‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ (Film)

‘X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Dark Phoenix Saga Again with Jean Grey in 1992

When I originally reviewed ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’, I gave it too much praise.

Now that’s not to say I don’t like this film anymore. On the contrary, ‘Dark Phoenix’ works fine for me as an ‘X-Men’ film on a certain level. I did find the story and the characters compelling when I watched the film a second time on DVD. Yet upon revisiting the film, I’m able to see its weak points.

I still think ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ is a step-up from ‘Dark Phoenix’, but like that film, I’m able to see positives and negatives in this film. It’s such a shame that ‘Dark Phoenix’ happens to be the film that ends the ‘X-Men’ film series by 20th Century Fox on quite a low note both critically and commercially.

From 2016 to 2019, I hoped to revisit the ‘X-Men’ film series from beginning to end. There were movies I missed out seeing in the film series, but I hoped to rectify that when it came to purchasing the ‘X-Men’ films in one complete box set. I did this once I purchased the 8-film DVD box set in 2019.

I also purchased ‘Dark Phoenix’ on DVD along with the 8-film DVD box set. It took a while for me to get around to reviewing the ‘X-Men’ films in 2021 and there’s currently a 10-film DVD box set which includes ‘Dark Phoenix’ as well as ‘The New Mutants’, but I’m glad I’ve been able to review the films.

I purchased ‘The New Mutants’ on a separate DVD in 2021 when it came to reviewing the ‘X-Men’ films by 20th Century Fox. It’s a shame the two ‘Deadpool’ films and ‘Logan’ aren’t included in the film collection yet, but I can check out those three movies at a later point, maybe in 2022 or 2023. 🙂

Over the years, I’ve found the ‘X-Men’ film series to be pretty inconsistent. This goes to show how I’m not as invested in the ‘X-Men’ films as other people are like my best mate from school Stephen is. It doesn’t help that there are too many characters and storylines to contend with in the X-Men. 😐

Now that’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed these ‘X-Men’ films. On the contrary, I have enjoyed them and the ‘X-Men’ film series has been pretty entertaining overall. But with many changes made to the timeline in the ‘X-Men’ film series, things have become more and more inconsistent as they go on. 😦

I believe I might have been unfair on Bryan Singer in my review for ‘Apocalypse’ where I implied he should have thought more about the continuity of these ‘X-Men’ films. He’s not entirely to blame. Another person to blame in that regard is the writer and director of ‘Dark Phoenix’ – Simon Kinberg.

Before he directed ‘Dark Phoenix’, Simon Kinberg produced a number of ‘X-Men’ films including ‘First Class’, ‘Days of Future Past’ and ‘Apocalypse’. He was also involved in the script-writing of certain ‘X-Men’ films like ‘The Last Stand’, ‘Days of Future Past’ and ‘Apocalypse’. He’s been around.

‘Dark Phoenix’ happens to be Simon Kinberg’s directorial debut. It clearly shows. I’m not sure if Kinberg got better as a director in other films (‘The 355’ hasn’t been released at this point), but the problems in how he writes and directs ‘Dark Phoenix’ are pretty evident when he reuses old material. 😦

And that’s old material from ‘The Last Stand’ (more on that in a bit). In terms of the cast, ‘Dark Phoenix’ stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp and Jessica Chastain. To be fair to the cast, they’re very good.

When I originally reviewed ‘Dark Phoenix’ on ‘Bradley’s Basement’, I only reviewed one ‘X-Men’ film up until that point which was ‘Apocalypse’ and I saw that at the cinema back in 2016. 2016 was a different year for me back when I was doing my blog as I was inexperienced in my blog’s first year. 🙂

The ‘Welcome to ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog’ tagline hadn’t been invented yet. I also wrote quick movie reviews that were shorter compared to recent days. As I’m older and more experienced, I’m able to share more on what I think about the ‘X-Men’ film series overall and how I have enjoyed it. 🙂

This is in spite of the many variations that the ‘X-Men’ films have delivered in terms of quality and storytelling. It’s been a fascinating ride and it’s been enlightening to hear the other opinions given about certain ‘X-Men’ films and how they’ve developed, especially in the prequel era of the series. 🙂

Just to recap, I saw the first two ‘X-Men’ films directed by Bryan Singer on DVD in 2005. I later saw ‘The Last Stand’, the third film of the series at the cinema in 2006. Whilst that film isn’t good as the first two movies and I know a lot of people hated it when they saw it, I have a soft spot for that film.

I later saw ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, but my initial memories of it are vague even though I did enjoy it. After seeing it on DVD and reviewing it for my blog, I can see how clumsy it is despite finding it okay. I later saw ‘First Class’ on DVD and saw ‘Days of Future Past’ at the cinema in 2014. 🙂

‘Apocalypse’ was the latest ‘X-Men’ film I’d seen before I saw ‘Dark Phoenix’ at the cinema in 2019. I eventually saw ‘The Wolverine’ but I’ve yet to see ‘Logan’, the third Wolverine film. I have seen the two ‘Deadpool’ films. At this point, I’ve yet to see ‘The New Mutants’, which I’m looking forward to.

‘Dark Phoenix’ is arguably the end of the ‘X-Men’ film series produced by 20th Century Fox. I know ‘The New Mutants’ came after that, but it’s separate from ‘Dark Phoenix’ and it has a troubled complicated history which we’ll get to another time. This is where the main ‘X-Men’ film series ends.

‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ (or just ‘Dark Phoenix’ as they call it in America) is arguably the fourth of the ‘X-Men’ prequels quadrilogy. I still don’t get why film titles have to be different in the UK as opposed to in the US – similar with ‘Avengers Assemble’/’The Avengers’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 😐

Now arguably the reason why ‘The Avengers’ in the US was changed to ‘Avengers Assemble’ in the UK was to avoid confusion with ‘The Avengers’ 1998 film with John Steed and Emma Peel. I still don’t see why that should make a difference as calling the film the same name in both UK and US is better.

I digress however. ‘Dark Phoenix’ did not get a good reception when released at cinemas in its first week. Critics gave it negative reviews, saying the film was ‘boring’, and it isn’t rated well on Rotten Tomatoes. I knew of the bad reception the film received before I watched it at the cinema in 2019. 😐

Yet I wanted to give the film an open mind since this was the X-Men after all. I enjoyed the previous ‘X-Men’ films despite the variance of quality and storytelling they had over the years. I enjoyed ‘Apocalypse’ despite the criticism it received. I hoped ‘Dark Phoenix’ would be a very decent flick. 😀

At the time I saw the film at the cinema, I didn’t know what the critics were complaining about. After seeing the film a second time on DVD though and hearing more thoughts about it from other people, I could see what the critics were getting at. ‘Dark Phoenix’ isn’t a very good ‘X-Men’ film in general. 😦

With that said, I did find myself enjoying ‘Dark Phoenix’ when I saw it at the cinema. I had a good time when my best mate Stephen and I saw it on the big screen. Even Stephen said he liked it and he’s an ‘X-Men’ film fan. Nowadays, I’m able to see what the issues are concerning this certain film.

I don’t think this is the most epic of ‘X-Men’ films and it could have been pretty spectacular and emotionally charged with all the characters involved. It would have helped if the film was longer like two and a half hours, which is the amount of time Bryan Singer spent on ‘X-Men 2’ and ‘Apocalypse’.

With that said; to call ‘Dark Phoenix’ a ‘boring’ film isn’t valid. I found myself compelled when watching every scene featured in the film, both on the big screen at the cinema and on the small TV screen on DVD. Mind you, I’d do things differently with this particular film, which I’ll address in a bit.

The film mostly takes place in 1992, nine years after the events of ‘Apocalypse’. Admittedly, it has become ridiculous when characters like Xavier, Magneto, Mystique and Beast haven’t aged since the days of ‘First Class’ in 1962. The characters should look more like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. 😦

In ‘Dark Phoenix’, the X-Men rescue the crew of a space shuttle called the Endeavour when it’s critically damaged by a solar flare-like energy. The rescue mission is a success as Beast and Mystique lead it. But in the process, Jean Grey becomes stranded and she absorbs the energy into her body. 😮

As a result, the mental blocks placed into Jean Grey by Charles Xavier get broken. Very soon, Jean Grey’s mutant powers are taken over by the solar energy inside of her and she soon becomes a deadly force of nature called…the Dark Phoenix? Wait! Have we done this before in ‘X-Men’ already?

Oh yes, we have! It was touched upon in ‘The Last Stand’ where Jean Grey became the Dark Phoenix. Mind you, that was an arguably poorer version of the Dark Phoenix storyline compared to the one in the titular ‘Dark Phoenix’ film where aliens are involved. I had no idea about this in seeing the film. 🙂

When I saw the Dark Phoenix storyline involving Jean Grey in this film at the cinema, I found it pretty compelling. Praise must go to Sophie Turner as Jean Grey for her performance in the movie. I could feel the struggle, the anger and the anxiety that Jean’s character felt as I watched the movie itself. 🙂

Mind you, with that said and in terms of revisiting the film, it doesn’t tie things up in how events are handled in later films. And I know the altered timeline doesn’t count films like ‘The Last Stand’, but may I remind you that Logan saw Jean Grey alive and well in the new future in ‘Days of Future Past’.

It doesn’t make sense when Jean seemingly dies at the end of ‘Dark Phoenix’ – or maybe she didn’t when she turned into the firebird at the end. I’ve also heard that the Dark Phoenix subplot is more intense in the comics compared to the movies. There’s the Phoenix saga and the Dark Phoenix saga.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have ‘Dark Phoenix’ feature the Phoenix saga instead before the altered version of ‘The Last Stand’ featuring the Dark Phoenix saga came along. It seems that Simon Kinberg wanted to rush things in terms of getting the Dark Phoenix storyline told on the big screen. 😦

It’s also clear that Simon Kinberg repeats similar things that happened in ‘The Last Stand’ which happen in ‘Dark Phoenix. Like ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ repeating same mistakes made in ‘Spider-Man 3’. This includes one of the characters getting killed off in the film, which we’ll get onto shortly.

I’ll give ‘Dark Phoenix’ credit. At least Jean Grey has more focus in the film compared to when the Dark Phoenix storyline was handled in ‘The Last Stand’. That was bombarded by other things including the cure storyline and it was intriguing how Jean’s backstory with her parents was handled.

Mind you, shouldn’t Jean Grey have met Xavier and Magneto in 1986 in the opening scene of ‘The Last Stand’ as opposed to meeting Xavier in 1975 as a little girl? I know time has changed since the events of ‘Days of Future Past’, but it can’t have changed things significantly for Jean in her life here.

I know I should make a point about the fact the ‘phoenix’ moment Jean had at the end of ‘Apocalypse’ doesn’t get readdressed in ‘Dark Phoenix’, but like the continuity of these ‘X-Men’ films even matters by this point. It’s something that never gets explained when you watch these movies. 😦

James McAvoy returns as Charles Xavier in the film. I’ve heard it argued that Xavier became arrogant and unlikeable in the film and I have to slightly disagree on that score. What he did to Jean Grey is debatable and questionable, but I think he did what he judged to be right at the time to protect Jean. 🙂

At least later on, Xavier does admit that he was wrong in his judgment about Jean Grey to Hank when aboard the train in the film’s final act. My issue is when Xavier lied to Jean that her parents died when his father is actually alive. That could have easily been fixed to spare a lot of heartache. 😐

Michael Fassbender returns as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto in the film. It does take a while for Magneto to appear in the film and I think he should have appeared earlier, but it was great to watch him here. Intriguing Magneto formed a community of mutant refugees on the island of Genosha by this point.

Jean Grey visits Magneto in order to ask him for his help to control her powers. I wish that had been delved more in the film as opposed to Magneto sending Jean away after she caused trouble when military helicopters came looking for her. Later on, Magneto heads out with Beast to kill Jean Grey. 😦

Jennifer Lawrence returns as Raven Darkhölme/Mystique. I was shocked when Jean Grey accidentally killed Mystique because of her Dark Phoenix powers. I didn’t see that coming! I know it should be expected from the trailer, but I didn’t expect it. I had grown to like Mystique in the ‘X-Men’ prequel films.

I did hear Jennifer Lawrence wanted out of this film because of the issues with Mystique’s make-up, but it still came as a shock and surprise regarding Mystique’s death. It doesn’t add up though when her absence in the rest of the ‘X-Men’ timeline won’t be explained in any more future ‘X-Men’ films.

Shouldn’t Mystique be joining Magneto by the time we get to the first ‘X-Men’ film? If she’s killed off in ‘Dark Phoenix’, who else is helping Magneto apart from Sabretooth and Toad in 2000? Is it Psylocke from ‘Apocalypse’? She doesn’t return in this film and her return is left open to speculation.

I wish to reiterate the point I made about Simon Kinberg repeating things from ‘The Last Stand’ in ‘Dark Phoenix’. In ‘The Last Stand’, Xavier got killed off because of Jean. In ‘Dark Phoenix’, Mystique got killed off because of Jean. It’s a clear indication that the filmmakers are running out of ideas. 😦

Nicholas Hoult returns as Hank McCoy/Beast in the film. I’d just seen Nicholas Hoult in the film ‘Tolkien’ in the year 2019 before seeing him again in ‘Dark Phoenix’. It became tense when Hank got angry with Xavier for what happened with Jean killing Mystique as it’s clear that Hank had feelings for Mystique.

That’s something that hasn’t been explored in quite a while since ‘First Class’ in ‘Days of Future Past’ and ‘Apocalypse’, but whatever. Hank allies with Magneto in order to find Jean and kill her. You know, I would have thought Hank would be more sympathetic to the students under Xavier’s care. 😦

Tye Sheridan returns as Scott Summers/Cyclops, Jean’s love interest. In 2018, I saw Tye Sheridan in ‘Ready Player One’. I enjoyed the love story going on between Scott and Jean in this film. Mind you, I really wish there was more of that to give the film the emotional impact that it deserved throughout.

But from what I saw in the film, I found it sweet to see Jean and Scott together. There are deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray release for this film and I believe there is a parting scene between Jean and Scott in the original final act. Whether that would improve the film, I’m not entirely certain.

Alexandra Shipp returns as Ororo Munroe/Storm in the film. I can’t say Alexandra Shipp’s Storm has been standout in ‘Dark Phoenix’, but at least she is presented as a goodie compared to ‘Apocalypse’ and she does express her opinion about what she thought of Jean killing Mystique to Scott Summers.

It almost echoes what Halle Berry’s Storm said to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine who was convinced the old Jean Grey was still alive in her new Dark Phoenix form. There are also some impressive action moments for Storm, especially when she helps Xavier, Cyclops and Nightcrawler to rescue Jean here.

Kodi Smit-McPhee returns as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler in the film. Like Storm, Nightcrawler doesn’t get that many standout moments to enjoy in the film compared to his appearance in ‘Apocalypse’. But at least he gets to kill some aliens when his friends’ lives are endangered by them aboard a train.

It’s also when he tried to save a security guard from being killed by an alien but he doesn’t do it in time through a teleport. Nightcrawler is the one who saves Jean’s life after she absorbed that solar flare energy. He’s also one of the mutants loyal to Xavier when he, Cyclops and Storm rescue Jean. 🙂

Evan Peters returns as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver in the film. I was disappointed that Quicksilver wasn’t in the movie much, especially when he got knocked out by Jean Grey. Quicksilver had become one of the most popular ‘X-Men’ characters in the prequel films, so why sideline him here?!

It’s also disappointing when the storyline involving Quicksilver being Magneto’s son isn’t explored in ‘Dark Phoenix’. We would have to speculate in whether Quicksilver does reveal to Magneto that he is his son after all. Maybe Evan Peters might have a better future with Quicksilver in ‘WandaVision’? 😀

There is a new villain in the film which happens to be Jessica Chastain as Vuk, the leader of a shape-shifting alien race called the D’Bari. The D’Bari have come for Jean because of the new phoenix powers she has inside her. Some say Jessica Chastain was monotone, but I did find her quite intimidating. 🙂

I just wish we knew more about the alien D’Bari and what their motivations were. I know that they wanted to destroy the phoenix energy in terms of what it had done to their planet, but a lot of the Phoenix/Dark Phoenix storyline from the ‘X-Men’ comics is crammed into just one film of this series.

The film also features Scott Shepherd as John Grey, Jean’s dad and Hannah Anderson as Elaine Grey, Jean’s mom. A shame Jean’s parents died here compared to ‘The Last Stand‘. There’s Ato Essandoh as Jones, Vuk’s second-in-command and Brian d’Arcy James as the President of the United States. 😀

Whilst people say that the film is ‘boring’ and I admit there aren’t enough action sequences in the film’s first two acts, the film’s third act does contain an exciting train sequence where the X-Men and Magneto defend Jean Grey from the D’Bari aliens. It’s very dramatic to see at a cinema and at home.

Sadly, the film falls apart in terms of its ending. After Jean Grey manages to kill Vuk with her unleashed phoenix energy and becomes a phoenix herself, Xavier’s school is renamed the ‘Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters’. Xavier also retires from the school and Hank takes his place in the end.

Xavier and Magneto also play a chess game in Paris. ‘Dark Phoenix’s ending feels wrong somehow. For one thing, it doesn’t add up to what would happen in the original ‘X-Men’ film trilogy. Was that erased from history? That can’t be it, considering the altered future scene in ‘Days of Future Past’! 😐

Xavier is still head of his school in the altered future with Jean, Cyclops, Storm and Wolverine there. Why did Simon Kinberg change things so significantly at the end of ‘Dark Phoenix’ since these things don’t add up? Couldn’t the filmmakers get it right at all with the continuity of the ‘X-Men’ films?! 😡

It’s so frustrating for ‘X-Men’ fans both in comics and the movies when continuity doesn’t seem to matter to the filmmakers. Maybe the filmmakers didn’t care about that aspect when they should in making these films. It’s probably a factor why the ‘X-Men’ films concluded on a disappointing note. 😦

On Blu-ray, as well as the aforementioned deleted scenes which feature an optional audio commentary by director/writer/producer Simon Kinberg and producer Hutch Parker, there’s ‘Rise of the Phoenix: The Making of Dark Phoenix’, ‘How to Fly Your Jet to Space with Beast’, an audio commentary with director/writer/producer Simon Kinberg and producer Hutch Parker, and theatrical trailers.

At the time of seeing this film at the cinema, I found ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ pretty compelling, enjoyable and entertaining as a superhero flick. Mind you, upon revisiting the film lately, I can see why people don’t like this film a lot and it doesn’t help when they are many inconsistencies about it.

For what it’s worth, I found the film worthwhile. It’s such a shame that ‘Dark Phoenix’ seems to be the last of the main ‘X-Men’ film series as I have enjoyed the films with their variance of quality and storytelling. At the time, I found this film decent, but it’s easy to see why it isn’t regarded so highly. 😦

It’s such a shame. I know I’m not into the ‘X-Men’ films as much as I’m into the ‘Spider-Man’ films, but even I’m able to see how inconsistent the ‘X-Men’ films are. My opinion on ‘Dark Phoenix’ has changed a lot and that is what happens over time, but I still found the film a worthwhile experience.

It’s sad the ‘X-Men’ film series by Fox has come to an end and the movies have had an interesting if inconsistent journey in terms of storytelling. But I’ve enjoyed seeing the ones I saw at the cinema. Like many ‘X-Men’ fans and movie-goers, I’ll take away cherished memories in watching these films.

I’m uncertain how the Marvel Cinematic Universe will handle things in taking over the ‘X-Men’ films in future. There’s no way Hugh Jackman as Wolverine can be replaced. It’s like replacing Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. It can’t be done! Maybe Hugh Jackman will return to play Wolverine in the MCU.

Maybe the MCU will do well with their version of the X-Men as well as their version of the Fantastic Four when it comes to doing their movies. At present, I’m in favour of the original versions of the X-Men and as I’ve implied, it’ll be big shoes for anyone to play Wolverine compared to Hugh Jackman.

By the way, I’ve just realised Hugh Jackman didn’t play Wolverine in ‘Dark Phoenix’. How sad is that?

‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ rating – 6/10


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2 thoughts on “‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ (Film)

  1. Timelord 007

    Two attempts at the Dark Phoenix saga & two whooping big failures.

    Again like Last Stand everything is rushed the timeline is unfathomable, the characters behave out of character, the slow first two acts, underused characters & obviously a forced added shock death which didn’t gel for me.

    The battle on the train was excellent but that was a reshoot , the aliens turning up wasn’t fleshed out & feels like two different scripts pasted together.

    The performances felt flat i thought like nobody apart from Sophie Turner turned up & just going through the motions of there contractual obligations, Simon Kinbergs direction is amateurish & for Dark Phoenix to work it needs be two films the first the change, the aliens backstory & manipulation of Jean Grey & epic battle with shock cliffhanger maybe then kill Mystique because you have at least given the audience a whole movie with her leading the X Men so her death would have much more emotional impact.

    Then in part two have dealing with the aftermath of what Phoenix destruction has ravaged Earth done & Xavier calling upon Wolverine help take down Phoenix leading to a tense epic battle.

    Fantastic review Tim you have 100% hit the nail on the head of all this movies flaws, this is a poor conclusion to the Fox X Men & be interesting where Marvel’s direction will go as no doubt this will be their next Avengers type blockbuster.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Glad you enjoyed my latest review on ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’.

      Yeah the characters do seem out of character in the film e.g. Xavier and Beast. Not only is the ‘X-Men’ film series inconsistent with its timelines, it’s also consistent with the development of each character. Intriguing how you would have handled the Dark Phoenix saga in two films. It would have been better for the Dark Phoenix saga to be handled as two films in order to justify the impact and the threat that Jean Grey becomes. It could have been like how the MCU did ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’ as a two-part story. Sadly that wasn’t to be. I found the cast decent enough and the film was worthwhile for that action-packed train sequence at the end.

      I’m saddened by how the ‘X-Men’ film series has turned out as I have enjoyed movies like ‘Days of Future Past’ and ‘Apocalypse’ at the cinema to compel me enough to watch the films. If only the consistency of the characters and the timelines was handled with care and affection throughout the series.

      I’ve seen ‘The New Mutants’ on DVD lately. I’ll be making a start on reviewing the film today and hopefully schedule it for Friday.

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

      Reply

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