Dark Phoenix Review: A Subtle Conclusion for the X-Men
Updated: Sep 24
When thinking of Marvel Comics on the silver screen many look towards The Avengers. However before Earth Mightiest Heroes assembled another Marvel team was making a name for themselves. Since 2001 the X-Men have played a role in movies and though the franchise has had its share of highs and lows Marvel’s team of mutants continue to be a prominent player for the superhero movie genres. However, with 20th Century Fox merging with Disney, it seems that change is upon the series and this was evident in the latest film in the X-Men franchise: Dark Phoenix. Directed by Simon Kinberg Dark Phoenix is a finale of sorts for the story that began in 2011’s X-Men: First Class as well as another attempt to adapt one of the X-Men’s most iconic stories to the big screen. Despite the delays Dark Phoenix has finally made its way to theaters and while it may not be the most stand out entry in the X-Men franchise there is something special about this superhero film.
Dark Phoenix finds the X-Men in a dire conflict when Jean (Sophie Turner) absorbs a cosmic entity and becomes the most powerful mutant on the planet; which makes her a target for the likes of the mysterious (Jessica Chastain). The first time the Dark Phoenix saga was adapted to the big screen it did not go so well due to it being crammed with other plotlines. Fortunately that was not the case this time around. Though it may not be authentic retelling of the classic story this plot had a good understanding of both its concepts and themes to the point where it did feel like an X-Men story. However where the issues lie for this plot is within its execution. While the story was coherent the structure was rather quick which made it difficult for the likes of subplots and moments to feel effective to the overall film. Despite that problem there was tension within the plot and it was enough to keep me invested in this superhero film.
Having a cast full of standout characters is usually the X-Men’s bread and butter, and it was good to see that this concept was not completely lost in Dark Phoenix. Unlike its predecessors the cast felt more narrow this time around and this turned out to be a pro for the film as well as a con. The subtle approach to the cast allowed the character progression to feel important which was evident in Jean as well as Xavier (James McAvoy)-though it was a less consistent for Xavier. However this direction also prevented other characters such as Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to feel vital to the film; while other characters like Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) were somewhere in the middle. When it came to the villainous (Jessica Chastain) she was rather underwhelming. The character served a purpose to be sure but it to just characterization there was just not much to this extraterrestrial threat.
If there is one thing that Dark Phoenix exceeded at it was its sense of presentation which was evident the film’s technical elements. While the visuals were inconsistent in their execution the cinematography made up for it by creating stylish shots for the film. Along with the effects was the film’s action which was astonishing to say the least. Blending spectacle with practicality the action to this superhero film was creative and felt appropriate for the X-Men. Rounding things out for the film was none other than the music by Hans Zimmer. Zimmer is no stranger to superhero films as the composer has created compositions for the likes of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man. In the case of Dark Phoenix the score was uncanny as the music created dynamic tunes that seemed rather fitting for both the film and the series as a whole.
Dark Phoenix is certainly perplexing. While the story could be off putting there was sense a sense of storytelling to the film that kept it investing; and though the characters could have had stronger progression the cast was fluent due to their sensible characterization and their performances. Yet it was the movie’s presentation that truly made the difference as its spectacle, action and music were at a calibur that was worthy of any superhero film. Dark Phoenix had it share of issues but I cannot say that this entry in the X-Men franchise was complete miss as it brought this chapter for the team of mutants to a subtle end.