Released: 6th June
Seen: 6th June
It would be a lie for me to say that I’ve kept up with the X-Men saga over the years. I saw the first three movies in the original series, I might’ve been one of the few to actually kind of enjoy X-Men: The Last Stand, and then I didn’t really come back until Deadpool, Logan and Deadpool 2. This new group of young X-Men never interested me so I never really went to go see them and felt no real need to have this franchise be a part of my cinematic diet… and then, ya know, stupid me decided he wanted to try and be a critic and therefore would need to see every film when it came out. I, of course, was extra stupid and decided to do this right around the time that the series apparently decided to stop being interesting… because I’m clearly a bad person who doesn’t deserve nice things. I certainly don’t think I was bad enough to deserve the kind of boredom that was being offered to me by Dark Phoenix but hey, apparently I’ve just been that much of a bad boy.
Dark Phoenix follows the legendary X-Men who are sent on a mission to help the space shuttle Endeavour. They fly out and try to get everyone off the ship before a massive solar flare comes by. Because of some reasons that don’t matter in the slightest, everyone except Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) gets off the ship in time and the full brunt of the giant solar flare hits her but instead of killing her, it only makes her stronger and a little bit homicidal. Only a little bit though, she doesn’t actually do anything interesting like obliterate people into dust or wipe out a continent, no she just tries to deal with tragic backstory relating to her father (who she thinks is dead but he isn’t because of reasons). Meanwhile, the other members of the X-Men are trying to stop her while all being very upset at Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) because he locked off some of Jean’s painful memories which means he’s solely responsible for her trauma because that’s how that works. Also, there’s some stuff with aliens… because of reasons.
It’s hard to even be enthused enough to write a full review of this movie, it really is. If I just put a score here and called it a day would anyone object? It’s not like anyone cares about this film in the slightest, we know it doesn’t matter since the Disney/Fox merger renders this series moot because Disney is going to reboot it, they’ll recast everyone and possibly even hire a writer who hasn’t already had one bad bite of the poisoned apple. Sadly, I couldn’t do that because I had to deal with this movie and therefore I’m going to get my money’s worth by complaining about how boring it is. It really shouldn’t be boring since this is a movie about mutants fighting aliens with superpowers… but it’s boring, guys, it’s SO BORING. The action is boring, the writing is boring, the lighting is boring, everything is boring and I really shouldn’t be bored when Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is crushing train cars with his mind. I should be on the edge of my seat, cheering, clapping, having some form of a reaction other than wondering if I could turn my phone on and play Stardew Valley without annoying anyone. Yes, that’s a literal thought that I had watching this movie, that’s how bored I was.
There’s just no meat here, nothing of any actual substance happens. X-Men is a series known for using its main cast of characters as stand-ins for oppressed groups, be it people of colour in the comics or the LGBT community in the original films and considering the times that we live in there would be no better time to have a story that acted as some kind of metaphor for a group of oppressed people standing up against a dark force… or, or, we could have literal aliens come in who look like people and make them the bad guys because there is absolutely nothing that could be read into that idea. No, literally, there’s nothing because the subtle racist idea I just floated would actually be interesting and, in case you haven’t caught on yet, this film isn’t even interesting enough to be shockingly bad. I almost would like it if there was some horrifying accidental racist allegory, at least that would lead to some form of a reaction. I could have some kind of visceral feeling other than wondering if I could cut a popcorn kernel in half with my tongue (Spoilers: No, I can’t)
Even the actors don’t seem to care about getting a reaction, they certainly never had one. Well, I take that back a little because Sophie Turner is actually giving a good performance that deserves a much better movie around it. She steals scenes that she’s in, not just because she’s glowing and floating around like a nuclear Mary Poppins but because she’s actually clearly trying to do something. Same with Nicholas Hoult in the role of Beast, he’s actually trying to do something interesting here. He’s actually got a plot and character motivation and scenes where he couldn’t be replaced with a bit of wood shaped like a person. Everyone else in the film? Yeah, easily replaced by bits of wood. Even the great actors like McAvoy and Fassbender clearly just want this to be over with. Jennifer Lawrence is certainly giving it her best but she has nothing to work with and after a while, it just stops mattering… hell, Evan Peters doesn’t even turn up for almost half the movie and not because of anything serious, it just feels like they forgot to call him onto set at some point. It’s almost no wonder that this film sat on the shelf for a long time and needed reshoots, you can tell that there was a considerable amount of this that was assembled in the edit and turns out, wasn’t worth it.
The film’s biggest problem, besides the fact that everyone has completely checked out, is the script. It’s messy, it’s poorly thought out and there isn’t a damn thing about it that’s memorable. I admit to not knowing much about Jean Grey’s transformation into Dark Phoenix as it was described in the comics but I do know that letting the writer of The Last Stand have another crack at it wasn’t a great idea. Oh, yeah, the guy who wrote this movie also wrote the last movie that did the dramatic Dark Phoenix reveal and since that was the part of The Last Stand that people had the most problems with you would think that they wouldn’t let him do that again… and then you’d think after he wrote the script for the Fantastic Four remake they’d never let him play with their toys again but nope, they let that guy write another superhero movie and are somehow shocked that it’s not very good. It’s just so boring, I wonder if the script was just a sheet of blank paper. That might explain it.
Dark Phoenix is too boring to be awful, it’s too bland to be bad. It exists as a film that would’ve probably been underwhelming no matter when they unleashed it onto the world but the fact that they put this out a month after Endgame basically upped the ante so much that you couldn’t even see it from space? That’s just sad. The X-Men franchise doesn’t even get to go out with a whimper, because a whimper is a sound that human beings would notice being made. It goes out with a soft barely audible breath as the franchise slowly drifts off into eternal cinematic slumber. Sure, next year we’re apparently getting New Mutants which sounds like it’ll be the death rattle for this franchise but maybe then we can take a bit of a break until the MCU breathes some actual life into this… because there’s none here, a few good performances surrounded by a sea of beige.