Answer the question, which is worse? Retelling a story (film wise) that was great to begin with and it results in so-so to terrible results? Or retelling a story (film wise) that was shit to begin with and it results in being even shittier than the first outing? Need more information? The first question for example would be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and Star Trek Into Darkness and the second question for example would be X-Men The Last Stand and Dark Phoenix. When given those options, I would say the latter question is definitely, definitely worse. Other than this first paragraph and the last paragraph, my review will contain major, major, major spoilers. Like I will talk about the 20th Century Fox X-Men Franchise as a whole, how the timeline is fucked up, the ending to this movie, the entire outcome of this movie and so on. So if you still want to read my review having not seen this movie, you’ve been warned. But if you want to stop but you want to ultimately know what I think, only read this and the last paragraph, but I’ll leave you with this: DARK PHOENIX is easily the worst X-Men film and one of the most boring experiences I’ve ever had with a superhero comic book movie in general.
Still with me? How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. Needless to say, Dark Phoenix should never have been made in the first place. X-Men Days Of Future Past was supposed to basically restart the entire timeline and essentially get X-Men The Last Stand and X-Men Origins Wolverine completely erased from canon (and unfortunately erasing from canon the original X-Men, X2, and The Wolverine but that’s another topic for another day). DOFP is a near perfect X-Men Film, with an interesting ending where Mystique supposedly fishes Wolverine out of a body of water instead of William Stryker, hinting that the franchise could go anywhere and tell new stories. Then came the so-so X-Men Apocalypse, co-written by Simon Kinberg who is now the sole person to blame for fucking up this franchise, that while it gave us a new villain with the younger cast of X-Men characters, said “Fuck DOFP’s ending because we don’t know any interesting way to write ourselves out of it,” had Stryker ending up for some reason still getting the Wolverine in their possession because cool cameo because they couldn’t come up with anything new or interesting because lazy.
X-Men Apocalypse isn’t that bad of a movie though. It has some interesting sequences, some good action and a climax that while it has an epic scale feel to it, it is basically everybody standing in one place trying to kill the villain, and ends up feeling anti-climatic. The ending to that film also has a weird thing of Jean Grey getting her Phoenix powers quite early but being able to control them very quickly because reasons, but I digress. My point is that if you want the franchise to end on good terms, after having watched Apocalypse, you could watch Logan (it being the film that has the furthest alternate timeline with events affected by DOFP) and then be done with it. But no, they are ending it with this. And the reason this makes me upset is that they could’ve done any story they wanted to. Bring in different villains, different threats we haven’t seen before and these different threats. That’s what an alternate timeline is supposed to do in movies! But writer/director Simon Kinberg felt bad about his part with the Dark Phoenix plotline in The Last Stand that he felt redoing that story for this was his “apology.” His “apology” is really a “gotcha” moment of Lucy taking away the football right at the last second so Charlie Brown can’t kick it.
So basically, yet again, we are getting a Star Trek Into Darkness type situation. The writer couldn’t come up with anything different, and decided to redo something that didn’t need to be redone. The only difference between Into Darkness and Dark Phoenix is that Into Darkness was at least half way decently entertaining. Dark Phoenix is the most bored I’ve ever been in a superhero comic book film. Yes, that even includes Ang Lee’s Hulk, Elecktra, and the reboot of Fantastic Four (another fault of Simon Kinberg, did 20th Century Fox not learn from that shit?!) At least X-Men Origins and The Last Stand had some entertainment value and they also had Hugh Jackman bringing his A game to very lackluster scripts. Dark Phoenix doesn’t have Hugh Jackman at all and doesn’t pick up at all until the very last re shot third act on the train, and yet even that sequence ends in the ultimate whimper. Sorry, this review is so long, but there is so much more to talk about. Side note: Hans Zimmer so called score that all these critics are saying is the really only good part of the movie, is “meh” at best. It isn’t memorable AT ALL.
Everybody in this movie sucks except for Michael Fassbender as Magneto (who doesn’t show up until the movie is half over and is the least he’s ever been in an X-Men film, YOU DON’T WASTE FASSBENDER…EVER!!!), Tye Sheridan as Cyclops (the movies still don’t know what to do with his character, but at least Sheridan is charismatic and does what he can in the role), and surprisingly Sophie Turner (who was terrible in X-Men Apocalypse but in defense her character wasn’t given much to do). Jennifer Lawrence looks like she wants to shoot herself (like she did in Apocalypse) for even agreeing to be in this movie, and phones it completely in again, making you wish she had the intensity she brought in First Class and DOFP. Thankfully, as the trailers basically spelled out, it kills her 30 minutes into the movie. James McAvoy seems like he is completely somewhere else and is on a lot of painkillers just to get through shooting this thing. Same for Nicholas Hoult. But the one truly wasted actor here is the villain, played by Jessica Chastain. She phones it in as well, not knowing who her character is supposed to be, because frankly, I don’t even think the script knew. It has the least developed villains I have ever seen in a superhero motion picture, and that includes Steppenwolf from Justice League and Drax the Destroyer from Guardians of the Galaxy. They have a two sentence dialogue of their back story, which completely went over my head, as I just didn’t give a shit.
The plot? All over the fucking place. At the beginning of the film the X-Men go off into space with just a few lines of dialogue as to how their jet can make it combined with some duct tape for make shift astronaut suits so they can breathe (I shit you not) to rescue some astronauts whose shuttle has come into contact with some solar flare mass pink thing. Anyway, Jean Grey gets stuck in the doomed shuttle and ends up absorbing this solar flare thing and she just becomes Dark Phoenix. Oh, and some alien villains we never get to know were monitoring this mass this entire time because it destroyed their home world yet they want to absorb it and keep its power as well. Then some shit goes down, Mystique is killed kind of by accident, and character motivations go completely out the window. Magneto is basically living in peace on this secluded piece of land with other mutants with no modern technology, but completely changes his tune and becomes an asshole again with a snap of the fingers just because Mystique is killed, because he “loves” her even though he really just banged her once. At least Fassbender tries and does his best with pulling off that too quick emotional transition fast.
The movie ruins most of all the other characters that were cool well acted in the past films as well. Xavier is painted as a egotistical bad guy for most of the movie, Mystique doesn’t do any awesome physical fighting in this and Lawrence tries to get out of the blue paint again as much as possible, they ruin Beast by having him turn bad with not that much motivation other than Magneto’s. They manage to completely waste Quicksilver. Writer Kinberg knew that Quicksilver was too powerful (just like the writers knew that Captain Marvel was too powerful and she was hardly in Endgame) so instead of doing another shocking moment and killing him off he is just disabled after his brief fight with Jean Grey. His moment at the beginning trying to rescue the astronauts from space was okay but no where near the heights of his sequences in DOFP and Apocalypse. Storm says like 5 lines and just does her lightning thing which all felt wasted. Nightcrawler has a couple of cool action beats but his characterization…wait, what characterization? The only two characters that get a bump up from previous films characterization wise are Cyclops and Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix. Sophie Turner actually does an excellent job here with her acting skills (and one would argue she is better in this than she was in her entire run on Game of Thrones). It was the only time I felt like an actual character was trying to illicit genuine emotions from the audience, even though in the end it ultimately didn’t work because the story completely fell flat.
At the end of the film you have Jean Grey taking Jessica Chastain into space, destroying her, and then just going off into parts unknown as a fiery phoenix symbol. Xavier leaves the school and meets up with Magneto, who offers to take him to a place where he will be accepted and they play another game of chess in France. Beast is now the headmaster of the school and the school’s name is changed from Xavier’s School For Gifted Children into Jean Grey’s School For Gifted Children because even though she killed a bunch of people as the Phoenix, why the hell not for forced story’s emotion sake right? I guess the ending does co-align with what we saw in the changed future in Days of Future Past, but since Disney now has the X-Men you will just have to fill in the gaps instead of getting another story with a proper ending with this cast. In your mind you will have to imagine that Jean Grey comes back to the school and still ends up with Cyclops. Xavier at one point comes back to head the school. The only person we didn’t see in DOFP changed future was Mystique, which was probably why Simon Kinberg killed her off, feeling that it would be “shocking,” even though he couldn’t literally kill anyone else. I don’t know, the whole aging timeline thing was fucked up when Apocalypse was a decade later than DOFP and literally Dark Phoenix’s ending is supposed to be hopeful, but the rest of the movie is a dark, depressing, and damaged mess that you can’t help but feel ultimately let down from a franchise you have been with for 19 years. That’s where my solution of just ignoring this films events and going straight from Apocalypse to Logan comes in. Logan is dark and depressing as well with a very hopeful ending, but at least it was all packaged into a masterpiece of a movie.
And I’ve already said it several times throughout this film. The film is very, very boring. I almost fell asleep several times as my eyes were the heaviest they have been in a long time while watching a movie. There are really only two to three minor action sequences before the big linear train climax and those action sequences were directed and shot really poorly by Simon Kinberg. The worst one being the mid film mini street battle outside a townhouse that Jessica Chastain’s alien character and Jean Grey are staying at. I couldn’t tell what the fuck was going on action wise. The one thing that the final act train sequence does correctly is that it lets Cyclops use the fuck out of his laser blast eyes and it shows Magneto finally going full Wolverine “bezerker” mode and killing a bunch of aliens in the most bad ass way possible that we haven’t seen in other films. Those 5 minutes can easily be watched in a future clip on YouTube.
Before I get to my last concluding paragraph, because I’m tired of being disappointed by this movie, let’s get to whose fault this really is: Simon Kinberg. Sure, he co-wrote Days of Future Past and the first Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr., but you are meaning to tell me that 20th Century Fox was putting their full faith in the guy to redo the Phoenix story that also wrote/co-wrote Jumper, XXX: State of the Union, This Means War, the FANTASTIC FOUR REBOOT AND FUCKED UP THE STORY ONCE ALREADY WITH THE LAST STAND?!? Come on, this guy was showing ALL the warning signs. I guess you can blame the Fox executives as well but I’m just going to write that off as ignorance at trying to polish a turd. A turd that has already avoided being polished a dozen times previously.
Why is my longest review yet at 11 paragraphs long and it is a negative review? Shouldn’t long spoiler filled reviews be about films that you love and just can’t stop talking about? You would think so. But alas, no. It’s just the culmination of the 19 years and 12 films we’ve had in this franchise all coming to an end. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster. When the franchise hit its highs, it REALLY hit its highs, and when it his those mediocre bumps and those terrible terrible lows, well…it really shit the bed didn’t it. It is just kind of depressing to end things this way. I know, I know. We still have one last Fox one when The New Mutants finally decides to do their re-shoots and edited it all into something coherent for April 2020, but given how long that film has been delayed, do you really think it is going to make much of a difference. Also, it doesn’t really contain any sort of continuity with the other X-Men films at all, and in the end I just have a feeling the 13th and final film containing X-Men is going to be at the bottom of the barrel with the worst of them. If 20th Century Fox (now owned by Disney) wanted to recoup some of its money on these disasters it should’ve just released the initial watchable cut of The New Mutants on Hulu this very weekend. Whoever didn’t think of that should be fired. While on the one side it sucks that this series ended with a shitty whimper, on the bright side maybe it is now something that Disney can actually reboot and do something special with WHILE incorporating it into the MCU. My suggestion? Make it have the spirit and panache of the X-Men Animated Series. Oh shit, I just realized, with The New Mutants, they really are ending on 13 films. Really? They are going to end the entire series on an unlucky number? Even if you take away the two Deadpool films, that would make it ending on 11, as in filing a CHAPTER 11. Pffft, figures.
My Ranking of X-Men Films (including Deadpool)
- Days Of Future Past
- First Class
- Deadpool 2
- The Wolverine
- The Last Stand
- Origins Wolverine
- Dark Phoenix