The Reel Review
This 12th film in the X-Men franchise, set in 1992, is the story of how Jean Grey came to gain her extraordinary superpowers, starring Sophie Turner (Sansa from HBO’s Game of Thrones). When the X-Men race to outer space to rescue the crew of an imperiled space shuttle, Jean gets blasted by a solar flare, resulting in a more angry, all-powerful alter ego.
In his film directorial debut, Simon Kinberg (producer and screenwriter of several prior X-Men movies), churns out a solid but disappointingly bland story presumably aimed at fans willing to suffer through predictable plot points and ho-hum visual effects to learn Jean’s backstory.
Jean is clearly a troubled soul, seemingly incapable of controlling her new powers, which injure or kill those near her – a concept that Kinberg hammers over and over. (We get it!) And while it’s nice to see the X-Men gang again, they feel like little more than props in this Jean-centric melodrama. McAvoy is, as always, good, but Turner’s Jean feels more like Sansa 2.0, and even Jessica Chastain’s evil alien villain feels phoned in. Is the washed out, no makeup look supposed to be scary?
It’s not that Dark Phoenix is bad – it’s a decent film. It’s just that after some really good X-Men films, it would have been nice to see the X-Men franchise end (for now) with a bang, not a whimper.
• Dark Phoenix is the second 2019 Marvel film set in the 1990s – the first was Captain Marvel
• Simon Kinberg also wrote the screenplays for 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand.
• Jennifer Lawrence initially didn’t want to reprise her role of Mystique but had a change of heart, saying she didn’t want fans to be confused if her character got the “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome” treatment.