Dark Phoenix has received an immense amount of scrutiny leading up to its release. It’s the last movie in the X-Men universe (done by Fox) before they move to Disney, the X-Men series for a lot of people was at an end already and at this point wasn’t particularly loved (especially after Apocalypse), and they’d be making yet another take on the Dark Phoenix comic storyline (after the previously hated take in The Last Stand), so I think a lot of people just wanted the movie done with. Not helping was the reshoots that were being done, which just generally doesn’t inspire confidence (even if it happens a lot of the time with movies). It felt like a lot of people were really going into it expecting to not like it (and unsurprisingly ended up hating it). There are definitely a lot of problems with the movie, however I get the feeling that I’m going to be one of the people who likes the movie more than most. It’s messy for sure but there are enough things in the movie that I really liked that I’m fine enough with what we got.
I would talk about the treatment of adaptation of the Dark Phoenix storyline, however I never read the storyline (I generally don’t read comics), nor am I very familiar with it, so I’m going to treat the movie as its own thing. It is like another attempt at redoing The Last Stand, which also had its attempt at the storyline (it’s worth noting that Simon Kinberg wrote both). Personally, I felt that it worked a little better than how The Last Stand did it, even though there are some similarities with certain aspects of the plot. It’s a much more personal storyline than you’d initially expect it to be. Despite some of the large scale things that happen, it seemed to have taken some notes from Logan in trying to be a quiet goodbye, and personally I liked that idea much more than a full on large scale finale. It’s also one of the bleakest movies in the series, for some it could make the movie rather dull and depressing but it wasn’t for me. I think I just have a thing for dark, bleak and more grounded comic book movies, so I guess that part worked for me. In a way, yes, much of the movie feels inconsequential, for the stakes being high it doesn’t matter too much, though maybe it’s because we know that this is the last movie in the series and that we are getting a reboot soon. Anyways, I personally liked the more personal take on the story.
Generally I was fine with the writing, however there are some lines of dialogue that really stand out as being cliched, out of place, or even flat out bad, however not enough to take away from the overall experience of the movie. The movie is 2 hours and after watching it, it occurred to me that they really condensed things down. Everything in this movie is centred around Jean Grey, there’s no subplots or anything. On one hand it definitely would’ve benefited from at least being 20 minutes longer, and the short runtime really does mean that only a few characters get some development or have their arcs (some of them unfortunately feel a little rushed), while the others are regulated to just showing off their powers at best. Then again, considering how The Last Stand had the Dark Phoenix storyline running as almost a subplot alongside the whole Mutant ‘cure’ plotline, it’s nice to actually see it being the focus of the entire movie. There are some inconsistencies regarding the plot and storyline, and I’m not talking like how many cast members should timeline-wise appear a lot older than they do (by this movie you should come to expect this from the series, this isn’t anything new). Without spoiling what I’m talking about, I’ll just say that by the end of the movie I’m a little confused as to what timeline this movie is in (at this point there must be like 4 timelines now). Now much has been said about the reshoots for the movie. Personally, if I didn’t hear beforehand about them, I wouldn’t have noticed it while watching. It’s apparently mainly the third act, changing the climax from space to a more grounded location. The change was done to avoid similarities to a recent comic book movie (probably Captain Marvel) and I’m actually fine with the change. As I said I liked the more grounded take for the movie, so it only felt appropriate that it’s set at a more grounded location instead of going completely left field and going to space. I should mention that there is no end credits scene, so no need to stay for it.
The cast for the most part do very well in their roles. The main cast members who get to shine the most are Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult. Turner is really the lead of the movie, with the whole movie surrounding her. She plays both Jean Grey and the Dark Phoenix side of her very well, threatening, vulnerable, and all around was a real screen presence. McAvoy and Fassbender always kill it in their respective roles as Professor X and Magneto and get to have a lot of great moments in this movie. And Nicholas Hoult also manages to deliver a really good performance here, even though he’s already generally good as Beast. Even if not all of the characters were handled well, they at least got to really show off in their action scenes, Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) were decent enough in Apocalypse action wise, but here they really go full force in the last act particularly. Evan Peters’ Quicksilver and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique really got shafted the most, they acted okay enough with what they had. The villains of the movie were pretty standard alien characters, and we really don’t get enough of them or learn about them. You can just tell that originally they were going to be Skrulls but then no doubt some script changes and reshoots altered their identities. Jessica Chastain is the central villain of the bunch, she acted fine enough in her role but was incredibly forgettable, it felt like you could’ve swapped her out for any other actress and she would’ve been exactly the same.
I know a lot of people were worried about Simon Kinberg making his directorial debut here, he’s produced and been a writer on a number of the X-Men movies but never actually directed a film until now. Despite some problems with the script, I don’t have many problems with his direction, actually it was much better than expected. The visual effects are great, way better than those in Apocalypse. While Apocalypse had these big sequences of massive things happening, oddly a lot of it looked really fake, especially considering the movies that came before it. Dark Phoenix’s visuals look really good though, especially with the phoenix effects. While the action scenes throughout are good (and are honestly amongst the best action scenes of the series), the last act particularly shines with the action. Hans Zimmer composes the score and it’s no surprise that it’s amazing, he really does something special with the score and elevates the movie immensely.
Dark Phoenix is really not going to work for a lot of people, and there are many problems with it. If you just generally don’t like the X-Men movies, I highly doubt Dark Phoenix will be any different for you, and if you are going in expecting it to suck, you’re probably not going to like it. It isn’t quite the sendoff that the X-Men deserved, but there are also some strong parts to it, particularly the cast, visuals, music, and the dark and grounded take on the story. Thinking about it more, I’m not entirely opposed to what we got. And no, it’s not even close to being the worst X-Men movie, it’s better than The Last Stand, it’s better than Apocalypse, and it’s definitely way better than Origins Wolverine. If you’re a fan of most of the X-Men movies, you might at least get something out of Dark Phoenix.