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The last movie in the Fox X-Men franchise, X-Men Dark Phoenix, directed by Simon Kinberg, has long been awaited by fans as a satisfying conclusive end to the Marvel series. Starring Sophie Turner(Jean Grey/Phoenix) at the helm of the movie, it commences in 1975 detailing the death of Jean’s parents caused by her inability to control her powers which leads to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) inviting her to the Academy.
Cut to 1992, the X-Men respond to a distress signal from a space shuttle and Jean is struck with dark Alien energy, which she has to consume to save the rest of the X-Men. Fleeing after her new powers cause in repairable damage, Jean meets an alien by the name of Vuk (Jessica Chastain).
With Dark Phoenix serving as the finale to the decade long X-Men franchise, pressure was on writer-director Simon Kinberg to end the franchise with a bang. Instead we are given a disastrous final film that fails to hit the right notes. What is immediately striking about the movie is how tonally bizarre it is, overflowing with emotional heart to hearts and senseless CGI fights.
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While the relationships among the mutants have proven to be one of the franchise’s strongest suits in the past, here they seem contrived and bereft of the sincerity that made them so appealing. Most of the dialogue falls flat, or is kept too short which carries no weight, leaving certain scenes feeling empty.
Another big mistake in the script was that the characters had no strong beliefs and were easily being swayed by each other’s words, Magneto (Michael Fassbender)’s motives completely changing after spending hardly five minutes with the X-Men, is the perfect example of odd storytelling choices that are neither faithful to the character or make sense within in the movie. An overarching problem in the X-men franchise, particularly in the latter half, is that the characters just seem weirdly dissimilar in different movies.
And this isn’t only visible through the rather noticeable changes to the looks of Beast Boy (an underused Nicholas Hoult) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), but in the way their rationale seems to differ so greatly in various films. Phoenix doesn’t redeem that in anyway, confusing you even more about the characters we’ve known for so long.
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If you’re looking for the kind of grand fight sequences between mutants that have always been a thrill to see, you’ll likely be disappointed, as there is nothing particularly electrifying about the fight scenes in Dark Phoenix. A couple of the scenes in the movie felt like they’d been lifted out of storyboards and shot without adding anything to make them more effective or moving.
The best thing about the film was arguably the relationship between McAvoy’s Xavier and Turner’s titular Phoenix Jean, and the one time the audience at my screening seemed to wake up was when Jean comes close to hurting Xavier, drawing sharp breaths from the crowd. James McAvoy and Sophie Turner keep the movie afloat with their charming chemistry, bringing earnestness to their characters that really burned bright.
Sophie Turner does justice to her role, however, with her character having repetitive lines, she is only seen as an indestructible orange flame, causing destruction wherever she goes repeatedly and this gets old rather fast. Jessica Chastian’s ‘ big bad’ is also poorly conceived, wasting Chastain by giving her a half-baked role that seemed like an afterthought rather than a driving force for Jean.
However, Hans Zimmer’s score does a great job of making the emotional beats count and creating just the right amount of suspense, especially in the final train sequence, making the fight sequence come alive with an urgency that was sorely missed in the rest of the film. It was nonetheless fitting that the movie, that would close out a great franchise, with a whimper would also end itself on a sour note and the final “battle” between Jean and her foe is a disappointing affair, ending in a few minutes and leaving you unimpressed.
That being said, the movie as a whole is entertaining. Though it adds nothing new to the table, and in fact goes terribly wrong in its approach to the characters that we all know and love, the star power alone makes this a decent film to visit. But Dark Phoenix does make you glad that Disney Marvel is finally in charge of these characters and with the movie having set the bar low, the future of these characters in the hands of the people who made Avengers a household name, looks promising.