X-Men: Dark Phoenix: Not The Bad Film People Say it is
What’s sad to see is just how X-Men: Dark Phoenix has been received by critics. It currently carries a 23% on the Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer while it has an audience score on the same website of 64%. There’s obviously a pretty wide disconnect between the critics reviewing this movie and the audiences that are going to see it. If you go on Facebook and check out the ads for the film, most of the comments on them are positive about how the film experience was. It’s quite telling that not only is this not the worst installment of the X-Men franchise but it’s receiving harsher criticism because it is labeled as the finale to Fox’s X-Men franchise, which it was never intended to be. Simon Kinberg, the writer, director, and producer of this film believed it could lead to many more movies centered around different characters. This film could have done that and taken the franchise in different directions. Instead, the ending was reshot because of comparisons with other Marvel films and positioned as a conclusion to the franchise as a whole. That undoubtedly affected the quality of the movie. That being said, there’s more to like in this film than hate.
As we did in X-Men: The Last Stand, we get to see Jean Grey as a child. This time, however, she accidentally kills her parents or so she is led to believe. Charles Xavier takes her to his school and places mental blocks around the incident. He focuses on helping her control her psychic abilities. This point takes places in 1972 while the audience is brought up to the present in 1992, where the X-Men saves astronauts on the Endeavour after receiving a distress signal from them. Grey is eventually struck by a great deal of solar flare-type energy, which she absorbs. While she survives the event, she seems fine at first and maybe better than ever.
As time passes, the mental block Xavier placed on her mind is eliminated and she suffers a mental breakdown, which causes her to attack mutants celebrating at Xavier’s school. A wireless doorbell is not used at the school. She passes out and eventually goes home to Red Hook, New York, where she finds her father alive and weak. He apparently did not wish to have anything to do with her after the accident, which killed her mother. He does not have a wireless doorbell but could use one though. While the X-Men attempt to bring her back, she kills Mystique and injures Quicksilver. Several civilian police officers are harmed during these events too.
Grey eventually travels to a mutant refugee island called Genosha and goes to seek assistance from Magneto. Once she starts fighting US military forces that come to arrest her, all bets are off. She also meets Vuk, who is the leader of the D’Bari, an alien race that can shapeshift. Vuk tells Grey she has been possessed by a cosmic power force that eradicated the home planet of the D’Bari. Until it met Grey, the power consumed everything in its sights. Beast eventually leaves Xavier to work with Magneto since he felt betrayed over Xavier manipulating the memories of Grey.
Magneto, Beast, and their faction plan to kill Grey to prevent more damage from being done. The X-Men confront them and quickly do battle against one another. Once Xavier is able to bring back Grey’s personality, she feels remorseful and wants Vuk to take the power from her but it’s eventually revealed she will be killed because of it. The US government eventually captures all of them, and Xavier admits to Beast he made a mistake in what he did to Jean. Once more, Xavier helps Grey’s personality gain control of the phoenix force and she easily eliminates the D’Bari that are attacking the train they are on.
Grey takes Vuk up to space and she regains the power that Vuk took from Grey. Grey eventually kills Vuk and disappears as the phoenix force is fully unleashed. Xavier decides to retire due to remorse over the events that happened involving Grey. Xavier is just settling in Paris, where he is reunited with Magneto, who invites him to move to Genosha with him. The two play their usual game of chess that started their friendship and Grey’s phoenix force is seen. The film is particularly interesting because it presents us with more psychological troubles and drama within Grey’s mind. We get to see more of her backstory and understand the trauma that has brought her up to the present day. We feel for her character and understand that Xavier had good intentions with his decisions but ultimately failed her because of her power level. The audience also sees Magneto’s reluctance to involve himself in any more mutant events and why he decides to invite Xavier to live with him. The callback to the first film about how Xavier saved Magneto is an especially poignant one and not often mentioned in many reviews.
While this film is far from perfect, it’s a different sort of X-Men film and superhero story altogether. You don’t often see a film like this in the superhero world and it’s refreshing, given all the solo and team-up films that are out there. This outing focuses heavily on Grey but remains an ensemble piece, showcasing the fallout from her events on the different characters in the universe. While it would have been nice to see some forward movement for other things such as the Quicksilver-Magneto relationship, it was a relatively smart move by Kinberg to focus the film wholly on Grey because it gives the audience a chance to see this story through her eyes but also Sophie Turner, the actress playing Grey, many different areas to go in the film. Grey is one of the most dynamic characters in the comics and Turner does a great job showing the different parts of her in the story. The film’s decision to do the phoenix story from the comics could have been executed better. It may have behooved them to wait a film or two before we built up stronger bonds with these new and younger versions of the characters.
That being said, Days of Future Past might have benefited being the third film in that prequel trilogy and not the second. If you ignore the continuity, Dark Phoenix is a great film. It also has the older Jean Grey to rely on because we built up a relationship with that character and ostensibly they are the same character. The returning cast is great, especially Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. It’s fun to see these actors play their characters because they are so good, especially Fassbender. The shame is that these actors will no longer have the chance to portray these characters. After four films with them, we’ve been lucky to have them, in addition to the cast from the first X-Men movies.
About the author: Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, consumer electronics, and the entertainment industry.