To be honest, it is likely that we won’t be seeing the end of superhero movies anytime soon because they can be big money-making machines. Just look at what ‘Avengers: Endgame’ achieved
less than two months ago.
With that said, the latest superhero movie to join the party, ‘Dark Phoenix’, deserves an honourable mention as well.
‘Dark Phoenix’ is the final installment of the ‘X-Men’ franchise since it began in 2000. And if you are wondering why you feel a sense of déjà vu hearing this name, this character first made an appearance in the 2006 ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ in an older form, which many found forgettable, unfortunately.
This time, Simon Kinberg – who has written a number of ‘X-Men’ films in the past – has not only crafted the story of ‘Dark Phoenix’, he is also making his directorial debut.
So why should we watch the retelling of her story in this concluding chapter to one of the most beloved groups of comic superheroes? Here are our reasons.
Warning: The following review may contain mild spoilers.
‘Dark Phoenix’ is adapted from one of the most famous stories in the history of ‘X-Men’ comics, the ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’.
Set in the early 90s, the X-Men must now face their most formidable and powerful foe who happens to be one of their own, Jean Grey a.k.a. Phoenix.
Following a tragic accident, Jean is saved by Charles Xavier when she was eight years old and raised her at his School for Gifted Youngsters.
One day, the X-Men comprising of Jean, Mystique, Cyclops, Beast, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Quicksilver, are sent on a mission to space to rescue a group of astronauts, while led by Charles back on Earth.
In a quick turn of events, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force appearing to be a solar flare. She absorbs all the force, light and energy, making her more powerful.
When she returns home, she finds her energy infinitely amplified, yet difficult to control. In the words of Hank a.k.a. Beast, her energy readings are “off the charts”.
As she wrestles with this entity inside her, she unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain, which makes her emotionally unstable as well.
With Jean spiraling out of control, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together and the family is falling apart. The mutants must now find a way to unite to save their loved ones and the planet.
As if that is not bad enough, there is an alien race who seeks to harness that power residing within Jean to weaponise this force and rule the galaxy.
Now with such a heavy premise, the tone of the film is quite serious and somber it its entirety, unlike most of the Marvel movies we remember.
While ‘Dark Phoenix’ describes Jean’s inner turmoil and struggle with her newly-leveled up powers well, we wish the film could tell us more about the Phoenix Force and how it works because the powers are, well, off the charts!
We do feel that the ending to this almost two-decade long franchise leaves something more to be desired. Nevertheless, the film still manages to close the chapters of some of the most well-loved X-men characters in a decent manner.
First of all, we want to give a round of applause to Sophie Turner who plays Jean in ‘Dark Phoenix’. Well, you may or may not know her as Sansa Stark (and now Queen in the North) from HBO’s hit TV series, ‘Game of Thrones’.
Her latest role as Dark Phoenix continues to shed light on Turner’s abilities to depict her emotions and expressions so well, whether it is joy or pain – which is practically most of the film.
Besides that, she is able to pull of the American accent pretty well too. Kudos to you,
And since the film basically centers around a female superhero, we would also like to give props to Jennifer Lawrence recurring role as Raven a.ka. Mystique and her epic line, “The female mutants are saving everyone’s asses, maybe they should be called the X-Women.”
We don’t see as much of Raven as we wished, for obvious reasons, we appreciate her repeated questions about whether what Charles is doing with the mutants is actually the best thing for them. As noble as he seems, someone has to say something about his ego and methods.
Speaking of Charles, James McAvoy continues to bring the Professor X out of Charles Xavier, and maybe for the last time now. However, we see something a bit different about Charles in ‘Dark Phoenix’. For example, we see him doubting himself for the first time, and more than once, with some alcohol in hand.
To top it all off, we cannot say goodbye to the ‘X-Men’ movie franchise without some final moments between Charles and Magneto. These two have come a long way and Michael Fassbender draws a good conclusion to the character that has turn from good to bad to good to bad to… we lost track now.
All superhero movies are always about the battle between the good and evil. But we rarely come across characters that have that battle within themselves. And Jean is one of them.
Writer and director Kinberg wanted to explore the truth that duality can exist within the same person, the darkness and the light.
“We’ve gotten to a place where audiences are ready for a disruptive, radical story where a good guy goes bad, where a hero loses control and becomes destructive, even homicidal,” Kinberg said.
“Comics, and even comic book moves, tend to tread in good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains. When the hero does something villainous or when a good guy does something bad, it’s shocking. You’re not sure what you’re rooting for.”
That is exactly what we get in ‘Dark Phoenix’. Whenever Jean fights to realise what is right, Charles reminds her that she has a gift and whatever she does with that gift is entirely up to her.
This is also something we struggle with in the real world, deciding between the good and bad, the right and wrong, the light and darkness.
Despite some underwhelming characters and underdeveloped plot points, ‘Dark Phoenix’ is worth catching in the cinema, especially if you have been a devoted fan of ‘X-Men’ or just superhero movies in general.
We are certainly going to miss this group of mutants and misfits when they are no longer in the superhero landscape. Who knows what will happen next?
Rating: 3.5 / 5