Dark Phoenix did the impossible by somehow botching the Marvel comic storyline Dark Phoenix Saga for the second time in a row. Yet somehow making an adaptation that was 10 times worse. Dark Phoenix is the biggest box-office bomb, lowest rated (23% on Rotten Tomatoes), and most unwatchable X-Men movie I’ve ever seen. Sure movies like X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and X-Men: Apocalypse weren’t great, but I still found them enjoyable. Dark Phoenix is a somber joyless mess that’s so boring I nearly fell asleep in the theater. A lot of the problems stem from The Last Stand co-writer Simon Kinberg directing for the first time.
Kinberg clearly has no idea what he’s doing, none of the actors look like they want to be there, and Disney was already close to securing the rights to 20th Century Fox. I honestly stopped caring about anything Fox wanted to do at this point. And they seriously thought they’d keep making X-Men movies for years to come. Intending Dark Phoenix to be a 2 parter, wanting to make a Gambit movie for several years, an X-Force movie, and at least 2 more movies after this one. Fox was clearly trying to extend the franchise as long as they could. Pushing Dark Phoenix back several times until Disney finally sealed the deal. Something that seriously backfired on them since Disney didn’t even bother marketing the movie well…
Dark Phoenix is the clearest sign yet that Fox should have given up the X-Men a long time ago. There’s no denying we have 2000’s X-Men to thank for Marvel’s success moving forward, but the franchise long overstayed its welcome. Ignoring continuity, subtly rebooting, and exhausting so much material that they just did the Dark Phoenix Saga again. It’s widely known amongst Marvel fans that X-Men: The Last Stand did a disservice to the storyline. So I wasn’t overly surprised when Dark Phoenix was announced. The only surprise was them making yet another X-Men movie after already completing the prequel trilogy. Fox thought being experimental like Deadpool or Logan would automatically make Dark Phoenix better, so they didn’t even use X-Men in the title. I absolutely hate Dark Phoenix. Not as much as Fant4stic, but I really do struggle to find any redeeming qualities in it.
Since Hugh Jackman is no longer obligated to appear as Wolverine, Dark Phoenix actually stars Jean Grey this time. Unfortunately, Sophie Turner is awful in the part and should never be the lead in any movie. She barely convinced me in X-Men: Apocalypse, but here she can’t even maintain an American accent. Jean’s telekinetic power manifestation is drastically changed to her inadvertently causing the death of her mother. Then Charles Xavier comes to see her alone and offers her a place in the X-Mansion. It’s great to finally see a bald James McAvoy play Professor X, but it’s not fun when he’s blamed for pretty much everything. I don’t care that Professor X’s mistakes or misjudgements are comic accurate, his fellow Mutants would never just turn on him. The X-Men have also become more like superheroes who go on missions and have a line to the President.
While at the same time continuing the decade hoping gimmick for absolutely no reason. Despite taking place in the 90’s, none of the characters have aged since the 60’s. They don’t even include any 90’s nostalgia. I don’t care that their costumes are yellow & blue, the matching X-Men uniforms they chose are terrible. I should have known the Apocalypse tease was too good to be true. Jennifer Lawrence clearly feels like she’s too good to keep playing Mystique. Not even having a lame excuse for why she’s not blue all the time. She also throws in an extremely forced line about renaming the team X-Women. Nicholas Hoult has also stopped caring by continuing to change into Beast whenever. Tye Sheridan is at least around for the entire movie as Cyclops, but he has no chemistry with Sophie Turner. Cyclops & Jean’s relationship was constantly shortchanged by Fox and they couldn’t even get me to care about the two of them.
Alexandra Shipp has literally nothing to do as Storm. Outside of making ice and having an out of nowhere moment with Xavier. Kodi Smit-McPhee is only there for Nightcrawler’s teleportation and Evan Peters for Quicksilver’s speed. Which is the only thing worth using in the X-Men’s mission to space. Jean is struck by the Phoenix Force similar to the more cosmic comic storyline. Despite it already seeming like Jean had it at the end of Apocalypse. Jean’s power surges and mood swings never feel natural when she wakes up. Only coming out when they attend a Mutant party. A musical light show from Halston Sage as Dazzler may be the only thing I liked in the movie. Just because Dazzler was a long time coming in an X-Men movie. Jean leaves to see her father at her childhood home where she causes mild chaos. The X-Men arrive to help her, but the brief fight results in Mystique’s already spoiled death. I honestly felt nothing. I was more angered by the fact that Quicksilver’s injuries leave him out of the entire movie! Kiss a fun 90’s running monstage goodbye.
Just as frustrating is Beast being so furious at Mystique’s death that he practically becomes a villain. Speaking of villain, they’re just coming up with any excuse to keep Michael Fassbender in the movie as Magneto. The U.S. Government has given Erik Lehnsherr his own island for whatever reason. In the comics, Genosha is a gleaming safe haven for Mutants lead by Magneto. Here it’s just a generic farming community. Jean goes to Erik for help in controlling her power, but he turns her away when she nearly kills military forces that arrive. While doing the dumbest telekinetic performances you’ve ever seen. Returning actors are trying to a degree, but the same can’t be said for Jessica Chastain. After being hinted at playing anyone from a Hellfire Club member to Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire, they finally settled on Vuk. An alien from the insanely obscure D’Bari alien race. Rather than plant aliens, the D’Bari are just bland shapeshifting Skrull knock offs.
Chastain is really going for that Razzie with a lifeless monotone performance. Vuk is an awful forgettable antagonist with a generic plan to gain Jean’s Phoenix Force. Erik wears his helmet and Beast joins him in his mission to kill Jean. As does an insulting psychic version of Selene and a Mutant with deadly dreadlocks. Remaining X-Men Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Professor X teleport to Jean’s location where they confront Magneto. Followed by the most forced, out of nowhere PG-13 F bomb dropped by Cyclops of all people. Then to add insult to injury, no one where’s a costume in the movie’s climax! Something no superhero movie should do in this day in age. The fight is full of Mutant powers, but it’s average at best. Magneto tries to kill Jean, but she breaks his helmet and throws him out.
Then Charles attempts to reason with her, but she makes him walk in an unintentionally laughable way. He reaches Jean, only to end up arrested by the Mutant Containment Unit (MCU, get it?!). What could have been a unique climax in outer space ended up a generic climax on a boring train. All the Mutants ban together to fight the D’Bari and Nightcrawler has an out of nowhere killing spree. Jean is freed just in time to face off against Vuk. Exploding into Phoenix energy and leaving me feeling absolutely nothing. Apart from confusion at the choice to rename Xavier’s school after the person who killed Mystique. Ending the entire Fox X-Men series on another game of chess and me begging the MCU to give us the X-Men we deserve. My response to Dark Phoenix is simply, to quote Magento, “Nobody cares anymore.”