Dark Phoenix is a disappointing conclusion to a mostly successful prequel series that once gave us career-best performances from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Unfortunately, this installment feels forced, lacks focus and squanders all talent involved.
Dark Phoenix is Fox’s farewell X-Men tale, wrapping up the prequel series not with a bang, but with a whimper that mostly relies on a flimsy story that attempts to bring back our favorite mutant team once more, only this time to diminishing results.
Dark Phoenix follows Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) as she encounters cosmic forces that are beyond her understanding, which results in her obtaining God-like powers with absolutely no way to control them. Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) pathetically attempts to help her harness all of this range and anger, by balancing her troubled past with her potential bright future, but it doesn’t take long for the Phoenix to look elsewhere, which includes the likes of Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and a new unknown character (Jessica Chastain) that promises to help Jean unlock her full potential.
Dark Phoenix is apparently a popular comic book story that fans have been waiting to see brought to life proper on the big screen. Sadly, this film doesn’t do a good job constructing a story worth telling, as Jean Grey mostly bounces back-and-forth between the “good” guys and the “bad guys”, trying to discover her purpose in life.
Actor Sophie Turner is watchable, but mostly gives off a performance that can be summed up as distracted and not all that urgent. Jean Grey is a character full of rage and aggression, yet this film only highlights the same sequence over and over, ignoring the numerous helping hands and essentially making Grey come off as whiny and unappreciative. I get that she’s going through some unimaginable scenarios, but does that automatically throw out all logic and reason?
The rest of the cast fairs worse, with performances ranging from unamused to unmotivated. James McAvoy gives a forcefully dry performance as the usually chipper Professor X. in Dark Phoenix, Prof. X has no more tricks up his sleeve and mostly only worries about himself, until it feels suddenly appropriate to start worrying about the rest of his mutant family and the world at large.
Michael Fassbender‘s Magneto gives the most boring and uninspired performance of the bunch. You can see on Fassbender’s face that he has absolutely nothing else to say about the tragic character of Erik Lehnsherr. He’s made peace with his past and really has no business getting involved in this one, yet a last-minute character change all but forces him to get involved. Fassbender once gave such a heartfelt and emotional performance in X-Men: First Class that is mostly wasted in Dark Phoenix and it’s terribly sad to see how far his character has fallen.
This is all very disappointing, not just because this is probably the last Fox-produced X-Men movie before Disney takes full control, but also because director Simon Kinberg actually does a bang up job with the mutant action, capturing the different abilities and powers with a fresh set of eyes that brings the intensity and raises the stakes.
The last act train sequence is well-constructed and pulled off by using spacial awareness, mixed with CGI and proper camera placement. The story makes not a lick of real sense, but the choreography is shot in a way that gives you full control of the sequence, jumping effortlessly from character-to-character without any lost motion.
The rest of Dark Phoenix feels like a forced cash grab that’s taking full advantage of the contracts that were probably set in place long before this film started shooting. None of the cast seems the least bit interested in closing out their characters or this chapter of their careers, instead phoning in their performances from across the room.
The story of Dark Phoenix should’ve just stayed on the comic book pages, because this film gives no real reason to make you think otherwise.