It's Time for Fox To Pass The Torch
What started as promising beyond my previously decreased expectations ends in a literal train wreck in its final fight providing somewhat of a poetically tragic note for Fox to go out on with their X-Men saga. Many have called "Dark Phoenix" the worst X-Men film since "The Last Stand." In my opinion, it doesn't reach those heights of failure but gets pretty close. With "The Last Stand" Brett Ratner cared nothing about character development in favor of cheap deaths. In "Dark Phoneix" yes, there are some eerily similar elements to those cheap deaths, but they are emphasized with consequences that make its supporting character's frustrations relatable providing a second act I was invested in until act three derails everything in favor of blowing stuff up.
"Dark Phoenix," tells the story of a young girl, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) whose powers causes her mother to fall asleep at the wheel of the car she's driving. After the accident, Jean is taken in by Charles Xavier (Jame McAvoy) as her new legal guardian. Years later, in1990, after a successful rescue from a space mission, Jean is absorbed by a radioactive substance that could have killed her, yet she miraculously survives. As you can imagine from there, things go very wrong. Jean becomes unstable as the radioactive substance taps into her mind allowing her to discover a truth that Xavier has hidden from her all along. Right as the plot becomes psychologically juicy, everything turns into another run of the mill X-Men film. The bad guy is manipulating the good guy. Charles and Eric (Michael Fassbender) get into their usual humans vs. mutants fight. A lot of things get smashed around, and we end on everything being rose colored at the X-Men institute despite several deaths along with massive amounts of property damage as a result of the people from that institute who somehow always manage to remain unscathed from their destructive actions. Insert what the main character is hopeful about via ending narration, cut to credits. You get the gist.
The repetitive nature of "Dark Phoenix" is so by the books that we are exhausted by seeing the same film for the tenth time. Many could argue that Marvel is the same with repeating its familiar formula for years yet I can counteract that argument with "at least they knew how to spice things up." Whether it be making a "Spider-Man" movie that plays none of the conventions that the other films ever had or ending on an unexpected grim cliffhanger with "Infinity War." When Fox did mix it up with the X-Men, they would do an admirable job. "X-Men: Days of The Future Past" was a wonderful time traveling mixtape that successfully fixed its convoluted timelines. It had a sense of completion to it that felt like a beautiful bookend to a massive cinematic universe. Then we have "Logan" which was presumably a non-canon gritty hard R swan song to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. But all couldn't be left alone now, could it? We didn't need "Apocalypse" that played like a poorly written episode of the nineties X-Men television show that once more messed up the timelines, and we certainly don't "Dark Phoenix" which is an only slightly better version of "X-Men: The Last Stand" made for more reasons that are contractual than creative.
It's all such a shame since I enjoyed the first half of this film up until Vuk (Jessica Chastain) had to come in with her end of the world bad guy plot. At the beginning of the picture, we finally get to see the X-Men rescue people for the sake of heroism in the 1990 space mission sequence. You know, showing how mutants can use their power for real good? It was refreshing to see the X-Men be real superheroes by saving people rather than fighting each other like they do in every single other film. Also, the introspection relating to Jean's lineage and Charles' questionable motivations was something that could have been further explored rather than played off on a single note that's thrown out the window in favor of more CGI madness. Much like everyone's contracts being wrapped up "Dark Phoenix" goes from a slow jog to full sprint trying to make the finish line leaving plotholes, character threads, even general logic everywhere. How did all the mutants get off the hook for the damage they caused? How does a little kid from the holocaust sill look like he's in his mid-thirties in the nineties? How have none of these people aged at all? Do the events of the first three X-Men movies or "Days of The Future Past" count as canon at all? Thank you Fox for all the years of X-Men movies you have given us, but I believe it's finally time to pass the torch to its new owner. In the meantime, I could take a long break from this franchise. We all could.