Take everything you love about the X-Men franchise and do away with it, but keep enough plot points to make viewers question if they might have already seen this movie. That felt like the exact approach director Simon Kinberg took when orchestrating Dark Phoenix. For what is to be considered the tenth X-Men cinematic outing (including the Wolverine films, and excluding Deadpool) Sophie Turner tries her best to act her way through the muddied take on the “Phoenix Saga” arc, but comes up short. We shouldn’t blame her, she wasn’t the problem. The script is weak, and somehow the concern for these characters’ stakes is even weaker. This installment neither feels like a revitalization of a seasoned series nor a worthy predecessor to those that have come before (it is in line with the cringeworthy X-Men Apocalypse, though). How does a project with so many examples to learn from still miss the mark so badly? I have no answer. Kinberg has maintained full transparency that the script was undergoing rewrites everyday on set. That should have been the first warning sign.
This isn’t the first time we’ve witnessed the emergence of the Phoenix in cinemas. 2006’s X-Men The Last Stand took it’s shot at loosely adapting the storyline. And although it was met with much fan dismay, I didn’t mind it. Just like many comic book films of that era, it successfully executed a new take on pre-existing material. It had a few glaring issues, but that’s common of the genre (i.e. see emo Spider-man). What was so painful amid this attempt is that Dark Phoenix was marketed through press junkets as closely “comic book accurate”—A sentiment that failed to be true. Small details rang authentic, but the majority of scenes felt like nonsensical, glorified cannon fodder.
For a “comic accurate film” killing Mystique within the first forty minutes of the film was a bold, controversial move. By bold, I mean stupid. From a story perspective, it’s understandable that Raven was the catalyst in which acted as the breaking point in sending Magneto and Beast against Charles and friends. But Mystique is an incredibly beloved villain who has such an expansive presence in the X-Men-verse. Her loss is almost immoral. The bizarre creative choices don’t stop there.
Jessica Chastain was long rumored to play Lilandra of the Shi’Ar (which would have been so fufilling because she has such a large role in the Phoenix Saga) but actually took on the role of Vuk, a member of the alien shapeshifting D’Bari race. In the comics, the cosmic Phoenix Force annihilates the D’Bari’s home planet, it’s a really…niche nod. Largely, who cares? The D’Bari feel way too close to a “Walmart-brand Skrulls” to be debuting on screen in the same year as Captain Marvel. Quicksilver is unanimously the best addition to the newer X-Men films, but he is wounded early on (probably due to an extensive American Horror Story schedule) and sidelined from much of the plot. The hallmark Quicksilver high-speed/slow motion action sequence makes an appearance and it’s stunning, but short, and less impressive than the others.
Audiences who turn out for each and every X-Men film know that X-Men Days of Future Past was the end of the original cast’s run and the birth of a new timeline. Sadly, with this new timeline has come with nothing but problems. The misuse of characters and a string of spotty narratives has sent X-Men in a downward spiral. The franchise’s attempt at a do-over, and crafting the team again in fresh faces, has largely been in vain. Dark Phoenix showcased a few heroes’ powers in new and exciting ways which was so amusing to watch and finally introduced Dazzler after teasing her for years but largely failed those of us who really love these mutants. It’s the end of an era. Time for Disney to come in, sweep up this mess and bring this property to its rightful home, the MCU.
What were your favorite and least favorite parts of Dark Phoenix? Let us know in a comment below.
Dark Phoenix is in theaters now