DARK PHOENIX review by Patrick Hendrickson – the last Fox pre-Disney buyout X-MEN film is a dud

DARK PHOENIX review by Patrick Hendrickson – the last Fox pre-Disney buyout X-MEN film is a dud

Click on image to see it full-size.


DARK PHOENIX is presumably the last entry in the 20-year-old X-Men film franchise… a franchise that has had several low points and several high points. This latest entry has the significance of perhaps being the least entertaining of them all. Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is a powerful psychic and telepath living in a world of mutants. During a space mission she becomes enveloped by a mysterious force, which sets her powers and emotional state careening into uncontrolled territory. Her friends, family, and enemies all begin honing in on her in an attempt to contain, control, or terminate the threat she poses.

Several mainstays of this franchise all return in their classic appearances. James McAvoy as Professor Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult as Beast. They are all comfortable in their roles, but sadly none of their characters go anywhere in this film, which is understandable considering that they’re played out at this point. These actors and actresses have been portraying these roles for almost a decade at this point, and their arcs were pretty solidly completed by the end of the previous entry in this series.

The newer characters have very little to work with as well. Turner barely manages to hold the weight of this production on her shoulders. She does the best job of the cast, but that is not saying much. Tye Sheridan portrayed Grey’s love interest Cyclops who has minimal chemistry with Grey. Sheridan does a decent job, but again, he is given NOTHING to work with by the script. Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, and Kodi-Smitt McPhee reprise their respective roles as Storm, Quicksilver, and Nightcrawler, but they are very underutilized. Quicksilver has maybe ten
lines of dialogue and two scenes total. The final notable character would be an alien by the name of Vuk, who takes over Jessica Chastain. Or at least that’s what I’m lead to believe considering that the woman has NO characterization or identity outside of being Vuk’s host. This is a boring role upon which Chastain’s talent is wasted. Vuk attempts to persuade Jean Grey to give in to her new power and potential for domination.

The film begins with a question posed by Grey, “Who are we?” …there was a question I was pondering throughout the runtime which was, “Why does this movie exist?” There were no satisfying answers brought forth from the plot, nor from any analysis of it. In many ways, this entry feels like a stepping stone to some larger story, one that is unlikely to be told given the interplay of the different corporations behind X-Men. Professor Xavier has been dramatically castrated in this film, in part because of the writing and in part because of how tired this franchise is. Magento describes this perfectly in one swift statement, “You’re always sorry Charles, and there’s always a speech, but nobody cares anymore.” Brave of the screenwriters to put forth the harshest criticism of their film in its very own script.

However, Magneto is not characterized any better. There is a somewhat engaging scene wherein he describes how he eventually gave up killing and revenge once he realized it would not bring him happiness. Two scenes later and he is attempting to kill Jean Grey for the purposes of revenge. Magento serves as a villainous presence solely because he is the most recognizable villain of the X-men franchise rather than for any reasons that make sense for his character or the plot.

This film does have some relatively flashy action sequences, but there is nothing that has not been done before in this franchise already and nothing done to such a high quality that it is worth noting. The action is of very little consequence because the plot is so ineffectual. The special effects are nice enough in certain moments, but there are some really dumb powers showcased this time around. One of Magneto’s nameless henchmen has long whipping hair which is played not for laughs but as a serious threat. Vuk is joined by several dozen other aliens who resemble strange tree figures but are completely lacking in any kind of intimidation factor. Additionally, there are times when the effects are downright cartoonish and lacking in any kind of impact.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Dark Phoenix story has been put into film.
X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (aka X3) also tried to tell this story and was rightfully cut to pieces at the time. However, that film had some entertaining moments, a sense of climax, and even had a few powerful scenes. It was bad, but it had some value. DARK PHOENIX does not. This SHOULD have been an emotionally poignant send-off to the franchise that can be credited with resurrecting the superhero genre of film nearly 20 years ago, but instead it feels almost like a cliff-note. There is no gravitas to this entry, no drama, no development of any characters. This is as bog-standard an X-Men film as could be made with a few mediocre action scenes as its only credit. DARK PHOENIX gets a 1/5.

DARK PHOENIX opens June 7, 2019

Be Sociable, Share!

About the Author