Duartion: 114 minutes
It’s the final installment in the X-Men tetralogy of prequels possibly marking the end of the franchise that began 19 years ago in the current form as we know it. While the jury is still out, industry insiders continue to speculate on the integration of X-Men back into the current universe of Marvel Studios which was split up across competing production houses before owner, Disney merged with Twentieth Century Fox.
Did they miss a beat with the setup of this scene? Could the mixed reviews from the recent “feminist” driven and diversified incarnations of Star Wars led to this area being a no-go zone to explore? Corporate restructures and politics aside, whether you enjoyed it or not, it was the movie that had to tie up loose ends of the prequels that began in 2011 and there are some inconsistent hits and misses with the shift of focus moving away from core characters Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Professor X (James McEvoy), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hault). The story revolves around Sophie Turner’s rendition of Jean (ex Sansa from Game of Thrones) who appeared in a supporting role in the last film.
Dark Phoenix lacked the original finesse of First Class that saved the franchise from a reboot, kept the story going and refreshed the X-Men story’s outlook. The script was tight, the storyline well thought out and every sequence providing a thrilling moment building up to the next. A touching scene between Mystique and Beast in Dark Phoenix reminded us they are the final two survivors of the first class was a great use of history but not explored enough throughout the series, as the current movie played on that dynamic which seemed to be non-existent in the films preceding it.
Days of Future Past tied in the casts of the original movies and prequels with some clever time-jumping, and if the roller coaster of emotion and thrills needed to end the show with a bang it should have been an answer to this film, as this was the turning point where the franchise lost its edge.
Each new film focused on character development like we saw with Mystique who took charge in the professor’s absence, and exciting new characters introduced in the previous film like Quicksilver for instance in Apocalyse, but the payoff in the final film was a disappointment.
Through Michael Fassbender’s delivery of redeeming qualities in playing Magneto and the sass Jennifer Lawrence’s brought to Mystique, the performance of James McEvoy complements the complicated backstory of these characters who we originally saw at odds in 2000. James McEvoy’s performance has enabled us to see a more emotional side of Professor X and despite his prominence in all movies, somehow Patrick Stewart seems to still own the role.
Each movie moves forward a decade and the prequels have now caught up with the original story that opened the franchise. Much of the script relies on the emotional investment in relationships with characters played by different actors almost two decades ago. The shift in focus to the Jean character was never a core player in the prequel story and seems somewhat divisive in an attempt to capitalise on the recent ending and popularity of Game of Thrones. Many of the characters we invested in merely relegated to supporting status if not, glorified extras, and not even the spectacular fight sequences and cinematic prowess in visual effects was enough to alleviate an indifference to this standalone story of a new character taking screentime away from key characters we were looking to say goodbye while their fates were undecided. There are also some continuity issues with the script in terms of settings introduced and minor characters being killed off that we just didn’t care enough about to sympathise with. However, there were some tender moments with callbacks to earlier movies that surfaced every now again, more so in the ending.
If this were a ratings review site, it would be a 3 out of 5, but it’s not.
Cover Image: Sophie Turner — the immortal Sansa Stark from ‘Game of Thrones’ — showing enormous potential as Jean Grey in Dark Phoenix.’ (Twentieth Century Fox)