It’s hard to believe that the X-Men franchise started 19 years ago. Audiences have watched on as the superhero saga took its ups and downs over the past two decades but it is nice to see the film series goes out on a bittersweet yet enjoyable end.
It seems like even before this movie was made, it had a death sentence written all over it. When X-Men Apocalypse made its way into theatres back in 2016 with mixed reviews and somewhat disappointing results at the box office, Marvel (owned by Disney) Captain America: Civil War was paving its way through the box office, getting audiences ready for the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And with Hugh Jackman giving up the role of Wolverine and Deadpool being the only Fox Marvel character that was making its money back, the main X-Men franchise seemed to already be on its last legs.
Fast forward three years and Disney now own 21st Century Fox, and with the acquisition comes the use of Marvel characters they weren’t able to use since the inception of the MCU. Producers confirmed that Dark Phoenix would be the last X-Men movie in this long, confusing series. Critics seemed to already know what they wanted to say about this movie, considering all the issues the film had, from reshoots to bad test screenings. However, as with all movies, my advice would be to go in with an open mind and judge it for yourself.
Dark Phoenix picks up almost a decade after X-Men Apocalypse leaves off. It’s hard to put it to the side but the decision to space these movies out 10 years between each other has always been baffling. It made sense when X-Men: First Class was telling the story of Professor X and Magneto back in the 1960s but they have since abandoned trying to line up the movies so that they would end with the first X-Men movies. If you can put that fact to the side, the movie does play as a pretty decent X-Men film.
It was a little worrying when the movie starts out with a flashback to Jean Grey’s past, something X-Men: The Last Stand also did in its opening scenes. However, the scene plays out far more interesting than the Last Stands did. Fast forward to 1992, and the X-Men are on good standings with the U.S. Government and Xavier volunteers his young team for a dangerous space mission. Of course, all does not go well and Jean Grey seemingly absorbs a “solar flares” that endangered the astronauts they were tasked to save. Going any further would get into prime spoiler territory (although certain trailers seemed to not mind giving away a major death in the first act).
Predictably, the plot isn’t the most remarkable thing about this movie. Most of the story is surprisingly basic, despite the immense story they are taking on from the original comics. However, the way Simon Kinberg, the writer/director of this last X-installment handles the characters, it does give the movie its shine. Sophie Turner carries the weight of the movie on her shoulders and its impressive to see her hold her own. The portrayal of the Phoenix Force may not be much better than X-Men: The Last Stand but Turner brings a certain amount of nuance to an underwritten role. Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Quicksilver and Storm, although don’t get as much attention as they should, they haven’t had the justice they deserve since X2: X-Men United, however, they do have a great little scenes in the movie that make you wish they could have just had one more movie with this young cast.
Professor X, Magneto, Mystique and Beast are back one last time with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult, portraying them respectively. Each of these characters gets their moments that help elevate the movie from the slums it could have gone into without them. Disappointingly, Jessica Chastain’s character falls flat, with her just giving a monotone, one-note performance from her new character as a pseudo-puppet master role.
The movie is also saved by its few action sequences. There is a scene in front of Jean Grey’s childhood home (very reminiscent of the Last Stand) that folds out in an exciting and interesting way and the rain climax may be one of the best-extended fight scenes in all of X-Men history. While the settings of the fights are a bit clunky and disorienting, it is far from laughable as some places have claimed it was. With many having an issue with the sequence that takes place in the middle of the street.
At times, it does feel that this X-Men franchise overstayed its welcome. All of the films in the franchise are far from perfect and some are so bad, that they are hard to forget. However, with Dark Phoenix, we get glimpses of why we loved these versions of the characters so much. Check out this last X-Men movie in theatres while you still can and find enjoyment in these characters that we’ve followed back and for the last two decades.