The X-Men have to face off against one of their own in Dark Phoenix. It is 1992 and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his X-Men team of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) have gained some level of acceptance from humanity. However, during a mission to save the space shuttle Endeavour from a solar-flare like energy, Jean Grey ends up stranded on the shuttle and absorbs all the energy. Not only does she miraculously survive the event, resulting in the new nickname of “Phoenix,” but Jean’s psychic powers are now greatly amplified. However, this also weakens mental blocks placed in her mind as a child by Xavier, which results in sudden violent outbursts. Jean’s increased powers also attract the attention of the D’Bari, a shapeshifting alien race lead by Vox (Jessica Chastain), who wants to use Jean’s powers to take over Earth.
Arriving shortly after Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, Dark Phoenix is effectively the final film of the nearly two decades old X-Men franchise. More specifically, the film wraps up the alternative history of the team that began with the soft reboot X-Men: First Class in 2011. Dark Phoenix is the second attempt to break the titular storyline from the comics to the big screen, following the initial attempt in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Longtime franchise director Bryan Singer is replaced by screenwriter and producer Simon Kinberg, who is making his directorial debut with this film.
The X-Men film franchise was all but dead in 2011 when the Matthew Vaughn directed X-Men: First Class successful rebooted the franchise, while also maintaining a loose continuity with the original trilogy. The film also had the benefit of casting people such as Jennifer Lawrence and Nicolas Hoult, right as they were on the cusp of stardom. 8 years later, it seems that most of these cast members, particularly Lawrence and Michael Fassbender as Magneto, are returning more out of continuity than a desire to continue playing comicbook characters. You can almost see the tired expression in Jennifer Lawrence’s face, as she has to put on the blue Mystique make-up one more time.
Forgetting the poor continuity of this film taking place three decades after the events of X-Men: First Class, yet the characters look like they barely aged, Dark Phoenix is a very disappointing conclusion to this round of X-Men films. X-Men: The Last Stand might have been the weakest film of the original trilogy, but the film looks like a multiple Oscar winner compared to this new film. Other than the cast being fatigued with their roles, the blame for Dark Phoenix‘s faults can be placed squarely on the directorial inexperience of Simon Kinberg, who also happened to be one of the screenwriters of The Last Stand, making this his second attempt at the Phoenix storyline. While you would expect a film called Dark Phoenix to make Jean Grey the antagonist, the film never goes on-all in that regard, eventually focusing more on Jessica Chastain’s Vox as the true villain of the film. Also, with a running time of under two hours, Dark Phoenix actually feels somewhat rushed, especially when you clue into the fact that what feels to be a standard action sequence is actually the film’s climax.
Arguably, the X-Men franchise should have concluded with X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014, which combined characters from both continuities and seemed to wrap everything up nicely. Instead, the franchise was pushed too far and we are left saying goodbye to the X-Men, not really caring about what will be coming next, other than perhaps more Deadpool.