“Dark Phoenix”(dir. Simon Kinberg) makes the finale of Fox’s X-Men franchise and further explores the reckless side of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) as she battles powerful entity inside her. Since the first film’s release, the 9 movies that followed ranged from pretty awful to great superhero movies. However, “Dark Phoenix” was never destined to be great. From the beginning, Fox gave the director’s chair to Simon Kinberg, well known for his producing credits on other Fox projects, like “Chronicle,” but who has never directed a feature film. The film was then delayed twice and heavy reshoots took place in order to correct some of the wrong turns that were taken. It’s even been stated that the entire third act of the film was reshot to less resemble other comic book movies that have recently been released. Disney’s acquisition of Fox and all of its properties, like the X-Men, has also stirred much debate on whether this movie would ever be released or be scrapped entirely. After finally seeing the film, this movie should have been scrapped entirely. It’s that bad.
Starting with some positives, Hans Zimmer’s score is really solid. It reminded me of music that would belong in an early 2000s superhero movie. It’s a shame that it couldn’t have been utilized in a better film. The visual effects are pretty good, given that the film was delayed so many times and post-production was a disaster. The performances are great mainly because of the all-star cast Fox has assembled over the last decade. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are excellent on screen together as they always are, even though they deserved more scenes together. Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey is the linchpin of the film and for the most part she does a good job. The writing is pretty awful, but Turner manages to push through and deliver an otherwise solid performance. The film is also pretty short for a comic book movie. Rather than being the usual 2 hours or more, “Dark Phoenix” only assaults you with its awfulness for a mere 110 minutes, a step in the positive direction.
Everything else in “Dark Phoenix” epitomizes why this film should have just been thrown in the trash. I could ramble and ramble about why it doesn’t work, but simply put, this film is boring. Nothing interesting happens throughout the entire movie. Things happen in sequential order, then the story fizzles into an unsatisfying conclusion. It all comes down to Kinberg’s direction and script. The cast of “Dark Phoenix” is so talented and the fact that they can’t make the content interesting is the clearest sign of poor direction and writing.
Kinberg has very little style with his direction. Conversations are shot in an incredibly boring style with little shot diversity and medium shots of whoever is speaking. The camera is hardly moved in interesting ways, even when it comes to the action sequences, which aren’t good regardless. There isn’t enough action, which is a shame considering the comic storyline it’s based on is filled with meaningful action sequences. The film feels very hollow as a result when there isn’t an interesting enough story to justify watching it.
About a quarter of the way through the movie, a new species of creatures are introduced to the story, the main one being played by Jessica Chastain, that serve no purpose to the story in any meaningful way. It keeps the focus off of Jean and is the catalyst for what becomes a generic finale. For someone who isn’t a huge fan of these movies, it would honestly be difficult to differentiate this last action sequence from any of the others. These aliens totally derail the movie and prevent the main characters from having meaningful interactions with each other, which is certainly the main thing holding this movie back. Other large scale superhero movies like the recent “Avengers” films at the very least have a core of characters that have tangible interactions with each other, which make them feel well-rounded and easier to connect with. “Dark Phoenix” lacks any relevant drama with the characters throughout its entire runtime.
“Dark Phoenix” could have been a home run. The “Dark Phoenix Saga” is one of the most well received comic book storylines of all time, so why is it so difficult to adapt this story to the big screen? It feels like Kinberg and company completely missed the team dynamic and intricate character relationships that the X-Men are famous for. This is definitely the worst X-Men movie and one of the worst movies I’ve seen this year. The film isn’t always overtly bad, but the slow pacing and meandering story makes it feel far worse than it is.