'Dark Phoenix' - Did...did you guys think this was going to be good?

Dark Phoenix

When reading all these reviews slamming Dark Phoenix and call it one of the worst X-Men films to date, you can’t help but wonder what people were expecting. Did you guys see the trailers? Or do you remember how this movie had been pushed back, like three separate times? And you still thought it was going to be good?

Never give up hope, I guess!

Dark Phoenix is a new X-Men movie, now marking the twelth in this franchise — a franchise that will now likely be rebooted by Disney since they bought out Fox, despite the fact that we still have no idea what’s going on with that New Mutants film.

The film is directed by longtime X-Men producer Simon Kinberg (who also directed the most recent Twilight Zone episode), as Bryan Singer has finally gotten the ax from Hollywood following all the Bohemian Rhapsody drama. Good riddance.

Dark Phoenix is set in the 1990s, even though these characters are being played by the First Class (which was set in the 1960s) cast and look exactly the same as they did back then. If memory serves, the very first X-Men movie takes place in the 2000’s — so was there something that happened in a ten-year span that caused Professor Xavier and Magneto to go from looking like James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen? They couldn’t have tried to age them up just a little bit?

Dark Phoenix
credit: YouTube

It’s something we just have to deal with, I guess, because Dark Phoenix clearly has no f-ks to give whatsoever.

We open with a number of the X-Men — Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-Mcphee) and Jean (Sophie Turner) — being called in for a very important mission. There’s a rocket out in space that just ran into a solar flare or something like that, and the astronauts now need to be rescued.

They head up there, do the job with no causalities and get ready to return home when Jean mistakenly gets trapped onboard the broken down shuttle. She then takes the full blast of the solar flare — an incident that would leave any normal human being or mutant dead on sight.

She doesn’t die. In fact, quite the opposite — her powers only become enhanced (this isn’t Fantastic Four, I swear).

Enhanced powers only means trouble, however, as Jean now has full access to her mind and quickly learns that Professor Xavier (McAvoy) has been lying to her about parts of her childhood for all these years.

Dark Phoenix
credit: YouTube

When an alien who is named, I kid you not, VUK (Jessica Chastain) shows up and starts leading her down a misguided path, it all but seals the deal that Jean is now a threat who needs to be stopped at all cost.

So, yes, we’re basically remaking X-Men: The Last Stand. Cool, I guess.

To be fair to Dark Phoenix, this movie is not nearly as bad as you might have heard. I’ve read all these reviews saying this is not only the worst X-Men movie to date, but it’s worst than 2015’s Fantastic Four movie and anything else Fox has ever made. That doesn’t ring true, for me at least. It’s better than Craptastic Four, it’s better than X-Men Origins and it’s better than X-Men: Apocalypse.

Rather, this is just a middle-of-the-road X-Men affair that is, honestly, pretty humdrum. Try as I might, there wasn’t anything in this movie that I could become aggressively angry at. Instead, this is just something that I watched with an unenthused but firm look on my face. It kept my attention for the whole time, but I’ll still have completely forgotten nearly everything that happens in this movie within two week’s time.

That being said, there was a moment when Dark Phoenix ended and I asked myself whether I liked it or not. I sat there and very quickly realized I didn’t really have anything good about the movie to say. I didn’t have anything god-awful to say about it either, but I was still really struggling to come up with any serious compliments I could pay the film.

Dark Phoenix
credit: YouTube

The good news is that Dark Phoenix doesn’t do any serious disservice to any of the characters for longtime fans of the franchise. Fassbender, McAvoy and the whole crew do exactly what was asked of them, which translates into pretty standard X-Men movie drama. There isn’t anything new that’ll wow you, but it also isn’t aggressively stupid in the way that Apocalypse was.

You can’t blame the studio for green-lighting this movie, either. Ever since The Last Stand, there have been people saying — myself included — how cool it would be to have the Dark Phoenix storyline actually done right! Now, this might be a failed attempt at doing so, but you can’t blame them for trying to give us what we wanted.

What you can blame them for, though, is how paint-by-numbers this screenplay is. If you don’t really care about these movies or have never seen an X-Men movie, Dark Phoenix is going to do absolutely nothing for you, I can promise you that. None of the characters — like, literally none of them — have anything to do that’s even remotely of interest here, including Jean Gray herself.

I get what they’re trying to do with Jean. They want to make her into this complicated character who’s struggling to come to terms with things, thus making her three-dimensional as she begins to act out and figure out what kind of person she wants to be. That’s all fine and dandy, but this script just doesn’t know how to portray that — or female characters in general — in an interesting light.

Instead, Jean is just a clichéd and pandering character who’s only defined by what authority figures — most of whom are men — tell her to do. I know this movie WANTS to be empowering, but wanting isn’t enough. You actually have to put in the work and SHOW us that, as Wonder Woman and parts of Captain Marvel did. In that aspect, Dark Phoenix falls flat.

Dark Phoenix
credit: YouTube

Speaking of disempowering, let’s talk about Raven because, hoo boy. I’m not going to directly spoil what happens, even though you’ve seen it in the trailers by now. She’s not in this movie for much, I’ll say that. I get that Lawrence wants out of this franchise (she’s not as checked out in Dark Phoenix as she was in Apocalypse, but I still wouldn’t call her engaged), but it still just comes across as such a big ‘screw you’ to all the people who wanted to see more from her after First Class.

Then there’s Vuk (I still can’t get over how stupid of a name that is), who is a more forgettable villain that Malekith was in Thor: The Dark World. Seriously, I dare anyone to tell me a single defining trait about Vuk and what sets her apart from every other generic villain out there. I truly don’t believe it can be done.

Dark Phoenix is, quite frankly, the movie I had expected it to be. Again, I’m confused by all these people who are trashing it so hard — go in with low expectations and you won’t come out hating it, I don’t think. Now, that statement isn’t a ringing endorsement that should drive you to the theater right this instant to go see it but, hey, it is what it is. I think we would have all obviously preferred a better send-off to these actors, but let’s see what Disney can do with the characters now, shall we?

Watch the trailer for Dark Phoenix here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the film!

'Dark Phoenix' - Did...did you guys think this was going to be good?
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.

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