This Phoenix struggles to fly
Review: Dark Phoenix
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicolas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Jessica Chastain
Nearly twenty years since X-Men revitalised the modern superhero movie, Dark Phoenix marks the end of the mainline films. The mutants’ final Fox film however is not the send-off that these characters deserve.
Along with Days of Future Past, Dark Phoenix was one of the stories that defined Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s influential run. The story is yet to receive a live action adaption that does it justice however.
The story sees the X-Men undertake a mission to rescue some stranded astronauts. The space mission sees them encounter a mysterious force that mysteriously restores Jean Grey to life. This, however, has a darker side as new powers come with a new personality, a darker persona that turns Jean against her teammates and uncovers past secrets and betrayals.
With the exception of a few worthwhile character moments, a good deal of their actions are out of character or poorly handled. In particular, one character is written out in such a way that it undoes much of the goodwill that has been invested in a previously amazing and complex run.
None of this is to suggest that there is nothing worthwhile here.
For the most part, the cast work to elevate the material that they have been given. McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, and Turner deliver the kinds of dependable performances that they are known for. Jean Grey/Phoenix’s story remains one that has its powerful moments, with story beats that detail themes of loyalty, deception, and whether it is ever ethical to keep the truth from someone. Many of the events in this plot make the film difficult to place in the X-Men timeline, even with the shifting timeline established by the likes of Days of Future Past.
Dark Phoenix is certainly not the worst in the series, easily beating Apocalypse, X-Men 3, and Wolverine. This, however, is to damn with faint praise and much of the original story’s gravitas is missing.
As such, Dark Phoenix is a difficult film to recommend, but those going in with lowered expectations may find some of its remaining themes worth thinking about.
Dark Phoenix is rated M and is available now on Blu Ray/DVD and home digital release.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor