In a film that not only attempts to bring new life into one of the most compelling sagas in all of Marvel comics, Dark Phoenix not only does a worse job at portraying the self-destruction of Jean Grey and the X-Men than 2006’s The Last Stand, it actively works against adapting the story at all.
In the fourth (or eighth, depending on who you ask) X-Men movie of this generation, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) makes the drastic and heartbreaking transition from friend to foe after a rescue mission gone wrong does permanent damage to her psyche and unearths a dark secret buried deep inside of her.
While this all sounds like a fantastic subject to explore, especially since X-Men fans have been clamoring for a decent big-screen attempt at telling this story, the best way to describe this movie is as the most “watchable” X-Men movie of the decade. Among the chaos, the audience is able to see through this disappointingly unremarkable narrative.
In front of a crowd succumbing to the contagious yawning of other patrons stands a cast where no one stands out. Among a slew of some of the best actors working today is a dearth of memorable moments. In a movie featuring Jean Grey lift a train with her mind, the biggest noticeable reaction from the audience was to Scott Summer’s (Tye Sheridan) emotionally tepid dropping of the f-bomb (in a PG-13 movie!?! Good Heavens! *Faints*) to, yet again, a vengeance-seeking Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
The story is initially set up to establish the moral quandary that arises from the unearthing of Jean’s secret and what it means for James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier. The direction quickly shifts the focus away from Jean and towards Charles and his relationship with what remains of the “First Class.” In a movie about Jean Grey's inescapable, uncontrollable strength, Charles Xavier remains the focal point, something even Hank (Nicholas Hoult) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) take umbridge with, calling him out for having an inflated ego and putting his students in danger.
And just to remind you that this film isn’t about Jean’s inner conflict and her destructive tendencies, here comes one-dimensional Jessica Chastain and her CRAAAAZY PASSPORT to essentially remake Men in Black 2. Replacing Jean as the film’s main antagonist is this bleach-blond alien and her pack of powerful nobodies to bring Jean back to the side of the light rather than having the rivers run red with the blood of Charles Xavier’s School for the Gifted. There is no reason for any of this other than to fill in the void of “conventional bad guy.” The purpose of X-Men: Apocalypse was ultimately to show us of how powerful Jean Grey can be as the Phoenix. The purpose of Dark Phoenix was to tell us how powerful she can be as the Phoenix. The audience is, at best, given a brief glimpse of what exactly the Phoenix can do, but they are forcibly reminded that she is not the star of her own show. Jean Grey was said to be “the strongest creature on the planet” but is unable to shift out of second gear until the concluding minutes of the film’s climax. She won the multimillion-dollar jackpot and was told that she could only spend $45,000 of her winnings.
The ending of Grey's story is done with carelessness at breakneck speed. While the phoenix soars, Jean is memorialized with a plaque as her story dissolves into that of, for the third time in four movies, the school she is now named after. Dark Phoenix is destined to grace the screens of anyone watching TNT at 7:00 p.m. EST on a Friday night.
Sophie Turner deserved better.