The seventh outing in the main X-Men franchise sees possibly the most zzz-inducing movie and if this really will be their curtain closer, then what a damp squib to bow out on.
After a space mission where Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) soaks up a massive solar flare, her gifts are amped up, leading her on a dangerous journey of discovery and a path to the side of darkness. Professor X (James McAvoy) desperately hopes to get her back but with a sinister space presence in the guise of Vuk (Jessica Chastain) influencing the psychic redhead, it could be difficult.
I never saw ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ but apparently this latest feature is practically the same. Even though I haven’t watched it, ‘Dark Phoenix’ is still a movie which feels insanely familiar. Simon Kinberg’s first directorial gig is not a success and with writing work on a film like ‘Jumper’, you aren’t in for any new-found saving grace here. Reports are that Kinberg was sitting down with Turner to re-write and add in material whilst filming was in the stages of wrapping up; which goes a long way to demonstrate the unfocused car-crash this hugely delayed film is.
It is a film that had been pushed back more than once and after watching it, you kind of wish it had never seen the light of day. It’s extremely on the nose writing and none more so than a supernova forming the shape of a phoenix in the closing moments. It isn’t just this, the push and pull of right and wrong and the struggle of Jean’s plight could have been a well played and powerful study on grief, truth and goodness but everything feels so black and white that you cannot get involved with any aspect of the narrative. It’s a dull film in all honesty.
By the end of ‘Dark Phoenix’ all you’ll remember of it is a headache of noise and CGI. The DC and MCU worlds might utilise technical wizardry but a lot of the time, such as in ‘Shazam’ or ‘Endgame’, the heart remains because the characters are well served, there is not a fleeting chance of that within Kinberg’s script. The finale bloats itself with painful visual effects which are messy and instead of conjuring epic enjoyment it causes banality at how truly devoid of character the film is.
The entire film feels achingly repetitive, Jessica Chastain is wasted under a wig and is an emotionless alien persona whose name you won’t even remember unless the services of IMDb help you out. Nicholas Hoult, the mostly un-blue Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender must have had their mobiles in their pockets on set because they utterly phone in their performances. The latter has started some hippy commune and collects redundant mutants; none more stupid than Mr. I Whip-My-Hair-Back-and-Forth.
Not all is an abomination; Sophie Turner is alright and brings a serviceable amount of emotion to the table but she isn’t wholly dominant or fiery either, gladly her troubled young side of life burning on the fringes of evil are convincingly portrayed. A sequence earlier on when a group of mutants try and retrieve Jean from her home is nifty and gives us a chance to witness the cool style of Quicksilver. Hans Zimmer gifts us a wonderful score that will have you sinking into false comfort that you’re watching a better product and well, it’s not as bad as ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’…in my humble opinion.
‘Dark Phoenix’ is a tired end to the franchise and all we can hope for is the characters hide away for some time, before being inevitably bought back by the Avengers folk, who may breath necessary new life into the mutants.