Out this week in cinemas is the final chapter in the X-Men saga (at least in the 20th Century Fox universe) & they hope to go out with a bang in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp and introducing Jessica Chastain this latest film tries to once again tell the Dark Phoenix saga.
Simon Kinberg (who was a part of the poorly conceived and poorly received X-Men: The Last Stand) hoped to right the wrongs of his previous attempt with X-Men: Dark Phoenix stating that this film would be more faithful to Chris Claremont’s famous comic book run.
Audiences were promised an intergalactic war as well as the Shi’ar. Unfortunately what audiences got was far from it. Although there are aliens they are far from the decadent and powerful Shi’ar and there are no intergalactic battles. Sadly that is the least of X-Men: Dark Phoenix’s issues.
In the beginning, there was a Dark Phoenix
I suppose we begin at the beginning, the story. X-Men: Dark Phoenix opens up with X-Men being called by the President via X-Phone (think Batphone from the Adam West Batman television series). A team of astronauts is trapped in space due to a strange force making their shuttle malfunction. When the team arrive they utilise their many mutant abilities to fix the various issues on the shuttle as well as save every astronaut. Sadly tragedy strikes as the force collides with Jean who is holding the shuttle together.
Somehow Jean (Turner) is fine, seemingly having fused with the force, but let’s call it what it is, a cloud. That’s right folks 20th Century Fox have once again turned one of the most powerful cosmic entities in Marvel comics into a cloud. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about you may remember Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer where the mighty Galactus devourer of worlds was also a big puffy cloud.
Now one with this force Jean spikes in power, unfortunately, it also awakens disturbing memories which Charles (McAvoy) had locked away behind walls he constructed years ago when Jean first joined the school.
From there tragedy follows the X-Men and Jean as she causes increasing levels of destruction as her power grows and her control diminishes. There is also a villain in the wings in the shape of Jessica Chastain’s shape-shifting alien who is definitely not Lilandra. I can’t remember her name take that as you will.
So that is the basic premises of X-Men: Dark Phoenix but it is the nuances that make this phoenix flop. The story itself is pedestrian. Kinberg tries to emotionally connect the audience with the X-Men. Unfortunately, this latest crop of mutants, introduced in X-Men: Apocalypse, are anything but astonishing.
Are the kids alright?
Tye Sheridan is still as bland as ever as Cyclops. His journey in the film is painted as sympathetic to Jean’s plight due to his overwhelming love for her. This is poorly developed with only one or two scenes being semi-intimate between them.
There is a secondary story that centres around Mystique (Lawrence), Charles, Hank (Hoult), and Erik (Fassbender) and it’s dealt with well as these four are the last of the “first class” and have a deep relationship that’s been built on the foundation of four films.
The rest of the X-Men fair far worse, Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is nothing but a means of fast travel for the rest of the team except for one brief and oddly disconcerting moment of rage. Storm (Shipp) does nothing literally nothing except give shade (both kinds). There is however one issue I could never forgive, what happens to fan favourite Quicksilver (Peters).
Do you remember how you felt when Quicksilver had his moment in X-Men: Days of Future Past? Do you remember how awesome it was, so well choreographed, with such a bombastic soundtrack? Quicksilver, in my opinion, is one of the most visually sumptuous characters in the X-Men quiver.
Well in X-Men: Dark Phoenix when the X-Men clash with Jean in the first 20 minutes of the film Quicksilver is beaten quite severely but it’s okay because he has an enhanced healing factor like most comic book speedsters right? Wrong! After this encounter, Quicksilver is out for the rest of the film. He is then replaced with two new mutants who I s**t you not have the worst powers ever. One flickers her eyes and I think controls minds, it’s not well defined and the other is a man who utilises his dreadlocks like whips. It looks as stupid as it sounds.
Couple this with the aesthetic choice Kinberg and his team went with on the costumes or (lack thereof) and this is also the dullest X-Men film. I mean this in the sense that it does not pop visually and it’s a real shame. There are exceptions, they are rare, but there are exceptions. There is an encounter between Magneto and Jean and Fassbender puts in his all and it’s impressive. There’s also a scene where he uses what I can only describe as “Metal-Fu” and it’s great.
On the light topic of positives, the score is outstanding. Much like my positive attitude this score comes out of nowhere as it’s potent and brings with it a sense of dread, menace, and grandeur. This score comes from one of the legends in the field, and a personal favourite of mine, Hans Zimmer. This sense of import sadly clashes with the mundane world of X-Men: Dark Phoenix and it comes off as jarring when the quality of action doesn’t match the quality of the score behind it.
What are you looking for?
X-Men: Dark Phoenix was to be the swansong of the mutants from 20th Century Fox. Sadly with an ill-defined villain, a mundane group of mutants, this is hardly a Dark Phoenix and more a dull duck. Thank you I’ll be here all week, which I imagine is how long X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be in cinemas.