X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SIMON KINBERG / STARRING: JAMES McAVOY, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, JENNIFER LAWRENCE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Fox's X-Men film franchise is, without a doubt, one of the most inconsistent film series ever produced, going from strength (Logan, Days of Future Past) to weakness (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Apocalypse). The final instalment, Dark Phoenix, unfortunately falls into the latter category.
The film had an uphill struggle from the get go. Writer / producer Simon Kinberg had to step up as director after parting ways with controversial Bryan Singer even though he never directed in his life, and attempting to right the wrongs of X-Men: The Last Stand by trying to do justice to the Dark Phoenix story in a way that Last Stand couldn't. The film's release was pushed back a few times due to big re-shoots as a result of Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel, and Disney bought Fox, meaning this movie had to wrap up everything so that Marvel could relaunch the X-Men into the MCU. After all these sacrifices, the end product still doesn't amount to anything of real emotional weight or substance. The X-Men story could easily have ended with either X-Men or Logan, both of which brought some finality but, instead, Fox and Kinberg decided to create a film that's so unnecessary that, just like with the incredibly lacklustre Apocalypse, disrupts the credibility of the entire franchise.
Jean Grey, the Dark Phoenix of the film, is the central character we're supposed to follow, the one to empathise with, as she's experiencing the emotional and psychological turmoil. However, the movie that introduced her, Apocalypse, never really built Jean up as a character, and this film still fails on that front. Despite Sophie Turner turning in a decent performance (even with a wonky accent), the movie falls flat on its face in making us feel for Jean so, when bad stuff happens to her, nothing is felt. It's as if Kinberg is attempting to deconstruct a character he never bothered to construct in the first place. The whole Dark Phoenix storyline rests on Jean as a well-rounded, multi-layered protagonist / antagonist, and if that fails then the whole thing fails.
While the confusing continuity of this franchise has been a long-running topic of discussion, this film is basically a giant middle finger to all of that, since little to nothing matches what happened before or what will happen afterwards in the already-muddled timeline. This series has constantly struggled to deliver compelling villains outside of Magneto, and the alien shapeshifters here are among the very worst examples. Apparently, they were originally supposed to be Skrulls but were drastically altered due to their appearances in the MCU. It shows, due to how very one-note and paper thin they are. Seriously, what's the point of getting Jessica Chastain involved if you're just going to have her deliver a very bored and lifeless performance? As for Magneto, he feels shoehorned into the plot with very little reason, and his motive for turning evil again briefly is as flimsy as it gets. As for the rest of the characters, Mystique is used as a glorified plot device, Quicksilver and Nightcrawler are given little to do, and why do these films hate Cyclops and Storm so much?
There are many more problems that beset X-Men: Dark Phoenix apart from what's already been said, and this is a real shame since there are some things to appreciate: Hans Zimmer's brilliant score, some neat ideas and concepts here and there, and the final action sequence being the only solid highlight of the whole film. But, just like The Last Stand, it fails massively when trying to tell an actual Dark Phoenix story. It fails to provide a genuine character arc for Jean Grey, the villains are incredibly boring, a lot of the characters feel marginalised and the direction is lifeless. While it isn't the worst of Fox's X-Men movies (both X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Apocalypse are slightly worse), this is still an underwhelming film that ends the series not with a bang, but a whimper.