The X-Men have become global heroes, taking on riskier missions, and when Jean Grey is hit with a solar flare on a space rescue mission, it unleashes an unimaginable strength in her that threatens the X-Men and the entire world.
As the conclusion of this Fox X-Men saga, Dark Phoenix is somewhat enjoyable with a fascinating cast and characters that are stayed true to here. Sophie Turner does a solid job as Jean, and even if she sometimes overacts, she does a good job of delivering fear, uncertainty, and pain in her performance. Despite the title though, the real standouts are actually the supporting characters played by James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult. These characters really get moments to shine and the writing from the previous films is carried down to keep them effective characters like they are here. However, there are some writing choices that make Charles and Mystique feel a bit out of character, like Raven’s constant doubting of the X-Men’s mission which was there before but in this film’s situation is a bit of a stretch. Also, Charles clearly introduces some of the conflict in the movie but it also feels like the other characters treat him too poorly for the sake of the story. Also, one of the coolest characters from the last few films, Quicksilver, is hardly in the film, which is a missed opportunity considering how much enjoyment he brings to the screen and the fact that X-Men: Apocalypse also revealed him being Magneto’s son, which has absolutely no payoff (not really a spoiler, it’s a fact revealed early on in the predecessor which was released in 2016).
It’s surprising that the real reason this film works is besides the main story and the fact that this is a Phoenix adaptation, it feels above all like an X-Men movie and the character relations are what work best. Jean’s internal conflict which is the central arc of the film actually falls second to the world-building and the connections between the other characters, as well as nods to themes that even have allegories of WWII events, like the idea of one incident drawing fear towards an entire group of people. The action works at times, especially a fun space rescue scene at the beginning that has striking visual effects, as well as an exciting battle in New York City later on which does an impressive job displaying the characters’ powers. The score from Hans Zimmer is also remarkable and helps bring a darker tone than most superhero films which isn’t really ever interrupted by light humor, something most Marvel movies like to include. Unfortuantley however, one of the hardest parts of the film to enjoy comes when an alien race is introduced, led by Jessica Chastain in what is sadly one of her least notable on-screen performances. This shape-shifting alien race feels too familiar, as we just saw the same idea with the Skrulls in Captain Marvel, and their designs and powers are so inconsistent and boring, as well as their overall presence which was just unwelcome. There’s also some lines and moments that feel out of place, like Halston Sage singing a modern pop song at a party in the 90s, or cringeworthy dialogue like a random moment in which Raven says that “The women always save the men around here so you should really think of changing the name to X-Women,” a line that comes out of nowhere, has no context and serves no purpose to the story.
Also, after some interesting drama and action, the film takes a drop in quality during a final battle where suddenly a lot of the excitement is lost and I didn’t really care about where it was going. This final battle was poorly choreographed and obviously felt like a last-minute reshoot, and sacrificed any convincing emotion the previous two acts may have had, and it culminates in a horrible and laughable climax that might be one of the worst scenes in the entire franchise. The ending to the film, which is now supposed to end the entire franchise, feels pretty abrupt and anticlimactic as a conclusion and I wish they had made one or two more films after this before bringing the story of the X-Men to a proper close. The way the film ends also leaves lots of plot holes in the timeline and unresolved things that make no sense when looking at the ending of X-Men: Days of Future Past, and this film is now supposed to be a prequel to that film’s final sequence but instead it diverts away from that to make the story in the franchise even more confusing. There’s also a huge plot hole in this film that completely ignores the events of X-Men: Apocalypse — if Jean used the Phoenix force in the ’80s, how does she only get the Phoenix force in the ’90s? Dark Phoenix feels darker than the other films and focuses more on character and plot than large world-ending scale, but by the end, I wasn’t really sure what it wanted to be. What redeems Dark Phoenix as a film though is the acting, music, and action (sometimes), as well as some interesting dilemmas and character arcs raised that may or may not appeal to both fans and non-fans, but personally I found it to be a lot better than the critics are calling it, though it’s still disappointing considering how awesome I’ve seen this series become before.