Dark Phoenix (2019) Movie Review

By: Reel 127 (Four Beers) –

If you’re like me, then you grew up with the X-Men franchise. We were so excited to see a superhero movie featuring Wolverine, Magneto, and all our favorites back in a time where you got only one superhero movie a year. Times have changed, though, and the once powerhouse franchise is now leaving on a whimper to the bigger franchises that have dominated this year.

It’s been nine years since the X-Men have defeated Apocalypse, and none of them look like they have aged a day since then. Inexplicably, the X-Men now have a direct phone line to the President and are sent on a mission to save the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavor. While in space, Jean Grey is exposed to a powerful cosmic force that gives her more power than before. As Jean slowly loses control over herself, the X-Men struggle to help her.

Going into this movie I didn’t have a single friend who was interested in seeing it. The trailer didn’t make it look like a “must see” movie and most have become tired of the franchise. After seeing the movie firsthand I can’t really blame them. ***Spoilers ahead***, skip to the Verdict if you would like to avoid them.

Buckle up true believers. This one will drain you.

A Toast

Credit where credit is due, Sophie Turner is the best part of this movie. She marks a huge improvement in the X-Men movies in playing Jean Grey as the Phoenix. Whereas Famke Janssen in The Last Stand played her as silent and angry, Turner takes us on the emotional rollercoaster of becoming the Phoenix and her struggle to contain it. I found most of the story and character’s actions believable and engaging to watch. Around the midpoint of the movie, Mystique is killed off (in a much better re-creation of the X-Men going to find Jean at her childhood home) and the fallout from the event plays out in a realistic way, with characters either defending Jean or wanting her dead for killing Mystique and being too powerful. The middle of the film where most of this is happening is the strongest part. And I must give kudos to the filmmaker for making this origin of Phoenix closer to the comic books’ storyline.

Beer Two

Which leads us into the first issue of Dark Phoenix. How the heck does it fit in to the clusterfluff that is the X-Men franchise? For those who still remember watching X-Men: Apocalypse, Jean Grey seemed to unleash the Phoenix Force at the end of the movie. Implying that like the original cinematic Jean Grey, she already had the power and potential inside her the whole time. Speaking of inconsistent character writing, Professor Charles Xavier starts off the movie by insisting that they risk the lives of the students to save astronauts in danger. Not only that, he also insists on not leaving behind the captain of the Space Shuttle despite having saved the rest of the crew. It’s not too often in Dark Phoenix, but there are critical moments when characters act in a way that doesn’t make sense. This makes the audience painfully aware that they are watching a movie and that certain plot points need to be hit.

Good job dropping the ball, NASA!

Beer Three

I have nothing against Jessica Chastain. There are plenty of movies where she shines as an actor and are a better example of what she can do. She is given nothing to work with in Dark Phoenix. She plays an alien who takes the form of a human to try to sway Jean Grey to her side. But all of her lines are supposed to be delivered without emotion… I guess. Because aliens.

Chastain could have been replaced with literally any actor and it wouldn’t have changed the movie. The villains were rather terrible in general. This alien race that can change into the form of humans are trying to gain the Phoenix Force so they can rebuild their planet (I think). The aliens are so ill-defined that when it gets to the climactic battle at the end, I was caught off guard to learn the aliens were nearly indestructible as one of their powers.

Not to mention, most of the fights turn into a CG-eyesore.

Beer Four

This movie is déjà vu all over again. So many plot points feel lifted from older superhero movies, and even ones from this year. Dark Phoenix begins with a car crash, like Shazam! The X-Men become divided over someone who is ruining their public reputation and whether or not they should be killed, like in Captain America: Civil War. There is a horde of appearance-changing villains who have come to earth like in Captain Marvel. And of course, the re-creating of the Dark Phoenix story line from The Last Stand.

The mishmash ends up hurting the film. Dark Phoenix feels like nothing original. Though at times these things can be done well, and can even surpass the original, there are plenty of times they just aren’t good and I would rather be watching the other movies that Dark Phoenix is reminding me of.

Sorry Avengers of Justice,
looks like Dark Phoenix beat you to the punch.

Verdict

While there were some highlights from this movie, and there were moments I genuinely found myself enjoying, there is no saving the fact that there is barely any reason to watch this. Completionists and hard-core X-Men fans will probably get something out of this. But in an age where superhero movies are now appealing to much wider audience, Dark Phoenix does nothing to cater to the mainstream or even to casual fans of the films. The movie ends in such a way that it could both be the conclusion to the series or a set up for a sequel. Just like most X-Men movies. I think it is time that we all let this version of the franchise die, so it can be reborn from the ashes once more.

Oh right. This is still a thing if Disney ever
let’s us see it.

Dark Phoenix (2019) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: whenever Jean Grey’s veins light up.

Take a Drink: every time Charles decides to do or say something in order to force the plot along.

Take a Drink: every time someone cries.

Take a Drink: every time this movie makes you think of X-Men: The Last Stand.

Pour Out Your Drink: when you realize that this is probably the end of Fox’s X-Men.

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