REVIEW: Dark Phoenix

Let me tell you a little bit about me. I love the X-men! They’re my favorite superheroes. I have yet to hate an X-men movie. Even Apocalypse. And then I saw Dark Phoenix. Let me be clear: I’m not saying I hated it. But I can’t really think of a moment I liked. I’ve attempted to be as spoiler-free as possible – but you’re likely not going to bother seeing this movie – so this is my review of Dark Phoenix. Read on at your own risk! Spoilers Ahead.

Taking place in 1992, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his X-men are public personas. He runs a school, the public is widely aware of mutants, and they don’t seem to hate or fear them. Based on the trailers you probably know that his team somehow ends up in space and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is overtaken by an other-worldly force.

It might be important to read a formal summary before watching Dark Phoenix because I left the theater unsure of the plot: “During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.” Oh yeah, thanks formal summary. There are “aliens wishing to weaponize Jean” and take over our planet for themselves.

One of the biggest disappointments of Dark Phoenix was the already confirmed death of [Spoiler – which was confirmed and public knowledge]. Were that information not widely available, the death would’ve been more surprising and impactful.

Meanwhile, the secondary plot centers around Jessica Chastain’s character. No, she’s not Lilandra. There is no Lilandra in this movie. She’s a different alien, and she’s not the only one. These aliens are underdeveloped characters, but they want Jean. They want to use her to create a new planet for their species, also they want to take her powers for themselves, also they want to kill her, for some reason. Yet these aliens are pretty un-killable themselves. At some point Xavier and Jean learns their motives, but no one else. I’m actually not sure when the team realizes the aliens exist and that they have nefarious plans. But remember, they’re not mutants. How do the humans differentiate the aliens from the mutants? I don’t know. Charles figures it out because he can’t use telepathy on them, but he doesn’t seem to share this information. Regardless, expect a mutant vs alien battle. An unnecessary, completely out of place, relatively pointless Mutant v Alien fight.

Moving on. Let’s talk about the team for a minute. The X-men, being led by Raven (no one is calling her Mystique), consists of Hank, Storm, Nightcrawler, Jean, Cyclops, and Quicksilver (who has, I believe, no more than two lines in the film). As usual, Magneto is elsewhere. Charles is working with the team behind the scenes, but at some point is accused of being a villain. Speaking of villains: Charles gets accused, Jean takes a spin as a villain, but one could argue that it’s the force inside her (and one does), and Jessica Chastain’s character is definitely a villain. So, with multiple villains, who exactly are our heroes trying to defeat in this movie? Excellent question!

I take back what I said before. I can think of one moment I liked: Raven delivers the only great line in the film, about a misnomer. The rest of the dialogue is pretty terrible. But check out some positives: Magneto’s location is a nice nod to the comics. The visual effects were pretty spectacular on the big screen, and probably where all the budget must’ve gone to. Every actor brought their a-game and did the best they could with the script they were given. There’s no post-credit scene. Yes, this is a positive because when it’s over you can leave.

Dark Phoenix hits theaters June 7th, but will probably be available on demand, or streaming, or likely on Disney+ soon.

— Yael Tygiel

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