The Dark Phoenix saga is one of the greatest comic book story arcs of all-time. Why is it so hard to translate it to the big screen?
Dark Phoenix is the second attempt to adapt the comic arc. The first one was X-Men: The Last Stand, which was a tremendous disappointment. And going into the film, all I had heard was negative word of mouth about the final FOX X-Men movie before the rights revert to Marvel Studios. Because of everything I had heard, I went into Dark Phoenix with my expectations lowered down about as low as they could go.
With the expectations so low, it was not the worst movie I have ever seen, but there were not very many positives that would overcome the negatives.
I heard Schmoes Knows host Kristian Harloff on Collider Live make the perfect comment directed toward Dark Phoenix. He called the movie “hollow.” That description fits perfectly. That is exactly how Dark Phoenix feels.
On a rescue mission into space, X-Men member Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is exposed to a strange, fiery force that, despite blowing up her ship, did not kill Jean. Instead, the energy (known in the comics as the Phoenix Force) entered Jean and jacked up her power level to major levels.
As he power increases, mental barriers set up in her mind by Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) when Jean was a child to block the unpleasant memories of her parents’ death (in a scene right out of Shazam, I swear) began to crumble and Jean became more dangerous.
The X-Men attempt to stop Jean and help her regain herself before the mighty power of the Phoenix consumed her.
There are so many problems here, but nothing that makes me angry or want to never watch the film again. They are problems that make the movie a bad movie.
Let’s start with the positives. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Sophie Turner were pretty solid in their roles. Fassbender is always great as Erik/Magneto, even though here he was doing the same thing that he had done in previous X-Men movies. McAvoy actually plays Charles Xavier as a jerk here, someone who may have good reasons, but who ha done very questionable things.
The opening scenes in space were decent too. It showed the X-men working together and the aftermath showed the world treating the X-Men as heroes for once instead of the freaks that they are used to being called. That was a cool little change that, unfortunately, did not last for long.
Now, the other X-Men were desperately under served. Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Quicksilver (Evan Peters) were wasted, basically there to show off their mutant power. They were nowhere near real, 3-dimensional characters. Several of them also acted in a manner that was not like their character. At one point, Nightcrawler began killing people all over the place, including teleporting one of them in front of the train they were fighting on. or those who know about the “Fuzzy Elf,” Kurt Wagner is very Christian and does not kill people. I had trouble with that since it is such an important part of the character.
Nicholas Hoult’s Hank McCoy (aka Beast) is another character who is doing things that he simply would not do under circumstances and the only reason he is doing them here is that the script says he is. This film does not care about character motivations or character traits. They simply want to push along the extremely lacking plot.
And the movie must have something against Evan Peters because his Quicksilver really got the short string here. For such as standout from the previous couple of X-Men movies, Quicksilver gets almost nothing significant to do.
The relationship between Scott and Jean, which was vital to the comic book story, is forced and boring here. We get like one scene of them kissing and then a bunch of Scott looking sad about what happens. One of the biggest problems is that we have not spent enough time with the versions of these characters so we do not care enough about them.
Another character was Raven, played by Jennifer Lawrence. She has received criticism for phoning in her role as Mystique/Raven and many people say she is better here. I actually disliked her in this film quite a bit. Maybe I did not care about her because the trailer had so spoiled her fate ( as did the director in an interview).
The story was sparse. In fact, I would venture to say that practically nothing really happens. I found it even kind of boring as the film moved on.
Director Simon Kinberg, a first time director, also wrote the script for The Last Stand and, seemingly, repeated several of the beats from that failure. Instead of repeating your errors, shouldn’t you learn from your mistakes? The Last Stand is considered one of the worst X-Men movies ever made. We do not need a reboot.
I hated the ending of the third act too. It was supposedly completely re-shot. Rumors indicated that they were worried that the ending might seem too close to another superhero movie (Captain Marvel, maybe?) so they had the finale on a train instead of outer space. Either way, it was a mistake.
It really is sad how such an all-time classic comic arc can be so messed up twice in the movies. I have to say that I am very happy that this is the last X-Men for FOX. Hopefully the characters will find a much better home back where they began.