instead I see Jean who has a really bad time of the month. Jessica Chastain as a villain is a bit of a mixed bag for me. Since she plays the alien Vuk she can get away with sloppy acting as it just makes Vuk look more awkward and strange. However the route that is chosen is just so easy. It’s like every alien pretending to be human ever.. with maybe a bit more lore dumps. It’s not bad because there is no objective way to call it bad as each mannerism can be defended by..she’s an alien…yet at the same time that same type of acting gives us nothing to like about her either.
So comes an apparent ending to the professor McAvoy age as they have pretty much written themselves in a corner. It saddens me that this the movie that ends the line. Logan have a great ending to the mediocre Wolverine series and original X-Men movie run and I wish Dark Phoenix could have been the Logan of McAvoy. It had all the right ingredients yet none of the magic. This was a movie not made out of love for the series but to squeeze out on more movie, for revenue sake. It doesn’t do the Phoenix or Dark Phoenix justice, it doesn’t even respect it’s previous movies properly. While I can see people would still like this movie and this is in no way a crutch for other people to hate it, this movie did absolutely nothing for me.
I felt empty while watching it and wanted to turn it off several times. When one of your favorite storylines in the series can’t even keep your attention in a movie , you know something is very wrong. I doubt it will surprise anyone but myself that I have to award this movie the lowest flavor tier. This movie definitely killed the series and I think only a complete reboot can make it rise out of the ashes again.