DARK PHOENIX Spoiler-Free Review; "The Final Nail In The X-MEN Franchise's Coffin Is Too Average To Matter"
Dark Phoenix has taken a pounding from critics, but does it deserve its Rotten score? After the jump, you'll find my spoiler-free verdict on Fox's final < /> movie from director Simon Kinberg. Check it out...
As an adaptation of the beloved "Dark Phoenix Saga," it fails miserably. Only slightly better than the version we got in The Last Stand, it certainly has its moments, but there's nothing memorable here and nothing that will resonate with you beyond the time it takes you to leave the theater and reach your car.
Surprisingly, Simon Kinberg proves himself a capable director, but it's rather strange that a fairly decent filmmaker is ultimately held back by a weak screenplay when he's the one responsible for writing it. Dark Phoenix's story is straightforward, short on surprises, and riddled with flaws. The '90s setting is meaningless, while it's comical how quickly characters jump from being heroic to villainous and back again. What should have been two, or even three, movies is crammed into a little over 90 minutes, and it's odd to get so many X-Men: First Class references in an adventure that otherwise seems to ignore everything that came before it (and after, seeing as the series is still half in prequel mode).
In a vacuum, Dark Phoenix may not be a bad superhero movie, but seeing these heroes fighting in their street clothes in the back of a train after watching the likes of Avengers: Endgame and even Shazam! makes the movie feel horribly dated, woefully small in scale, and still ashamed and afraid to embrace its comic book roots. Storm uses her powers to make ice cubes, the kids in the school all look like regular children rather than mutants, and Magneto once again surrounds himself with nameless cannon fodder. What happened to Kinberg learning from past mistakes?
The cast does a great job, however, and while Jennifer Lawrence clearly couldn't get out of there fast enough, those who stick around do impress. Sophie Turner is fine as Jean Grey, but the fact that we barely know this version of the character negates much of what she does, and this won't be the movie that makes her a star.
Two things that do elevate Dark Phoenix are Hans Zimmer's score and the action. This movie arguably delivers the franchise's best fight scenes, and the entire train sequence (added in reshoots) is the best thing about the film. However, seeing as Second Unit Director Bryan Smrz is named in the credits as being the one who shot that, he deserves the praise, not Kinberg. Regardless, it's a superb sequence that wouldn't feel out of place in much better comic book movies, and while it's far too small and contained for what should be a truly epic tale, it works really well.
It's that lack of any sort of epicness that really hurts Dark Phoenix when all is said and done. It's underwhelming and plays out in a very straightforward manner. Criticising the movie for not being a grand finale is unfair when the Disney/Fox merger happened so long after shooting started, but if this was meant to be the new direction of the franchise, the series wouldn't have lasted long in today's world of superheroes anyway. Had it been released 15 years ago, it might be a different story.
Dark Phoenix is the final nail in the X-Men franchise's coffin, and it's now up to Marvel Studios to resurrect it. It has its good points and you'll find moments to enjoy, but this is ultimately too average to matter and unable to compete with how the genre has evolved.
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