The X-Men series has been released out of order. Chronologically, X-Men: Dark Phoenix sits just after X-Men: Apocalypse and just before Deadpool, placing it in the middle. That's about the only place Dark Phoenix is going to be in the middle of anything. Expect to see it in last place in plenty of 2019 movie rankings.
WARNING! SPOILERS about X-Men: Dark Phoenix below.
“There’s always a speech” says Michael Fassbender as Magneto, to James McAvoy’s Professor Xavier before a battle. There's always a speech. Superhero movies are formulaic, which is to a certain extent to be expected. There are always the same set of lines they're apparently contractually obliged to include (“the goodness has been inside of you all along” or “I don’t know who I am”).
But Dark Phoenix, directed by Simon Kinberg (known for producing Deadpool, Fantastic Four, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Apocalypse) follows the formula to a completely cringe-worthy degree really, really hammering home is the essential formula of fighting + triumphant music + moralising. And not really anything else. That's all there is.
You’d think someone who had helped write both Deadpool movies might have a grasp on how a little irony or acidity can help an audience forgive excessive servings of cheese. Unfortunately, the 25-odd (quite successful) action movies Kinberg has worked on seem to have done something to his brain and made him unable to do much other than churn out content with the same look, feel and set of “meaningful” quotes.
The music at any given point seems to be at the height of a churning crescendo, or belting out a predictable something-is-going-to-happen "bwahhhhh bwahhhhh" when all the X-Men line up in v-formation because, well, something is about to happen.
The plot has its own issues. The movie centred around Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) struggling through what was essentially being a superhero with post-traumatic stress panic attacks, through which no one leaves her alone for five minutes. She ingests a solar flare (?) and at the end she turns into fireworks to kill the head alien and avoid killing her friends. But no one knew the aliens were aliens? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Throughout the entire film none of the characters seem to have any idea who the bad guys were, let alone what their motivations were or why they should be fighting them. Professor Xavier even at one point refers to a baddie as “that woman or whatever she is.” Turns out they were some very clichéd, shape shifting, super-intelligent aliens who wanted to take the power that Jean Grey (a.k.a. Phoenix) had acquired to restart their own race on earth (after they wiped out all of the life currently on earth, of course). Stock standard alien motivation you got there.
I could go on. In fact, I will.
- The theme seems to be choice: Jean Grey must choose her own destiny and whether she is good or evil. But people are constantly telling her what to do to the point she doesn’t actually get to make many choices at all.
- Jean Grey is so powerful they really don't need any of the other mutants. Snooze.
- If you aren’t an avid X-Men fan, the timelines of who ages and who doesn’t are too confusing to bother thinking about.
- Isn't painting yourself blue to look like a marginalised group who, in their universe, naturally have blue skin that they have been vilified for at one point a bit uh.... problematic?
- Sophie Turner’s accent. She’s trying and most of the time it sounds very American but the occasional slips meant I was constantly listening for hints of Sansa Stark’s accent.
- Come to think of that, Nicholas Hoult’s accent while in his human form of Beast was patchy as hell too. Come on Nicholas, you can do better than that.
- Magneto’s island hippie commune? In containers? With a Kiwi guy? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- The cafe at which Magneto and Professor X met at the end of the movie was called Café les Vieux Copains or Café of Old Friends. Sorry, hold on a moment, my eyes just rolled right back into my head.
I should’ve known Dark Phoenix would’ve used every cliché in the action movie playbook at the very beginning when they stole the classic "rocket comes out of leisure equipment racket from Thunderbirds" - except in this case the rocket came out of the basketball court instead of the pool. One point for originality and one point deducted for not playing the Thunderbirds theme while the rocket emerged. And since all Jennifer Lawrence did as Mystique in this movie was talk and tell people what to do and never even used her powers, she’d make a great Lady Penelope.