Dark Phoenix Review

The X-Men films franchise is 19 years in and now 12 films deep. Over these years they have given us some of the best comic book movies of all time (Logan, X2) and also some of the worst (X-Men: Apocalypse, X-Men: The Last Stand). With the hit or miss nature of the series, which side of the spectrum will Dark Phoenix land on?

Dark Phoenix Synopsis

Picking up after the events of X-Men: Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix drops you right into what feels like an actual X-Men movie. In the opening scene, our heroes take off to space together to save a crew of astronauts who have had a malfunction during their mission. While trying to save the crew, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) goes inside to hold the ship together but is engulfed by a solar flare. This isn’t your normal solar flare though and just might have a bigger impact on Jean and everyone around her than they expect.

What I Liked

The best part of Dark Phoenix, and one that people should take with them after they leave, is the score. Composed by the great Hans Zimmer (Interstellar, Gladiator), the score for Dark Phoenix is beautiful and haunting. It fits the action great and does it’s best to build tension in scenes where those emotions are supposed to be felt.

Along with the score, there were some pretty good action set pieces. Re-shoots were a big player in the production of this film and there is a action sequence on a train in the 3rd act that is completely re-shoots. It’s honestly the best part of a not so good movie so kudos to them for getting something done right. The action in that scene is great with heroes like Magneto and Nightcrawler doing some pretty amazing stuff.

Finally the last positive of this movie was a select few performances. Specifically Michael Fassbender and Sophie Turner, who both seemed to care about being there and both gave it their all. Out of the new casting over the last few movies, Fassbender has been the best fit and given the best performances consistently over the series.

What Could Have Been Improved

Dark Phoenix is a film littered with issues over the course of it’s runtime. The biggest issue it has though is it’s writing in general. The movie hits just about every trope and cliche to the point where you can accurately predict what characters are going to say next. Character motivations take sharp turns in scene after scene and we also get one of the worst uses of the “F-bomb” in a PG-13 movie. It’s almost as if writer and director, Simon Kinberg, forgot the personalities and roles of all these characters. Mystique suddenly becomes the leader, Xavier comes across as an idiot, and Cyclops is a hot head for some reason. Several characters just act the opposite of how they should be acting.

Along with the abysmal writing is the performances that most of the actors give. While it’s understandable they don’t have much to work with, you could tell they didn’t care in the slightest. Jennifer Lawrence has some of the worst lines in the entire movie and doesn’t even try to make them sound even slightly decent.

“The mind is a fragile thing. Takes only the slightest tap to tip it in the wrong direction.”

Dark Phoenix also suffers from the “terrible villain” syndrome that a lot of older comic book films had. Jessica Chastain is a walking exposition machine who not once even introduces herself. You have no reason for fearing her or even understanding her as a character. Along with not getting to know the villains, Kinberg also decides to throw in some side mutants with not explanation or even names. Characters he wants us to feel for when, in reality, we know nothing about them.

There lies the biggest issue when it comes to Dark Phoenix. Simon Kinberg. Kinberg has had his hands in the X-Men franchise from the start, as a writer, and even wrote X-Men: The Last Stand, which took the Jean Grey/Phoenix storyline and flopped it on its head. After being unsuccessful with their first attempt at the story, Fox did what any normal movie studio would do. They gave it to Kinberg to try a second time but this time he would also be directing! Dark Phoenix is Kinberg’s directorial debut and he just might have been in over his head. Shots are bland and there was nothing that stood out to call this a well directed film.

Dark Phoenix Final Thoughts

The final film in the Fox X-Men franchise overall is a mess. Dark Phoenix is definitely towards the lower end when it comes to the rest of the franchise. The writing is cliched and bad, the characters are hollow, and everyone besides Fassbender and Turner seemed to hate what they were given. If you go in with no prior knowledge of the X-Men and just view this as a standalone movie it might be slightly enjoyable. There are some genuinely good action pieces and fun superhero moments. This isn’t a must see in the theater but if you are a fan of the superhero genre, you might find it fun!

Overall Score 2/5

Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Back Lot 605 Podcast where we fan cast the X-Men team for the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

About the Author
Andy is a contributing writer on the Back Lot 605 team. Movies have always been a big part of his life but his biggest influence in his joy of movies comes from growing up around his step brother, who worked at a video store and wanted to be a director. This led to seeing a lot of dramas and John Wayne movies as a kid. Since then some of his favorite movies include Whiplash, Interstellar, Lord of the Rings, and Gladiator. There isn’t a single genre Andy doesn’t like, but he has a soft spot for Disney, romantic comedies, westerns, and dramas.
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