“Dark Phoenix” is a cinematic anomaly. It’s wildly entertaining, yet it’s not a good movie. This supposed final installment in the current X-Men franchise does a few things extremely well, but fails miserably at most others. It’s rotten, yet barely so.
The story revolves around telepathic and telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), a young woman learning to control her powers. When Jean is hit by a mysterious cosmic force in a space explosion, she becomes more powerful and even more unstable. She begins to spiral out of control, hurting those around her. The X-Men team (Evan Peters, Alexandra Shipp , Tye Sheridan, Jennifer Lawrence, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Nicholas Hoult) must rally together to bring her back by fighting off the nefarious leader of a shape-shifting alien race (Jessica Chastain) attempting to exterminate all Earthlings and rule the galaxy.
The story is okay, but there isn’t much to it. The action scenes are all well done, even if there are fewer than you can count on one hand. The awesome CGI special effects are the best thing about the movie, which is sad considering the emotional, human relationships are what have made these characters so great over the years. Give me two hours of Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) shooting the breeze and you can call me happy.
The character of Jean has never been a likeable one, but somehow Turner manages to make her even more unpleasant. It’s not that she’s miscast in the role, but rather her aloofness takes everything a bit too far. I found it difficult to care much at all about this version of Jean, which proved to be a major stumbling block in the success of the film.
The attempts at emotional trauma feel empty because once again, as audiences have now come to expect in every single big-budget superhero movie nowadays, a beloved character is likely to get hurt, maimed or killed. When such a thing happens onscreen, nobody really cares anymore. The actors show up and give a 100% effort across the board, but there’s only so much they can do to elevate the material. At least “Dark Phoenix” serves as a reminder of the genius casting decision that was putting Fassbender into Magneto’s shoes. He’s fantastic in the role here, as usual.
“Dark Phoenix” isn’t a horrible movie on the surface, and it kept me engaged until the end. But it seems the real enemy of this one is time. Once I took an hour to really think about and reflect on the film as a whole, it became obvious that it really isn’t all that good. X-Men fans will likely enjoy this more than others, but it’s still a big disappointment.