“What they fear, they seek to destroy”: X-Men Dark Phoenix Review

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Sophie Turner as Jean Gray. Photo Source: 20th Century Fox

Maria McQuillan, Arts & Entertainments Co-Editor.

Dark Phoenix: The Final Do-Over?

The problem with X-Men: Dark Phoenix fundamentally is that we’ve already seen it. To be fair, there are a few twists and turns that did keep it interesting, but at its most basic level, it’s the same story as X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s the last in the newer X-Men franchise, which always seemed to me to be Fox’s attempt to salvage the wreckage of the original trilogy.

Again, to give the film due credit, it’s definitely an improvement from Brett Ratner’s 2006 attempt at the same storyline in X-Men: The Last Stand, which even as a nine year old, I remember being a pretty awful film. The world of Dark Phoenix is a very different one – no magical cure for mutantism is one major improvement – and so the story focuses solely on Jean Grey (played by Sophie Turner) and what happens to her when she comes into contact with a cosmic force that causes her own powers to go wildly out of control.

This was a major boon for the film, as we are not distracted by as many side plots. It’s a pretty formulaic film: Jean comes into contact with alien power, goes berserk and the X-Men must go after her. Sophie Turner is compelling in this role. She was one of the main reasons I liked the film, and X-men’s greatest strength lies in its fantastic cast. Similarly, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, and James McAvoy as Professor X are great as always, as we see how their characters have evolved further from the previous films, and how they too, react to this threat to their society, when Jean’s powers potentially mean a return to the old segregation of mutant and human. The film tries to be a darker take on many of the characters, as much of the film focuses on the trauma of Jean Grey’s childhood, and on Professor X’s egotism in his creation of The X-Men. Jennifer Lawrence as Raven really plays the voice of reason, calling for Professor X to look at the future of their species and his own role in the creation of this scenario, especially when the humans react badly when one mutant goes rogue. The focus on themes of trauma and responsibility help to make Dark Phoenix a far more interesting watch than its predecessor X-Men: Apocalypse, which felt far too much like Fox’s attempt to rival The Avengers.

One major change for me was the fighting and action scenes in the movie. In several, particularly towards the end of the film, the fighting becomes pretty brutal. I really enjoyed several of the action sequences, as they were what really helped to keep the movie interesting to watch. It was interesting to see how they stepped up how the X-Men fight, particularly characters like Kodi Smitt-McPhee’s character. Yet, one of the major weaknesses in the film for me (and the franchise) was its inability to develop the side characters further. Many of the characters only had a few scenes, and actors like Evan Peters who plays Quicksilver (well known for American Horror Story and Pose), really were relegated to the side-lines, despite their potential. Even Scott, Jean’s own love interest, has a remarkably small role considering his importance to her. Many characters end up only being seen in action scenes, where they have no dialogue and the majority of their screen presence is CGI- generated.

Unfortunately, Jessica Chastain’s villainous turn as Vuk, a member of the alien species who are trying to recover the power absorbed by Sophie Turner, is disappointing. As the bad guys, they are woefully underdeveloped, and are lacking any individuality. Chastain described her character as ‘clinical’, which succinctly sums it up.

It’s a suitable swansong for a series that was trying to renew itself from its previous incarnation, but it feels unfinished. I doubt this is the last we will be seeing of the X-Men.

Director: Simon Kinberg

Starring: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence

Run-time: 1hr 54 min.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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