Review: 'Dark Phoenix' can't make the 'X-Men' franchise rise from the ashes

Review: 'Dark Phoenix' can't make the 'X-Men' franchise rise from the ashes

(Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., via CNN)

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THE ASHES — Lost in the hype of movies like “Avengers: Endgame” and the new “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” is the yet another entry into the X-Men universe: “Dark Phoenix.”

If you’re like me, you forgot this movie was headed our way; and I’m sorry to say we’ll likely forget that the movie was made not long from now.

There have been some bad X-Men movies like “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Thankfully “Dark Phoenix” isn’t that bad. In fact, there are some really great moments to the film, but overall it’s forgettable.

You just don’t care

The "Dark Phoenix" storyline is one of the most recognized and celebrated in the "X-Men" comics, but for some reason it hasn't been translated well to the big screen.

“The Last Stand” tried to go down that road and it just didn’t work, and now it's been done again and it hasn't done the tortured soul of Jean Grey justice. In just two hours it’s hard to get behind Jean and what she’s dealing with, and the character development just isn’t there.

To really connect with and feel empathy for a character who was good and has now gone bad due to forces out of her control is a tricky line to walk, and not enough time was taken to get to know Jean to make it work.

She played a fairly major role in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” but that was another forgettable film, and her character arc in that movie didn’t do much to help out here. The stakes are supposed to be high throughout the film as good guys and bad guys alike are trying to kill Jean, but I just never really cared.

Character arcs are rushed

In addition to Jean’s story and emotional connection being rushed, pretty much every other character's was as well.

Magneto flops alliances at the drop of a hat. I know this is kind of par for the course for that character, but it feels forced here. Professor Xavier has a bit of an existential crisis that was rushed, and then suddenly he’s through it and everyone is a big happy family in what seems to be the blink of an eye.

The filmmakers tried to pack too much into the two-hour time frame, and it made for characters, storylines and villains you just don’t care about.

The acting is hit and miss

There are some really good actors in this film and some of them do a really good job, while others seem to phone it in.

I am a big fan of Michael Fassbender, and I thought he turned in another fine performance as Magneto. James McAvoy is another great actor, and he’s done great things as Xavier. McAvoy wasn’t bad in this, but the performance did seem a little uneven.

Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult were fine, but nothing really special. Jessica Chastain — who is an acting juggernaut — wasn’t really given much to work with, and her apathetic villain is just boring.

My biggest issues lie with Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan.

I’ve never seen "Game of Thrones," so I don’t know much about Turner or what to expect from her, but I was not impressed with her turn as Jean Grey in “Dark Phoenix.”

I never got into her character and was more annoyed with her than rooting for her. I think some of that is due to the script, but I also didn’t buy the portrayal.

Sheridan was even more disappointing to me. He was incredible in the indie film “Mud.” He was only about 15 at the time and went to-to-toe with Matthew McConaughey in one of his best performances. In “Dark Phoenix,” however, I just did not like Sheridan as Cyclops.

It’s not like his acting was terrible, but I didn’t believe the relationship between him and Turner, and they had zero chemistry.

When these characters are at the heart of your film, it’s hard to get too invested.

It’s a slow burn with no pay off

This film took more of a slow-burn approach, building the tension and action at a slower pace. There are a couple of action scenes pretty early on, but for the most part it's just lots of conversations and leading the audience along for what seems to be building to an epic conclusion.

Then there is another action set piece that feels forced in the story that immediately bleeds into the big finale, which seems kind of flat. There just seemed to be so much buildup for a pretty lackluster climax. It left the audience feeling a little cheated.

Too little of Quicksilver

There can be too much of a good thing in films. For example, the minions were hilarious in the first “Despicable Me," but then there was an entire movie dedicated to them and it was exhausting. There is a danger of doing this same thing to Quicksilver (Evan Peters) in the X-Men universe.

The character showed up in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” in one of the greatest superhero movie scenes I have ever seen. It ended up being the best part of a really great movie. He then got another great scene in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” and that one ended up being the best part of a fairly bad movie. I was looking forward to another great Quicksilver moment in "Dark Phoenix," but it didn’t happen.

He was in one quick scene at the beginning of the film and briefly in another scene later on, but that was it. I’m not saying we give him his own movie, but give him some screen time and help make an overly serious movie at least a little bit fun.


I didn’t hate this movie, but I didn’t particularly like it. I was entertained for about 60-70% of the time, and the rest I was looking at my watch or remembering other great "X-Men" films.

"Dark Phoenix" is really disappointing considering “First Class” and “Days of Future Past” were so good. There was a misstep with “Apocalypse,” but the hope was that “Dark Phoenix” would get the franchise back on track. Unfortunately, it’s keeping this train firmly off the rails.

Check tomorrow for a content guide for parents for “Dark Phoenix.”

"Dark Phoenix" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some gunplay, disturbing images and brief strong language.

John Clyde

About the Author: John Clyde

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about. Contact him on Twitter at @johnnypclyde.

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John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about.


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