The X Men franchise very rarely does middle ground. Its films are usually either touchstones within the comic book genre (X2 or Logan) or touchstones in the realms of cinematic awfulness (Origins: Wolverine or The Last Stand).
My hopes weren’t high when I first saw the trailer, if I’m honest. The dialogue was hackneyed and unoriginal at best, and utterly cringe-inducing at worst (the ‘you know what the kids are calling you’ line was the worst offender) but it wouldn’t be very professional of me to judge the film on the trailer, now would it?
During a mission into space to save stranded astronauts caught in the path of an oncoming solar flare, Jean Grey absorbs said solar flare and miraculously survives, although the effects might be more devastating than first thought…
X Men: Dark Phoenix is ultimately a series of good ideas, shackled by an unsatisfactory script. In something that should come across as no shock to those with any gift for pattern recognition.
You see, this is the franchises second attempt at adapting the Dark Phoenix saga to screen, following 2005’s disastrous The Last Stand, in which a series of good ideas was severely hampered by an unsatisfactory script. Strange that.
I joke, but it is worth bearing in mind that the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistake twice and expecting a different outcome. Dark Phoenix is muddled, confused and overly-confident in itself, tying down its talented cast with a script that sounds like it was written by a computer program designed to create cliched film scripts.
The dialogue is messy (and that’s being charitable) and the characters flit between self-righteous heroism to bloodlust and vengeance without so much as a pause to breath, which is a real shame, as hidden deep within this mess of a narrative lies several good ideas, all kneecapped by the bullet of poor scriptwriting.
The performances are a glimpse into what could have been, well some of them are, I’m not convinced casting Game of Thrones actors in any role besides the one that made them famous is going to work in the long run, as time has taught us that trusting them to carry a role beyond the realms of Westeros is a very bad idea.
First there was Emilia Clarke in Solo, being out-charisma-ed by everything with legs, and several things without legs, now there’s Sophie Turner, who appears to be an android. One who’s heard about emotions, but can’t seem to tie down their exact meaning.
Apart from the glaring deficiencies of its leading character, there are some nice performances here from the likes of James McAvoy, Jennifer Laurence, and Michaels Fassbender, a man who’s career might just be a perfect metaphor for this film: glimpses of brilliance, tied down by some phenomenally poor decisions. These actors did their best with a poor script, even if they did occasionally look as though they’d mentally checked out.
The highlight of Dark Phoenix is in the cinematography department. As much as it’s action scenes are uninspired and underwhelming, there is some very nice camera work going on, making the otherwise dark and dingy environments seem more full of life than they have any right to be, the space section of the film being the best testament to this, the content may be drab and unoriginal, but at least it’s presented well.
Helmed by long-time X Men writer, and first time director, Simon Kinberg, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect more than what we got. After all, the same man wrote Days of Future Past, a film the truly fulfills the promise this franchise and its characters has.
In conclusion, Dark Phoenix must be put down as a disappointment, it’s few moments of promise let down by a poor script and phoned-in action, as a film it may just be disappointing, but as a final farewell to the series as we know it, it is even worse. It fell well short of being a satisfying send-off for the characters, instead, it merely peters out, now with a bang, but with a soul-crushing whimper.