With Disney’s acquisition of Fox Studios and many more of their Marvel properties, the Fox Studios “X-Men” franchise is done. It’s over. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. With “Dark Phoenix,” Simon Kinberg tries to exercise the feeling of finality for an era that began in 2000. The problem with “Dark Phoenix” is that while the pieces are all there for a slam bang exciting finale, it’s a sequel that basically takes “The Last Stand” and tries to remake it in to something decent. And it fails, for the most part.
After accidentally murdering her parents as a child, young Jean Grey was introduced to Professor Xavier and taken in to the School for the Gifted. Years later, the mutants’ struggle to be accepted is in view as the X-Men are called upon by the president to save stranded astronauts stuck in space. During the mission Jean is almost killed but survives miraculously. Realizing she’s been inhabited by the presence of the powerful Phoenix, Jean struggles to learn what’s happening to her, as a group of shape shifting aliens arrives to Earth anxious to find and claim Jean Grey once and for all.
As I mentioned, there’s a lot of room for “Dark Phoenix” to be great, as it compiles a lot of interesting and even entertaining moments. Despite the return of Magneto ad nauseum, and call backs to the original series, I had a good time with the climactic train sequence, as well as the smatters of development with people like Nightcrawler and Storm. At the very least, “Dark Phoenix” is a team movie, and there’s a lot of conversation about Professor X learning to tone down his inherent ego, and think of giving his students some autonomy. There’s also finally some looks at Magneto atoning for what he’s done, as well as a strong Storm. At last. Beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot of substance to “Dark Phoenix” except combing over what “The Last Stand” ruined and trying to improve upon it one last time.
The Phoenix Saga is so complex and epic that it simply can’t be fit in to one movie, even though you have to respect Kinberg for at least trying. Folks like Nicholas Hoult, and Jennifer Lawrence look tired and bored in their roles, and Hoult just doesn’t lend Hank McCoy the enthusiasm that he did in “First Class.” If you never read the comics or have any familiarity with The Dark Phoenix, the movie itself won’t have much of an emotional resonance. It’s merely just the final part of a poorly conceived movie series for a creative property that deserves so much better, and will probably be remembered more for the “Deadpool” spin offs. Turner is very good as Jean, and if introduced earlier we might just have come to love her romance with Scott.
With the series finally coming to an end we aren’t given a chance to engage with and empathize with the younger iterations of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. As the series finally steers in their direction, the film speeds to the finish line without allowing us to root for them or even cry for them. That’s a shame since Tye Sheridan and Sophie Reynolds are strong actors that probably could have brought the characters to new dimensions for a younger audience. “Dark Phoenix” is a movie that gets us to the finish line. It ends the Fox Studio era, and hopefully with Marvel swooping in, we can be allowed an X-Men movie series that goes places this series was too afraid to.