X-Men – Dark Phoenix

Release Date: June 7

MPAA: PG-13

Director: Simon Kinberg

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence Mister

Marquee Says: This time, the phoenix won’t rise from the ashes.

Number: 3/5

The X-Men Franchise is responsible for the golden age of superhero movies we currently inhabit. They touched on timely issues and found a way to make a serious, mature movie for adult fans that is charming and broadly appealing enough to suck in mass audiences. They were the prototype for superhero cinema. Later on, Logan and Deadpool proved that there was a market for R-rated superhero films and delivered a sombre Western and two hilarious satires.

Sadly, the series is now over, and the genre they popularized has passed them by. When Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) encounters a massive energy force in space, she begins to lose control of her powers and becomes a danger to her fellow mutants. Meanwhile, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) worries that Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is becoming more enamored with his newfound fame as a mutant leader than the welfare of his students. As Jean becomes unstable, memories from her past that were blocked telepathically by Professor Xavier resurface. If this was the cause of Jean’s instability, as is implied at points, fine, that makes perfect sense giving her an arc that deals with repressed trauma while intersecting with Xavier’s wholesome image being tarnished by his increasingly inflated ego and irresponsible manipulation of his students. That would be fine. It’s a shame that this story, the central conflict of the movie, is rendered pretty much null and void because Jean sucks in an alien power in space that is the cause of his instability.

This external stimuli, and a painfully boring Jessica Chastain’s, are really to blame. The only conflict in this movie worth watching is Jean’s struggle with her past and the fractured X-Men, which is undercut but the stupid Phoenix force stuff. Plus, Jean had already used the Phoenix force in Apocalypse, but doesn’t come into contact with it until the beginning of Dark Phoenix…Fox gonna Fox. This is, after all, the franchise who seemingly has writers pen scripts for sequels without actually watching the previous movies. Even with solid installments galore, the X-Men franchise has long frustrated fans with major, in-your-face continuity problems that make the series feel disjointed and sloppy. In one movie, Professor Xavier is paralyzed in the early 60s. In another, he’s walking in the 70s. Somehow, the principal cast hasn’t aged a day from 1962 to 1992 because each movie has to jump forward a decade for the sake of period nostalgia.

 The only thing holding this movie together from the get-go is solid acting. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are great as always, even if Fassbender isn’t given much to do. Nicholas Hoult is fantastic. There is a genuine effort to make a strong emotional story, and I appreciate the scaled-back nature of this film in comparison to the CGI bombast of Apocalypse. At the end of the day, a strong first act sputters out into nothingness, and so ends the X-Men. This movie was doomed from inception. It’s a forced rehash of a story that bombed in 2004 writen by the same guy who wrote that mess in a franchise everyone knows has a date with the guillotine after Disney bought out Fox. It’s a shame that Logan couldn’t have been the final, tear-jerking goodby to this franchise. We have the Fox X-Men movies to thank for all of the good comic book movies available today. We also have X-Men to thank for Marvel’s attention to detail after refusing to repeat Fox’s mistakes.

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