By Chic DiCiccio
It’s a shame “Dark Phoenix” is the last entry in the X-Men franchise that Fox (bought out by Disney) will be producing. It would be interesting to see if they could screw up the same story for a third time. The fascinating aspect of this $200 million disaster is that the impressive amount of acting talent is as completely disinterested in being in it as audiences are sure to be while watching it.
Anything would be an improvement over the last installment, “X-Men: Apocalypse.” “Dark Phoenix” manages to marginally pull that off, mostly due to Sophie Turner’s turn as an adult Jean Grey. After “Game of Thrones,” Turner is poised to hit it big and she doesn’t waste the opportunity to be the star of a big budget superhero flick. Unfortunately, the boring story, one-note characters and network TV-level performances let her down and the movie quickly becomes a shambles.
Long time X-Men fans are quite familiar with Jean Grey’s Phoenix storyline, which turns her into the most powerful mutant alive. This occurs during a hackneyed rescue mission in which the X-Men, led by Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), travel to space to save the crew of a NASA space shuttle.
When Jean returns to Earth, her powers are enhanced, and she becomes an outcast after using these powers in a deadly fashion.
It takes about 45 minutes or so before Magneto (Michael Fassbender) shows up to be his usual anti-hero self, which happens in every X-Men movie and is a completely tired plot point. He growls lines like “The girl dies,” which naturally goes against Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) desire to help her. So yes, it’s more of the same that you’ve seen in these movies for the last 20 years.
Once Jessica Chastain’s mysterious villain gets in the mix, all the mutants team up (yawn) to stop Jean from destroying Earth (double yawn) and Charles and Magneto yet again set aside their differences (triple yawn). For someone who is hellbent on destroying humanity, Magneto sure has a diplomatic side.
Congratulations are due to Jennifer Lawrence. It’s quite brave to completely sleepwalk through a role after a string of commercial and critical bombs. One would think she’d take this opportunity to re-establish herself as a bankable star, even with substandard material, but she decided to go a different direction. The action sequences are nearly as boring as the story, with McAvoy and Fassbender left to make hand gestures with strained faces as they use their mutant powers. The effects are lax when eyeing the budget, which begs the question of where did all that money go? For whatever reason, the character with the coolest effect possibilities, Quicksilver (Evan Peters), disappears about half an hour into the movie. At least that would have provided some eye candy.
Director Simon Kinberg tries to raise the stakes early on with a major character death, but this never takes root because the rest of the story is such a bore. The finale is totally anti-climactic and the final piece of dialogue from a key character is laughable.
Kinberg and his cast will want “Dark Phoenix” scrubbed from their IMDB pages. This movie seems more like an obligation than a creative effort and even the most hardcore fans will have to admit disappointment.