Friday, June 7, 2019

Dark Phoenix - Review

On paper, adapting the Phoenix Saga for the big screen makes sense. However, when attempting to do so, it might be in the studios best interest to build it up a bit more than they have on two separate occasions now. After a half-hearted attempt back in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand, Simon Kinberg returns to once again rush to an end goal without putting in any effort to get there.

During a life-threatening rescue mission in space, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet. 

As far as positives go, there aren’t many. Hans Zimmer comes on board to breathe some life into a drab affair, crafting a truly memorable score for a film series that isn’t often known for the music. Some of the action is entertaining, if only slightly, in its kinetic nature and blend of interesting abilities. And Michael Fassbender continues to serve as a consistent and fantastic iteration of Magneto.

That’s about all, and even some of that is a stretch.

It’s not as though Dark Phoenix is horrendous. It’s not the worst X-Men film, but its existence feels inconsequential. Simon Kinberg throws out numerous elements of continuity from just one film ago so that the premise of the film can even work (it still doesn’t). Since the first film in 2000, Fox has shown a fundamental fear of the comic book source, and a complete lack of how to make these characters work on screen. Dark Phoenix is no different, and it may just be the best example of the errors of the franchise.

The entire film handles less like the epic and emotional conclusion it was advertised as, and more like an obligation to fulfill. The story is a boring, re-hash of various beats from past entries. The performances reek of actors yearning to be done with the franchise, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult. There is no scope or scale to any of it, just a handful of mutants fighting in a narrow train, or a small street corner. It’s as if they made the film only for it to be forgotten.

Most of the film’s problems lie in an abysmal screenplay. Ignoring the nonsensical plot points or blatant disregard for past events, the lack of any understanding of character development would still be enough to call this a poorly written film. Part of the bad performances must be blamed on this as well, as there is no way that even the best actors could make some of this awful dialogue work.

Dark Phoenix is a second attempt at an epic storyline that somehow results in a worse film than before. The stench of low effort permeates throughout every moment of the film, from the lackluster, basically nameless villain played by Jessica Chastain, to the production design that looks like it had its budget cut almost in half. While this may not have actually been the ultimate conclusion for the franchise before the Disney takeover, it’s hard to imagine the film was ever salvageable beyond a few miniscule positives. The franchise that gave new life to comic books on the big screen nearly twenty years ago, goes out with the smallest whimper possible.

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