A mixed bag is putting is lightly. The final entry in the Fox X-Men saga has come to an end and it is a doozy. Horrendous writing, poor acting, and a lack of chemistry between characters are just some the crimes committed by this movie. Before I come across as nothing but negative, I will say that there are some great moments and aspects but overall it was one of the worst movies of the year.
First I draw a comparison to another Marvel film this year that left us at Couch Crunchers underwhelmed, Captain Marvel. One thing that the female led flick did well was dial in to 90’s nostalgia. For a movie that takes place in the 90’s there was little nostalgia to be had. Apocalypse wasn’t full of it either but it had a lot more call backs than Dark Phoenix. It was a massive shame especially since I grew up in the 90’s and enjoyed the call backs in Captain Marvel. I figured that, if nothing else, I would be transported back to my childhood when watching the movie. Instead, I felt like there was no reason for the story to take place in this particular decade other than that each movie in the prequel series has been in a new decade. Where all others utilized their time periods, Dark Phoenix failed miserably in this area.
Another point of failure comes with the titular character. Dark Phoenix and Jean are both portrayed worse than in X-Men The Last Stand. Sophie Turner’s acting was disastrous and laughable. In scenes where she was supposed to be sad, I thought she was trying to punk us with bad acting. There were a couple good moments from her such as the end fight but otherwise the performance was dull and wooden. Despite it’s issues, the original X-Men trilogy was fairly well cast, including the casting of Jamke Janssen as Jean. When X-Men Apocalypse came out in 2016 I was underwhelmed by Sophie Turner as Jean and didn’t expect any better. Somehow it was worse which was accentuated by the fact that Ty Sheridan was far better as Cyclops this time around. The chemistry between the two leads was lacking in every way which made their supposed love story weaker than ever. The story tried to play off their relationship but it was so poorly executed that it didn’t ever land.
In many ways, Dark Phoenix is a retelling of X-Men The Last Stand. For the most part I didn’t mind that. The timeline was altered after X-Men Days of Future Past but I would anticipate that similar things would still happen. Granted, Phoenix came a couple decades early and has a different origin but I can see passed that. I enjoyed some of the rehashed aspects to the story such as Jean’s childhood, backstory in general and relationship to Charles. It was different enough that it was interesting but similar enough that it felt like a retelling.
What is strange in the story is how Professor X is painted as a villain. It isn’t executed well and doesn’t fit with what we have learned about the character in 8 movies. Add to that the fact that his “villainy” isn’t ever really faced much and it was a waste of a subplot. Worse was the reality that the true villain of the story wasn’t ever even named and didn’t have any character development. Jessica Chastain was criminally misused for this movie considering her other roles such as in Zero Dark Thirty and Interstellar. Her character has zero depth and a boring and even more generic motivation. A story is often as good as its villain. Considering how bad the villain was, it is no wonder Dark Phoenix is also bad.
Now that a good chunk of my critiques are out of the way let me get into what I liked about the movie as there is a fair amount. The end sequence is an adrenaline pumping fight scene that rivals many other great Marvel movies. Don’t expect epic levels like Avengers: Endgame by any means but the moment when Nightcrawler goes full berserk mode is a sight to behold. It is possibly the best Nightcrawler fight to ever grace live action and made the portrayal by Kodi Smit-Mcphee all the more enjoyable.
Magneto was wonderful as always. Michael Fassbender is an incredible Magneto and a big part of what made these prequels as enjoyable as they were in the first place. I can’t think of a scene he was in that I didn’t enjoy. I was confused as to why he didn’t have gray hair considering he would now be around 60 years old but oh well. The aging in these prequels has never been consistent so I shouldn’t have expected any different now.
Speaking of Magneto, his son Quicksilver was duped. In general Dark Phoenix was too short which led to a rushed story and less screen time. Quicksilver has hilarious scenes in the last two films in the series so I rightfully expected similar here. When his scenes were short and uninteresting I was confused. Why spend two films giving us such a joyous character to hardly use him at all. About half way through the movie, Quicksilver is no longer used at all and we never get a resolution to the subplot that Magneto is his father despite the fact that it has been teased for the last two films. I left scratching my head as to why there was absolutely no mention of their relationship and why he got hardly any screen time. As one of the best parts of the X-Men series, Quicksilver was sadly left as a side character.
I did not realize until the end credits that Hans Zimmer was scoring Dark Phoenix. Zimmer has been my favorite composer for some time now but I didn’t know he was involved with the project. Throughout the film I kept thinking how great the music was and that it truly added to some of the moments that were less stellar. When the credits rolled and I saw who composed the film, it all made sense. The score is incredible and fitting for a superhero movie. It’s too bad that the movie isn’t deserving of Hans Zimmer but that is another point altogether.
Dark Phoenix isn’t the worst X-Men movie but it is definitely a contender with Wolverine Origins, X-Men The Last Stand and X-Men Apocalypse. I don’t know what I was expecting. The younger cast was poorly developed in Apocalypse and therefore the emotional moments in Dark Phoenix didn’t mean much. Even when tragedy strikes the team, I didn’t feel anything because the relationships didn’t feel established enough. A poorly cast Jean, no chemistry between her and Scott and the still cringe worthy good guy version of Mystique were hard to stomach. Luckily the film was scored by a musical genius and supported by great characters like Professor X, Magneto, Nightcrawler and Quicksilver. The good moments in this movie were pretty good but the bad moments were overwhelming and made for a disappointing conclusion to 19 years of X-Men. I look forward to what Disney has to offer in the coming years. They have an easier road ahead after films like Dark Phoenix but an uphill battle with the eventual casting of Wolverine.
2 out of 5 Couch Cushions and a Throw Pillow!!!