X-Men: Dark Phoenix Review
Dark Phoenix (2019)
Dir: Simon Kinberg | Cast: James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Sophie Turner | Writers: Chris Claremont (story "The Dark Phoenix Saga"), Dave Cockrum (story "The Dark Phoenix Saga"), Jack Kirby (comic book created by), John Byrne (story "The Dark Phoenix Saga"), Simon Kinberg, Stan Lee (comic book created by)
The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most well-known and much loved stories in mainstream superhero comic culture. As such, it’s always been an incredibly difficult one to move to the big screen. In his directorial debut, Simon Kinberg doesn’t manage to crack this adaptation, despite being a veteran of the X-Men franchise as both screenwriter, producer, and comic book fan. In fact, he doesn’t even come close with thanks to clichéd and cringe-inducing dialogue and direction. With that being said, however, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is entertaining, though not always for the right reasons.
After a space mission goes sour, Jean Grey is infused with a cosmic force that have heightened her psychic powers. The X-Men must deal with the tensions that result from Professor Xavier’s decision to risk the lives of the mutants to maintain peace with the humans, as well as the increasingly unstable newly powered Jean. These new abilities attract some extra-terrestrial, extra-powerful enemies too. While the X-Men tear themselves apart, these foes plot to keep them, and all of humanity, down for good.
You might think that, with so much of this film focusing on the acquisition of corruption and otherworldly powers, Dark Phoenix would be full of action and flare. You’d be wrong. There are some exciting sequences once you reach the final stretch of the film and there are many that remind you how dark the X-Men franchise can get in its fight choreography. We do also get to see a little bit of Jean as Dark Phoenix, testing the limit of her powers but not nearly enough. Other than these moments, the film remains fairly sedated.
Though not necessarily a criticism in itself (films such as Logan have made it evident that superhero films can be meditative in nature) there is no real emotional narrative to rely on when it comes to Dark Phoenix. Her character development is rushed and reliant on heavy-handed flashbacks and dialogue. So many lines uttered in this film come across as corny rather than sincere; though while Sophie Turner’s American accent takes more than a while to stomach her performance is fantastic, matching that of James McAvoy’s Xavier, yet neither of them can compete with some of the writing that is thrown at them here.
Without a doubt, the best part of Dark Phoenix is its original music provided by Hans Zimmer, a composer not new to the sounds of a superhero film having also scored four Batman movies, one Superman, and one Spider-Man. The songs are dark, haunting, and epic in proportion — matching up with what the film aims for, although doesn’t quiet achieve. The second track ‘Dark’ is more memorable than much of the film, with an eery intensity that makes it worth the listen even if you don’t decide to give the movie a watch itself.
With ill-defined villains, set-pieces too infrequent and insubstantial, and writing that undermines the nuanced performances of a stellar cast, Dark Phoenix is a sad goodbye to Fox’s X-Men franchise. It is by no means the worst X-Men movie (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I’m looking at you) and it certainly has some fun moments, but unfortunately these moments are outweighed by, well, everything else.