When you’re contractually obligated to provide one last movie.
The year is 1992, and the world appears to hate mutants much less than they did. One reason is the X-men, which everyone seems to know about now and has also started licensing merchandise. Although ill-advised and woefully unprepared, Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) authorizes his team to rescue the crew of an adrift space shuttle — in space! When a mysterious energy field threatens to derail the effort, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) draws the force away but also inexplicably into herself. Miraculously surviving what should have killed her, the students at Xavier’s School for Gifted Children give her a new nickname — Phoenix — but what has risen from the ashes may be something much darker: a Dark Phoenix!
It’s been suggested that the success of the first X-men movie nineteen years ago may have given Marvel the push to take back their properties and create their billion-dollar cinematic-universe success story. With relatively little money and some great casting, X-men brought to life comic characters in a serious way that had rarely been attempted before. Since then, however, the franchise has been disjointed as the same issues that have plagued previous Marvel properties re-emerged: assigned filmmakers having no idea what to do with the intellectual property. Without a guiding hand, this latest installment — possibly the last following the Fox film merger with Disney — tries once again to adapt the Dark Phoenix saga storyline. Fans might hope the final cut is better than what the trailers appear to show, but could it be even far worse than predicted?
Imagine a brainstorming session where someone put down separate ideas for a movie each onto a single note card… before someone else mistook those for individual scenes in the same movie and tried in vain to arrange them into one. The result doesn’t just feel irresponsible; it reeks of desperation, hoping that anything that makes it on-screen might be watchable. It’s a disservice to a great cast and X-fans everywhere to undermine all that has come before only to be upstaged by two farcical Deadpool movies that provide a far better representation.
If one were to nitpick even a little, you could fill an entire movie review with iniquities. MINOR SPOILER WARNING: Since aliens from other planets haven’t been introduced into the X-men Universe before now, why isn’t this the biggest news/shock/revelation of their lives? Aliens, guys — from outer space — but in this mishmash, it’s a footnote, unworthy of hardly a mention that an invasive species has arrived on Earth. C’mon now: the only thing more hated than untrustworthy mutants are illegal aliens taking mutant jobs, right?
The heroes who abruptly decide it’s okay to kill… wouldn’t. The heroes who actually START killing also wouldn’t. Weather control doesn’t work IN SPACE. When you call forth lightning, it doesn’t come out of your hands… unless you’re The Shocker. Where the hell did the US government procure a Nazi transport train… and where have they been hiding it? What was the ritzy-looking townhouse that Jessica Chastain’s character took Jean Grey to? The once-and-future Hellfire Club, maybe?
The list goes on. It’s okay to have booze in your private study, but an open bar sitting in the community kitchen of a school with under-aged children? Yeah, Wolvie kept beer in the fridge, but no one would dare touch it… nor was he there yet. Are Scott and Jean shacking up in the same room? How old are they again? None of the current first-class X-men would hit a bar to drown their sorrows, least of all the one who did. Xavier’s advanced “future” tech in 1992 is apparently a 2019 finger oximeter and a blood pressure writst cuff; pick both up at any local CVS pharmacy for authentic cosplay!
The special effects team(s) got paid to add a few new bits to their sizzle reel, but seriously: shouldn’t the story of Jean Grey be about Jean Grey, not about figuring out which man in her life wronged her first or the most? Was labeling the transport troop’s uniforms “M.C.U.” an intentional jab at 20th Century Fox’s new Mouse masters? And finally, was that supposed to be Dazzler badly lip-syncing at a mutant children’s party? Those responsible for this travesty should dropped on the moon without a spacesuit before being forced to listen to The Watcher drone on for all of eternity.
Dark Phoenix is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action including some gunplay, disturbing images, brief strong language, and accepting that X-men: Days of Future Past was the best ending for the current incarnation.
Zero skull recommendation out of four