Avengers: Endgame is not the only movie signifying the end of a Marvel franchise in 2019. X-Men: Dark Phoenix also signals the end of a long time series. While the X-movies have not been as popular as their superhero brethren in the MCU, there is lots of intrigue going into Dark Phoenix. Arguably, the most fascinating question is will we finally see mutants in the MCU? Plus, some people are also interested in how good the movie is.
The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed tales in the X-Men’s storied history. It has been adapted in previous movies and animated series. Even those who are not avid X-fans, are at least familiar with the story. It is emotional and deals with love, loss, power, corruption, and sacrifice. It is easy for audiences to follow and each adaptation is greeted with anticipation.
Dark Phoenix does not live up to to even lowered expectations, unfortunately. For a story that is supposed to be filled with so much emotion and action, the movie is very unexciting. Tears are shed, dark secrets are learned, and battles are fought, but nothing resonates with the audience. Instead of being a series of heavy moments, the film seems content to be a bunch of scenes strung together. Ultimately, it is a waste of some good ideas.
For starters, the story switches up the dynamic between Professor X and Magneto. (In a nice subtle touch, Magneto is always referred to by his real name giving a great sense of familiarity.) The two have always had conflicting ideals but just changing up who is good and evil would be unwelcome and odd. Instead, Dark Phoenix explores the motivations of both making the audience question the idea of what is right and wrong.
This idea is less impressive when deeper revelations are made. Charles is a glory hound? Since when? Things are made worse by the cheesy dialogue. Dark Phoenix is a superhero movie and the X-Men are especially corny. Still, the script here is laughable. The film is filled with lines that everyone knows the character is going to say, but no one wants to hear. The audience was laughing throughout the movie, but never at any of the jokes.
Jessica Chastain does a great job as Vuk, the shapeshifting alien after the power of the Phoenix. The character rarely displays any emotion and comes across as manipulative and powerful. She also is an uninteresting villain. This is no fault of Chastain’s. The character seems more like a throwaway character than a true threat. This is validated in the film’s climax.
The special effects and camera work involving Sophie Turner as the Dark Phoenix is the clear highlight of the movie. Even before her powerful outbursts, Jean Grey comes off as a very threatening character. This is done through some great CGI effects that make it look like a fire is burning in her eyes. Cracks also form on her face that show her fighting the powerful force inside her.
More simple but just as effective are the shadow effects used. There are many moments when Jean is covered in shadows. What prevents this from looking schlocky is the selective use of shadows. It does not look like some generic camera shot trying to make a character look scarier. It almost looks like Jean is cowering in the shadows but for fear of what she can do to others and not because of them. These moments add to an otherwise normal experience.
The X-Men movie franchise has been notoriously inconsistent, so it only makes sense for the final movie to be unmemorable. X-Men: Dark Phoenix never hits the emotional beats it wants to. There are some decent action scenes, but nothing that will stand out. The Dark Phoenix character looks great and the acting is pretty good, but Dark Phoenix is a ho hum send off to some of Marvel’s most famous characters.