When it comes to some movies it feels like they have been targeted before they even hit the cinemas. That has certainly been the case for X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The X-Men franchise has served us well – it has lasted twenty years and delivered us 12 films. Like all franchises it has had its hits, X-Men: Days Of Future Past and Logan being the best, and of course its misses. Therefore it was kind of mystifying that so many people seemed to be taking aim at Dark Phoenix before the film even hit cinemas. Social media was full of dialogue like ‘X-Men has over-stayed its welcome’ and ‘Dark Phoenix will be a letdown after End Game.’ Luckily though if you are a fan of the franchise both those statements turn out to be very untrue.
To be honest your first thoughts while watching Dark Phoenix is that this is a film for your serious comic book film fan. This isn’t a film like Endgame that you go along to and want to buy popcorn, the Marvel toy and then sit there in complete awe as epic battle sequence rages after epic battle sequence. To be blunt – Dark Phoenix is your thinking fan’s comic book movie.
What director/screenwriter Simon Kinberg (Fantastic Four) has delivered here is a well-rounded movie that it is pretty much a pay-off to the fans who have stuck by Twentieth Century Fox with their X-Men films for the past two decades. As a team the men and women behind Dark Phoenix were pretty much placed behind the eight ball. There was nowhere to go after this story wise seeing the X-Men are being handed over to Disney, while the film was also going to lack one of the franchises biggest drawcards – the legendary Huch Jackman or even any form of Wolverine, after all what is the point of casting a new Wolverine when Disney probably already have an idea who they want in the role?
Even the fact that Kinberg was placed in the director’s chair shows that Fox wanted Dark Phoenix to be a film for the fans. Kinberg has been a long-term screenwriter and producer in the franchise but had never taken the helm of one of these films before, but who better to have in charge when the aim of the film is to please the most hardcore X-Men fans – no one quite knows the story like he does. To Kinberg’s credit the film does that to a tee and while the casual comic book fan may just give the film a slight glance it will for sure be enjoyed by anyone that his lived and breathed the franchise from the beginning.
Technically Dark Phoenix is a kind of origins story as it charts how Jean Grey (Sophie Turner – Game Of Thrones) becomes Dark Phoenix, a powerful mutant who seems to be very intrigued by what the dark has to offer her. The film starts with some unrest among the X-Men themselves. While the public seems to now embrace all mutants with open arms the likes of Raven (Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games) believe that all the positive media attention has seen Professor Xavier (James McAvoy – Spliti) start to care more about being a celebrity then looking after and caring for the young mutants under his care.
That certainly seems to be the case when Jean learns that Xavier has been keeping secrets from her. Feeling like she can no longer trust him she turns to Magneto (Michael Fassbender – Prometheus) to try and help her understand what she is becoming. Then when a mysterious army turn up to try and take her powers it becomes obvious to both Xavier and Magneto that the resulting battles are again going to turn humanity against the mutants.
What makes Dark Phoenix a film that you are going to fall in love with is the fact that Kinberg has created a film that does manage to find the right mix of action while still remembering to include the characters that fans know and love. The battle sequences and action here don’t even try to compete with what we have seen in the Avengers universe. Instead this feels like a nod towards the old school comic book action that uses well thought out sequences rather than simply relying on flashy special effects. Likewise Kinberg knows that you can get just as much drama out of a scene where Raven faces of against Xavier with dialogue or just as much suspense from wondering whether Magneto will chose the light or the dark then you ever will from an epic battle sequence that uses up nearly all your budget in one go. It is the way the movie harnesses action, drama and suspense that makes Dark Phoenix such an intelligent film.
If you are a fan of the X-Men there is no way that you’ll be disappointed with Dark Phoenix. This is a good finale for the much-loved franchise should Disney decide to do any re-castings or change things around a little but it also works if things are to continue the way they are. Dark Phoenix is a homage to old school comic-book movies.