X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the latest and final entry in Fox’s beloved X-Men franchise, delivers a solid and often exhilarating superhero movie, which is filled with powerful performances. The film, however, struggles to reach the heights of earlier instalments and ultimately fails to give fans a concise, entertaining and satisfying conclusion. It’s certainly not as good as it could’ve been, but it’s definitely not the disaster you might be expecting.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix works for a number of different reasons, but the films biggest strength is undoubtedly the star-studded cast. From actors like James McAvoy (Professor Xavier) and Michael Fassbender (Magneto) to Nicholas Hoult (Beast) and Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), everyone in front of the camera is clearly committed to their characters and the project, with each cast member giving a strong if not great performance. This is mostly visible in Sophie Turner’s scene-stealing performance as Jean Grey. While the Game Of Thrones actress isn’t given much to do in terms of dialogue or development, she manages to bring a strong presence to the film and delivers a wildly enjoyable portrayal of a hero turned villain.
More than any previous film in the franchise, X-Men: Dark Phoenix takes the necessary time to focus on the entire team of superheroes, rather than just one or two members. While there’s certainly and rightfully a deeper focus on Jean and her emotional turn to the dark side, writer/director Simon Kinberg does an admirable job of giving supporting characters such as Cyclops, Beast and Nightcrawler, who were often sidelined and ignored, a more significant and memorable role in the narrative.
It must be said that when it comes to the action, Kinberg succeeds at giving viewers plenty of exhilarating, refreshing and undeniably badass action scenes. In a time where a new superhero movie is released almost every week, X-Men: Dark Phoenix manages to give fans something different and unique, which is something that the X-Men franchise desperately needed. It’s also worth noting that the director ensures that every character gets a moment to shine, finally displaying each individual superpower and bringing different abilities together in interesting and exciting ways. It might have taken years to get here, but it was fun to finally see the X-Men combine their powers and fight as a team.
On a visual level, X-Men: Dark Phoenix takes the franchise in a different direction, with Kinberg and cinematographer Mauro Fiore finding new and interesting ways to shoot the film. While not every sequence is perfectly framed or beautifully displayed, it would be ignorant to claim that there aren’t stunning sequences throughout the film. Hans Zimmer’s powerful and inspirational score is one of the films biggest strengths, adding a layer of intensity and emotion to the narrative. On more than one occasion, Zimmer’s score completely takes over and significantly improves a moment or more often than not, an entire sequence.
What Doesn’t Work?
While Simon Kinberg, who stepped out of his comfort zone to direct for the first time, does a passable job with X-Men: Dark Phoenix, it’s clear watching the movie that the person behind the camera isn’t as experienced or technically skilled as other filmmakers. Helming a film as big as X-Men: Dark Phoenix is no easy task and Kinberg deserves credit for pulling it off, however, I can’t help but wonder what the film would look like if it was directed by a more experienced filmmaker.
Kinberg’s script is unquestionably the point of origin for almost all of the film’s issues, with the filmmaker struggling to balance the narrative and bring his vision to life. From poor pacing and confusing character decisions to cheesy dialogue and an overly messy storyline, the script can be compared to a car crash in slow motion, and it’s easy to see where everything fell apart. Kinberg is simply attempting to juggle too many storylines and ideas at the same time, leaving the film scattered, messy and disjointed.
Arguably the films most irritating blunder is Jessica Chastain’s villainous Vuk, who is never given any real personality, development or reason. Comic-book movies have a long and disappointing history of bad villains, but thanks to the fact that we barely spend any time with Vuk and her motives are never fully explained, the final instalment of Fox’s X-Men franchise has delivered one of the most forgettable and boring villains in recent memory.