Dark Phoenix is the latest X-Men movie from Sony Pictures. In it, super mutant Jean Grey is infected with mighty cosmic powers that fuel both her power and rage.
Pro – Lesser X-Men: The X-Men are often favorites of many comic book fans for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the diverse characters and powers traditionally found in the group. Unlike the Avengers who tend to be a bunch of all-around powerhouses brought together for a specific purpose (aka the 2006 Miami Heat), the X-Men tend to be much more niche in what they can do. Somebody teleports, someone can turn to metal, someone shoots laser beams, but where they shine is when they team up and work together. Dark Phoenix is at its best when it shines the light on some of these lesser-known superheroes. Fans of the X-Men will enjoy the extra screen time given to Nightcrawler, Storm, Quicksilver, and even Cyclops. The problem is…
Con – Team-ups? There just isn’t enough for the X-Men to do. Despite a short run time, the film feels like it’s just trudging along. Most of the film lacks any true villains, and so the team-ups and combining of powers that define the X-Men just aren’t happening. On top of that, when action does break out, it feels corny. There is a scene where our heroes attempt to cross a street with a ludicrous amount of difficulty. Later, the final set piece should be cool, but we’re never given a true measure of our hero’s abilities to the antagonists. So, even then, are we rooting for underdogs or heroes out for a walk in the park? Even everyone’s power level versus the main focus, Jean Grey the Dark Phoenix, is murky and seems to change as the film goes on.
Con – Manufactured Drama: The story in Dark Phoenix is a forgettable tale in a franchise of forgettable tales. The screen writers seem to want drama and gravitas, but unfortunately that is earned. The story centers around the premise that the head of the X-Men and their school for gifted mutants, Charles Xavier, has become too obsessed and focused on his own fame and social standing. This leads him to take greater and greater risks with his team to earn glory and stay in the good graces of the non-mutant humans.
The premise sounds good, but in practice it just doesn’t hit the notes the film is clearly seeking. The story feels like it’s in “fast forward” as alliances shift on a dime, characters seem to make bizarre choices, and too much is left undone. Instead of feeling compelling, Dark Phoenix just comes off as lame. A movie can’t tell you to feel something, it has to make you feel it. It’s a shame too, because the cast is still fantastic. I will always lament that Michael Fassbender’s amazing performance as Magento has been so wasted in these films.
Dark Phoenix isn’t very good. Unfortunately, that has become the standard for these films. It’s too bad as it wastes some impressive acting talent in a pretty mundane outing at the movies. If you’re a big fan, “BAMF” over to the Friday Palms Theatre to check it out–otherwise, give this one a pass and catch another one of the movies showing right now.