This was an utterly terrible movie and I can not get over how bad it was. Dark Phoenix doesn’t rise from any ashes or act as any beacon of hope. It’s instead the death blow, and an unclean one at that, to this iteration of the X-Men. Dark Phoenix ends an era on its lowest note, exiting with a whimper that doesn’t deserve to heard or seen by anyone.
With its release date already having been moved twice and a marketing campaign that was less than robust, expectations for Dark Phoenix were not good. The general tone surrounding the movie was one of despair and relief at its completion. Unfortunately for the audience, they can tell that the actors performing in this movie are simply going through the motions. It’s really as if they realized halfway through filming that their project was not going to be as grand as anticipated.
The best analogy I’ve heard for the X-Men franchise as a whole, whether it be movies, television or comics, is that it is a space soap opera. The scale can seem overwhelming and the seemingly endless amount of story lines swirling around are confusing, but it all comes back to the characters. Everyone is okay with the madness and chaos because they care and connect with the X-Men.
Such a relationship is worn out in Dark Phoenix. The story is meant to be darker and more cerebral than its predecessors in the franchise. To that tone it succeeds. However, the deep premises attempted to be grasped seem hollow and merely present and not lived in. I have not spent enough time with Sophia Turner’s Jean Grey to care for the dual split personality problems so is battling through. The same lack of care can be said for everyone in the movie except for maybe Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto. He is still best character from this “First Class” saga is the only one with a discernible arc I care about completing.
Dark Phoenix is filled immensely talented actors, in particular Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain. All of whom are tasked with the impossible burden of trying to lift the subpar material to a passable benchmark. Jennifer Lawrence is only half present, literally in her acting and in her character’s presence in the movie as well. The most predictable plot point one could have guessed as a turning point takes exactly when you think it would.
I got the nervous shakes in the opening five minutes of the movie. Before the title screen even rolls across, Professor Charles Xavier and young Jean Grey are talking. The entire sequence was shot like an eighth grader would; straight cut between behind-the-shoulder point of views with dialogue that to far heavy-handed even for a comic book movie. The alarm bells were going off and they didn’t stop for the film’s entirety.
Director Simon Kinberg did manage to throw in some good looking scenes in Dark Phoenix. Not all is lost. When the team first goes into space and encounters the astronomical force that consumes Jean Grey; that was awesome. Looked great, acted well, flowed nicely. Same goes for when Grey and Magneto meet for the first time. I’ll even acknowledge that the final fight scene, which was reshot on a train rather than being in space, was half decent. The special effects were a little sloppy, but the action itself wasn’t too shabby.
Simply put, there are not nearly enough moments to lift Dark Phoenix up to anything more than just “bad.” The box-office goers seemed to get the memo as well with numbers that are horrendous. It’s first traditional bomb of the disappointing summer. I mentioned earlier that Dark Phoenix wasn’t meant to be a summer movie, and the reason for it’s constant movement and eventual June placement is unique.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, an unnamed 20th Century Fox executive is behind the movement. Said official was beckoned by none other than James Cameron, who wanted a specific date for his film Alita: Battle Angel. Dark Phoenix had already been moved to February at this point due to reshoots, and so it found itself in the war path of one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures. Cameron didn’t want his movie to go up against stiff December 2018 competition like Aquaman and Bumblebee, so the move was made to give Alita: Battle Angel the February release time while Dark Phoenix got pushed back to the summer.
Primetime June was not the time for this movie. It has lower scale action sequences and a more fervent attempt to put the emphasis on characters and internal turmoil than the previous X-Men movies. The timing of Dark Phoenix’s release had some effect on its success, but overall it’s just a bad movie which doesn’t deserve the money.
Stanko Rating: D
Below are my ratings for the movies in the X-Men universe that came to an end with Dark Phoenix. I don’t remember liking X-Men: Apocalypse, but the grade is the grade I put. The one thing I do know is that Logan is hands down the best and it’s not even close.
|X2-X Men United||B+||2003|
|X-Men 3: The Last Stand||B||2006|
|X-Men Origins: Wolverine||C-||2009|
|X-Men First Class||B+||2011|
|X-Men: Days Of Future Past||B+||2014|