Movie Review: “Dark Phoenix”
On a rescue mission gone wrong, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is caught in an explosion. However, miraculously, she absorbs all of the energy from that explosion. At first, Jean seems to have suffered no injuries, and she feels better than ever, but Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) runs some tests and determines that the magnitude of her power after the incident is unlike anything he has ever seen. There is a great power within her, a power that the X-Men do not understand, and with it comes an incredible darkness.
This dark power puts the people Jean cares about in danger and, in her search for answers, Jean learns of a great secret that Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has been keeping from her since she was a child. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and his brotherhood of mutants set out to stop Jean before anyone else gets hurt, while Charles and the X-Men try to save her. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones trying to find Jean, as a mysterious entity (Jessica Chastain) has her sights set on the power that Jean now possesses.
The Pros & Cons
Sophie Turner (+4pts)
Michael Fassbender (+3pts)
Jessica Chastain (-4pts)
The Climax (+4pts)
The Plot & The Pacing (-6pts)
Pro: Sophie Turner (+4pts)
Sophie Turner had to carry a lot of this movie. Her character very obviously drives the plot of this story and, with it, Sophie Turner gets a lot of dramatic moments. Her character goes through a lot, and I thought Sophie Turner did a pretty decent job with all of it. Jean Grey starts the movie as a confident, and proud member of the X-Men. She then goes on a very emotional journey.
Jean becomes an outcast, she has to deal with trauma from her past, and has to go through all of this while dealing with an incredibly powerful force that she knows nothing about. She fears that she cannot control the power within her and fears that she cannot protect those she cares about from that power. This was not the type of performance that will stick with you after the movie is over, but she delivered the performance that the story needed from her. This was far from a great movie, but Sophie Turner was far from being the reason why.
Con: Charles (-4pts)
I really did not like where the filmmakers took this character in this movie. For the sake of moving the plot along, the writers had Charles do things that did not make any sense for the character. We have seen James McAvoy’s version of Charles Xavier over the course of a few movies. Has he always made the right decision? No, but he has become a character that is as wise and intelligent as he is kind and caring (especially caring for the young mutants that he looks after). Was the character in a sound state of mind at the beginning of X-Men: Days of Future Past? No, but he very much grew from that.
The writers of this movie seemed to go against this version of Charles. They did it for the sake of moving the plot along, but they did not give the character any development that showed how he became this way. The filmmakers ignored everything about the character that came before, which made this feel more like an alternate version of the Charles that should have been in this movie. If we had not seen a bunch of other movies featuring this character, then this would have been okay. However in the final movie of Fox’s X-Men franchise, the filmmakers decided to deliver a version of Charles that was entirely inconsistent with everything that has come before.
Pro: Michael Fassbender (+3pts)
As always, Michael Fassbender brought a great performance to this movie. His character did not get much development in this story, but Michael Fassbender gave Magneto enough depth to make him compelling to watch anyway. The character is in pain, the character is angry, the character wants revenge, and he wants to protect his fellow mutants. We have seen all of this before with this character, and we have seen Michael Fassbender do a great job of bringing all of these emotion to the screen.
Michael Fassbender did not bring anything “different” to the role in this movie, as the writers did not give him anything “different” to work with. However, his character was not the focal point of this movie. He delivered the strong performance that we have grown to expect from him and this character. It was the performance that the character needed from him and it was the performance that the movie needed from the character. I have seen Michael Fassbender do it better in movies where his character got more focus, but he certainly delivered here and made the movie more entertaining to watch when he was on screen.
Con: Jessica Chastain (-4pts)
I mentioned Jessica Chastain as one of the film’s issues, but I do not think the fault lies with Jessica Chastain at all. I only used the actress‘ name, as I do not want to spoil the character she is playing or what her story is. What I can say about the character is that she is an alien and she is after Jean Grey for some reason. This whole storyline felt unnecessary and it felt like a distraction from the story that I wanted to see. I wanted to see how each of the mutants that we are familiar with dealt with the power of Dark Phoenix.
I wanted to see the X-Men and Magneto struggle with the ramifications of what the Dark Phoenix did. The filmmakers definitely focused on that a little, but the Chastain-alien storyline was forced into the movie as well. It was not compelling, not impactful, and felt like a waste of screen time. Again, I do not blame Jessica Chastain in any way, as I think she is a talented actress. However, the character she played did nothing other than take screen time away from more interesting characters (characters that felt like they actually mattered to the story). This character got plenty of screen time, but I really did not care about any of it.
Pro: The Climax (+4pts)
I have no intention of giving anything away but, even though the film’s plot was a bit of a mess (which I will get into later), I did enjoy the climax of this movie. There was plenty of mutant action, and I thought the filmmakers did a pretty good job of showcasing each mutant’s abilities in a cool and entertaining way. The action in this movie, as a whole, was pretty good. I do not think any action sequence was poorly done but, I found the climax of the movie pretty entertaining and certainly more entertaining than the action sequences that came earlier in the movie. Knowing the issues that I had with the film, my enjoyment of the film’s climax is a testament to how well I think the filmmakers executed the final action sequence of the movie.
Con: The Plot & The Pacing (-6pts)
The plot of Dark Phoenix felt chopped up and slapped together. It felt like the filmmakers tried to put too much into this story, and it felt like they did not care if what they were putting in here made any sense. I honestly think there was a decent story in here somewhere, but it was muddied by poor writing and irrelevant storylines. It just felt like I was watching one random, meaningless scene after another.
While I had my issues with the plot, it was the pacing of the movie that made the plot issues more obvious. Between seemingly random scenes, the filmmakers made awkward transitions that slowed the story down and took me out of the movie (enough for me to realize the plot issues of this story). The best way for me to explain it, is to compare this movie to Frankenstein‘s monster. You can call this a movie in the same way you can say that Frankenstein‘s monster is alive. That would be an accurate statement, but anyone who looks at it can see the blatant stitch work from where the filmmakers tried to connect random parts, in an attempt to create a movie. It is a movie, sure, but it did not feel like these random scenes connected naturally.
Grade: C- (72pts)
I had heard plenty of bad buzz about this movie, months before its release date. That being said (with Disney buying Fox) this will be the last movie in Fox’s X-Men franchise, so I was curious enough to see what would happen in this movie. Unfortunately, the bad buzz was mostly accurate, but may have been a bit too harsh. The movie suffered from a slightly incoherent story, poor pacing, and an uninteresting antagonist. The filmmakers also decided to develop Charles Xavier in a way that felt wildly inconsistent with the character’s story in the movies leading up to this one. Fortunately, the movie was not all bad, but it’s weaknesses mostly outweighed its strengths.
Sophie Turner did a pretty good job in the lead role, and Michael Fassbender delivered the strong, layered performance that we have come to expect from the talented actor (and the character he played). Even the final action sequence, once we got there, was pretty entertaining. There was a lot going on, with a lot of different characters using a wide variety of powers, but the filmmakers did a pretty solid job of making it both engaging and entertaining. At the end of the day, Dark Phoenix suffered from some pretty major issues. I honestly do not think it was absolute trash like some of the negative reviews would lead you to believe. I think the issues that people had were justified, but I think that a lot of reviews exaggerated the severity of those issues. It was not a terrible movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is definitely toward the bottom of the list when ranking Fox’s X-Men movies.