Who Knew There Could Be A Worst “X-Men” Film Than “X-3: The Last Stand”? Well X Gon’ Give It To Ya, Because “Dark Phoenix” Hits The All-Time Low. Be Grateful For Michael Fassbender, As That Gorgeous Man Gives The Best Scrunched Face Performance Of All Time.
The most impressive thing about Simon Kinberg’s “Dark Phoenix”. The 12th movie in 19 years from 20th Century Fox’s wildly up and down “X-Men” franchise is Michael Fassbender. The only actor in the whole ensemble who actually gives a damn and does what he gets paid to do…act. While everyone else looks like they’re more interested in what the caterers made for lunch that day. These guys could learn a lot from the cast of “Avengers”.
Fox tries their hand at the Jean Grey & Dark Phoenix story arc for the second go around after Brett Ratner’s 2006 entry “X3: The Last Stand”. If this is indeed the final iteration of these characters under the 20th Century Fox brand, and it will become one of Disney’s MCU juggernauts. The filmmakers and studio should be ashamed as they manage to deliver a dull and lazy; story, acting and filmmaking, that makes you wonder if anyone even cares anymore?
Since it is based on the re-hashed storyline, “Dark Phoenix”, it will give anyone who sat through “X-3: The Last Stand” a serious case of déjà vu. It also has distracting similarities to the recent Marvel blockbuster, the far superior “Captain Marvel”. As the hero who absorbs limitless cosmic energy and gets tracked down by shapeshifting aliens, and down to the subplot about women getting psychologically manipulated into suppressing their emotions in order to neutralize their power.
Kinberg, who has been a long-time “X-Men” writer and producer, had his first “X-Men” writing credit on “X-3”. Kinberg makes his directorial debut here, as he is guided by his own script from 13 years ago once called “X-3: The Last Stand” which he now dusts off and re-names it “Dark Phoenix”. Beautifully shot by Mauro Fiore with a memorable and dynamic score by Hans Zimmer. The film has significantly rousing moments other than Michael Fassbender, especially in a scene that we get to watch the “X-Men” bravely try to cross a New York City street. Kinberg choreographs a few exceptional action sequences (mostly the climax on the train) and some impressive visual effects moments.
It’s hard to find anything good in “Dark Phoenix”, especially when your main character is also your least interesting one. To make things even more difficult is the lack of ability Sophie Turner has to be the lead of an ensemble the size of “Dark Phoenix”. Turner does what she can with a role that requires her to say variations on the line, “I don’t know what’s happening to me!” about a half-dozen times.
Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (“Molly’s Game”) joins the cast, looking like a female Draco Malfoy. She is the leader of the shapeshifting aliens who calls herself Vuk, which I said to myself a few times during the movie while looking at my watch. She has taken on a human form and is after Jean Grey as she wants to extract her cosmic powers. Turner and Chastain soon go head to head in a battle of verbal quotes from “Chicken Soup For The Soul” as Chastain’s alien tells Jean Grey: “Your emotions make you weak”, as Jean replies “No they make me strong”. Yea you go girl! Cue No Doubts “I’m Just A Girl”. I’m sure if “Captain Marvel” hadn’t already brilliantly done that “Dark Phoenix” would have.
Fassbender returns as Magneto who now leads an independent mutant community on a remote island, with sets recycled over from the “Divergent” films. It’s funny how Magneto had committed mass murder, and he gets a free pass. Every. Single. Time. But as soon as Jean Grey has a body count of one, which was by accident no less, everyone’s ready to execute her on sight.
As with most of the “X-Men” films, chronological messiness isn’t easy to forgive. Fassbender, who is in his early 40s, is supposed to be a character who survived the Holocaust and should be pushing 60 by now, especially when he’s supposed to be aging into Ian McKellen in the next few years. Michael Fassbender gives an intense performance as Erik aka: Magneto. Not to mention whenever his scenes require him to tightly scrunch his face, you just want to give the man an Oscar as he is that good. Unlike Fassbender or the original cast, the younger actors have never really managed to make these characters their own.
Much of the plotting is devoted to the ways that Xavier, a powerful telepath, manipulated Jean’s mind when she was young to protect her from herself. The rest of the “X-Men” are furious at him over this for half the movie before they abruptly let him off the hook. “Dark Phoenix” manages to get dark and violent, with an unexpected use of the F-word by Cyclops.
For a grand finale, there is no emotional payoff, no earth shattering goodbye to a franchise that started nearly 19 years ago. This is certainly no “Avengers: EndGame”. Kinberg’s “Dark Phoenix” tries to ride the female wave of superhero movies. In one scene Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), laughably tried to stand up for the women of the “X-Men” and I say laughable mainly because of Jennifer Lawrence’s bad acting. As she tells Professor X how the women are carrying the team and they should change the name to “X-Women”. Yea you go girl! Cue No Doubts “I’m Just A Girl” one more time. Writer and director Simon Kinberg knows how to turn every scene into a showdown of bad dialogue, as Kinberg is capable and can do much better than what he gives us with “Dark Phoenix”. It’s time for Thanos to snap his fingers again and declare this storyline and franchise dusted.
(1 Michael Fassbender Out Of 5)