Dark Phoenix (2019)

Posted in Reviews by - November 10, 2019
Dark Phoenix (2019)

This empty spectacle marks an underwhelming end to 20th Century Fox’s association with the X-Men film franchise, following Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of the company in 2019. For all its CGI-laden thrashing and crashing, the film lacks the heart, humour and excitement of previous instalments, and feels more like a contractual obligation than an attempt to move the franchise forward. Its more female-centric storyline could be viewed as new territory for these films, but in a culture where Marvel’s Avengers movies and Disney’s Star Wars and live-action retellings of its classic fairy tales have already helped to pave the way for greater representation in its tentpole productions, these X-Men films now feel a bit staid and behind-the-times. As Raven aptly puts it: “The women are always saving the men around here. You might wanna think about changing the name to X-Women.” This sequel-prequel is set in the early 1990s (not that time and space are particularly relevant given the events in previous films like Days of Future Past) and charts the origin story of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), the future Mrs Wolverine. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is now the humourless leader of a crack unit of mutant superheroes made up of old favourites from Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters, who – at the behest of the American President – are sent into space to rescue a NASA mission gone wrong. During the process, Jean is absorbed by some kind of cosmic force which turns her into an all-powerful super-being, unleashing her pent-up childhood trauma through a mad spree of angsty telekinetic destruction which not even Professor X or Magneto can stop. This malevolent force is part of an alien invasion, led in human form by a demure, whispering Jessica Chastain. So the X-Men must regroup to save Jean from her own self-destructive behaviour, as well as save the world from aliens. Its the sort of set-up which, maybe in the former hands of Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, could have caused moments of great fun and pathos, but under first-time director Simon Kinberg (who has produced a great many of these X-Men films), everything seems a bit earnest compared to what we would normally expect. It is also dangerously low on any decent physical action, deriving most of its kicks from the special effects department in post-production.

AKA: X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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