So this is the way the X-Men end – not with thunderous applause, but with a big fat thud that makes you yearn for X-Men: The Last Stand. Not because it was good, far from it, but because Hugh Jackman and Wolverine were in it. And he is always good. Yet, some thirteen years and another three movies on (Wolverine and Deadpool films notwithstanding), we are back on familiar ground both in terms of story and crushing, undeniable disappointment. This one, like Last Stand, had many problems before hitting the big-screen but such things won’t provide a hiding place for its sins.
Writer Simon Kinberg, who has been one of the key creatives behind the whole franchise, is given the reins full-time for this round, elevated to director for the first time with part
excitement and part scepticism: the latter, very sadly, sbut it all counts for nothing because, no matter how much he has lived and breathed these characters over the last decade or so, nothing can change the fact that Dark Phoenix is a crushing bore. He and his team have tried to resuscitate the series after the utterly miserable X-Men: Apocalypse some three years ago by gallantly trying to “reboot” one of the most famous comic-book strands of all time after The Last Stand butchered it beyond recognition, but sadly it’s all in vain despite some worthy efforts.
Focusing on Jean Grey’s (a lacklustre Sophie Turner, who delivers a thunderously dull opening monologue which is a hint of what is to come) metamorphosis into the titular villain – by way of outer space shenanigans involving a criminally underused Jessica Chastain, this was seen as a grand finale of the series even before Disney changed everything by purchasing 20th Century Fox and all its Marvel goodness. How wrong we were. From that opening, we move from one painfully boring set-piece to another, losing most of our patience before the first act is even over, despite James McAvoy‘s best efforts – once again brilliant as a Professor X, despite his now egotistical leanings – to keep the seams from separating. Fassbender, too, tried hard despite being given almost nothing to do, while Jennifer Lawrence needn’t have really shown up at all. Such talent across the board, such a sin to waste it all.
Kinberg tries hard to keep things moving at a decent pace in an effort to keep everything more gritty – “Pull A Nolan” as it were and while its new look is intriguing it never pulls you in fully, and coupled with a strange rhythm to proceedings – possibly down to the rumoured re-shoots and re-edits that were no doubt out of his hands – it never gets going, and the final act extravaganza becomes more and more laughable as it stumbles to its conclusion. There are some brief moments of inspiration but so few and far between are they that it’s hard to even remember them.
The X-Men are a reflection of the world: whether through political unrest, human emotion, mental health, race, religion, tolerance and many more things in-between. Dark Phoenix tries to address all of these things but does so in such a slapdash way that nothing about it lands, instead becoming as vacuous and empty as the dark recesses of space where its story begins. A cinematic evolution is sorely needed to resuscitate our favourite mutants as its final moments of its existence ends with a whimper.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=1]
Action, Thriller | USA, 2019 | 12A | 5th June 2019 (UK) | 20th Century Fox Pictures | Dir.Simon Kinberg | Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Tye Sheridan