"X-Men Saga Ends For Lowercase mcu | DARK PHOENIX: Review"
People forget before uppercase MCU, there was lowercase mcu. Although not necessarily in form of linking one film to the other, it was interesting and different to finally have comics I read as a kid on the silver screen. Animated films were everywhere. But live-action? Nope. They were unicorns. I’ll admit I was hooked on these since day one. It’s almost been 20 years since the first X-MEN movie… and THAT, my friends, was revolutionary! It was superhero/supervillain hoopla unlike we’ve ever seen before. After nearly two decades with sequels and stand-alones (FANTASTIC FOUR, WOLVERINE (and recently DEADPOOL)), the world of X-Men stories and Marvel Comics had gone in a new direction. Some good. Some bad. Some in-between. Either way, they led the conga line for all things superhero blockbusterism.
A key talking point and fear factor within the X-MEN films has always been Jean Grey. Her abilities. Her unpredictability and danger if she ever went rogue. Beloved by her fellow X-Men, such uncomfortable thoughts always lingered and begged the following question: what do you do if someone you love dearly becomes the world’s greatest threat? In 2006’s X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (also written by Simon Kinberg), the Dark Phoenix topic is touched upon. Generating more questions than answers, we now fast forward to 2019, and it’s time for the story to be told.
Part sci-fi thriller, part character-driven and full-blown drama, DARK PHOENIX goes right into it during a life-threatening mission to space, where Jean Grey is nearly killed when she soaks in a cosmic entity that leaves her with powers far beyond anything she or any other mutant has ever possessed. Once she returns home, she struggles with these godlike abilities, but the force inside her is too overwhelming to contain. Spiraling out of control, Grey hurts the ones she loves most. Her actions tear the X-Men apart and the heroes find themselves deeply compromised at a time when they must face their most dangerous enemy… one of their own.
At its core, DARK PHOENIX is a tale of a woman struggling with her personal demons. A being that becomes an outsider among outsiders. A being beyond the reach of even those closest to her. That was basically the premise. However, its execution…? Let’s just say it wasn’t as effective as I think the movie wanted it to be. According to production notes, this is the most “radical” X-Men film ever made. Really? The most regrettable, maybe. But “radical?” Take it easy, Fox! It could have been. The ingredients for something dark and gritty and intense were there, but it never even peeked.
Unlike peers I’m sure will go on a burying blast, I’m not. I’m not going to go off on some rant, because I did enjoy some of it. But I am disappointed the X-Men franchise ended the way it did. DARK PHOENIX has a pretty good cast (of usuals) that just went to waste. Some of them seemed like they phoned in their performances or were hologram’d on set. The lead into the narrative was decent, but lost steam during its second act. There’s OK build-up, OK throwdowns (with pretty cool effects, especially Nightcrawler), a death (people barely reacted to, because its first trailer spoiled it), and an OK yet predictable Prof. X/Magneto reunion… But I don’t know… It didn’t move me at all. The story focused too much on making it so character-driven, it forgot the purpose it was supposed to live up to. I was expecting some major armageddon-like atrocities and a heartbreaking ending. Nada of the sorts. Adding insult-to-injury… At a run of an hour-and-forty-three minutes… It seemed way too rushed. This story needed a well-executed movie (or two) before it. At least, the way it played out… Yes, there needed to be more meat on this storyline’s bone.
Unlike ENDGAME with The Avengers, DARK PHOENIX doesn’t really present an emotional departure for the X-Men saga. If anything, good riddance. Under new guidance, hopefully this franchise can be rebooted in a way that would really shake things up and bring back the pizzazz it had at the beginning. DARK PHOENIX isn’t bad in a sense that it isn’t watchable. But it’s a disjointed piece to its predecessors, and when you think about X-MEN: APOCALYPSE – and how much of a mess that movie was – rather than taking a step up, this franchise took a step towards WTF?! In the end, these films survive the gauntlet of release as diehards will show up to watch. However, truth is some things are meant to end… and don’t go looking for end credit scenes. There are none! That said – now that he’s got the power – it’s time for Kevin Feige to get on the driver’s seat of this franchise.
Grade: C / Genre: Sci-Fi, Action/Adventure / Rated: PG-13 / Run Time: 1:43
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nichols Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Jessica Chastain