THERESA SMITH reviews
Before Marvel Studios found success with Iron Man and The Avengers, there was X-Men in 2000. The success of that film spawned several others and yet again, we have a stab at telling the Jean Grey storyline.
In the comic books the original Chris Claremont/John Byrne storyline was seminal, but attempts to bring it to the big screen have never really worked. The Dark Phoenix saga tells of the rise and fall of Jean Grey which yes, was broached in X-Men The Last Stand (and also approached in the animated X-Men TV series). Since X-Men Days of Future Past retconned The Last Stand, 20th Century Fox makes one last attempt before giving over the characters to Disney. Still, no dice.
While this version does nod to the cosmic origins of Jean Grey’s Phoenix powers, it doesn’t break any new ground, further our understanding of the Phoenix force, or move any of our admittedly much favoured characters any further on their individual story arcs.
X-Men Dark Phoenix starts off with the X-Men on a space mission to save an imperilled group of astronauts, which is when Jean Grey (Turner) is exposed to a mysterious cosmic force.
As her power increases dramatically she loses control and turns on her friends. Another plotline is that Prof X (McAvoy) has in his overweening hubris exposed the X-Men to greater risks in the hopes of appeasing humankind to like mutants. So, the corrupting idea of ultimate power is exposed but never really explored, because the action sequences get in the way.
Sophie Turner gives it her all as her character is possibly losing her mind and trying to get a grip, but for the most part any attempts at understanding what is happening is interrupted by the admittedly very cool fight scenes.
The huge cast of very capable actors are shoehorned into simply duking it out, and while they look very good doing it, it does them no favours.
This has always been a problem for X-Men movies so despite the retconning of the characters, this film is really more of the same.
The relationship between Cyclops (Sheridan) and Jean Grey moves no further, mankind still hates on the mutants, Prof X and Magneto (Fassbender) still have their differences. Magneto has the right of it when he says: “You’re always sorry Charles. And there’s always a speech. But nobody cares.”
A fundamental difference between the X-Men movies and The Avengers franchise has been that X-Men dialogue always harps on about the importance of family while Avengers film plots show the concept. The X-Men don’t get to grow while the Avengers have done so over multiple films.
X-Men movies keep on re-introducing characters and concepts instead furthering their overall story arc. Face it, nowadays we have come to expect that growth because the Avengers movies prove it is possible.
The Dark Phoenix storyline in the comic book is a great bit of meaty storytelling, which gives rise to some weird and wonderful characters and convoluted musings on the nature of life, death, power and purpose. Plus, it features one of the strongest female characters in comic book history. This perhaps is part of the problem – trying to tell a powerful woman’s story through the male gaze. Hopefully the success of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel will prompt Marvel Studios to revisit this character with more nuanced results.
X-Men Dark Phoenix Running time is 114 minutes. Movie reviewer Theresa Smith.
Read more Rotten Tomato Critic Theresa Smith reviews here.
X-Men Dark Phoenix release date: 7 June 2019
Genre: Action Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Rating: 13 LV