Thursday, June 6, 2019

She wields power. The movie, not so much.

Dark Phoenix may be the final X-Men movie but it falls short of a grand finale.

Billed as the final chapter in the X-Men series, Dark Phoenix doesn't exactly qualify as the fondest of farewells.

By no means awful, Dark Phoenix nonetheless fails to make a major splash with a concluding chapter that revolves around Jean Grey (Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones fame). Although Jean acquires great powers, she never totally dominates a story that becomes the wobbly foundation on which an uneven variety of set pieces and side trips are built.

A mind-reading mutant, the young Jean (Summer Fontana) falls under Charles Xavier's (James McAvoy) protection after her parents are killed in an auto accident in which she was a passenger and also the cause.

The story then leaps ahead. Now-grown, Jean (Turner) is still learning how to navigate the X-world. An early-picture outer-space rescue mission brings Jean into contact with a force that super-charges her powers in ways she isn't prepared to handle. She leaves the X-Men estate to search for background about her pre-X-Men childhood. She also unleashes terrible destructive powers as she morphs into Phoenix.

With Jean on the verge of raging out of control, the movie begins to question Charles' motives. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) wonders whether Xavier isn't more interested in bolstering his ego than in maintaining the integrity of the X-Men force. Lawrence, whose superhero alter ego goes by the name Mystique, doesn't seem especially engaged, but she's given the movie's best line.

A rebellious Raven tells Charles that the women always seem to be saving the men in these stories. She wonders whether a name change isn't in order: How about X-Women? Good idea.

Nicholas Hoult's Beast also begins to wonder about Charles' motives. Is Charles putting X-Men in danger to maintain his growing status with humans who, at this moment, are happy to rely on X-Men to save them from whatever disaster happens to loom?

Meanwhile, aliens led by Vuk (Jessica Chastain) try to control Jean whose powers are so great they can be life-giving -- or some such. She might help them revive their moribund civilization, hardly the freshest of ideas.

Tye Sheridan portrays Scott Summers/Cyclops, an X-er who's romantically involved with Jean and who can't accept the fact that she might have become a world-threatening menace.

Michael Fassbender turns up as Erik/Magneto, bringing gravitas to the proceedings, which are dotted with action and special effects, some of them well executed by director Simon Kinberg. CGI and physical combat blend nicely in an extended sequence on a speeding train.

Dark Phoenix doesn't come close to the best and most serious of all the X-Men movies, 2017's Logan. You can also throw in X-Men: First Class (2011) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), if you're looking for more of Phoenix's betters.

In general, I've liked the X-Men movies with their devotion to talented outcasts. If Phoenix really marks the end of the series, I'll fondly remember the movies I enjoyed, forget the rest and move on to something else.

1 comment:

Khalil Kersey said...

To be fair to the movie it was never really made to be a finale. It was only marketed to be.