In the year 2000, the action and science fiction genres went through a glorious mutation with the arrival of Bryan Singer’s X-Men. It wasn’t the first superhero movie to ever be seen on the big screen, but it was both a financial and critical success and, as such, it gave birth to one of the most successful superhero movie franchises. Two years before Spider-Man, eight years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and three years after a DC tragedy known as Batman and Robin.
X-Men is thought of as the film that ignited the superhero boom in modern cinema, and today that franchise takes it final bow with Dark Phoenix.
You might be wondering, “Why is he writing a review on a movie that book ends a doomed franchise after Fox/Disney merger?” or “There hasn’t been a good X-Men movie in a while. Especially since they made Apocalypse into Ivan Ooze!”
Well, if you are the type that will focus on your previous disappointments to critique this movie; then this review is not for you. But if you are considering giving this amazing series of films another go and getting the most out of the conclusion of the nearly 20 year old franchise, read on.
Before I went to the theater, I was dealing with my own negative emotions towards this movie and decided to begin an objective analysis of Fox’s track record and noticed something astonishing. Out of all of the nine X-Men films prior to Dark Phoenix (sorry, I consider Deadpool its own thing), there were only three I didn’t care for. There is no need to name them. We all know the names of those that could be considered a disaster. This means that two-thirds of these movies have been pretty great; and if not that, better than average. And with all the hatred that the X-Men franchise has faced as of late; I needed this mental exercise to arrive to the following conclusion: “Dark Phoenix deserves a chance.”
So, I went to my theater of preference and saw the movie for myself.
I liked it.
I didn’t love it; but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The first thing I want to point out is that this film doesn’t deserve the 22% Rotten Tomatoes rating that critics have given it, in my opinion at least. I have not read any of the critics’ reviews; but that score simply discourages my desire to even seek them out.
The story starts swiftly and never looks back; but never to its detriment. All the characters showcased throughout the film have great moments in which they shine. From McAvoy’s Charles Xavier to Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey/Phoenix; every character had a role to play and none them were left behind as fodder.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: The Dark Phoenix Story Arc (Take Two).
It is with the utmost confidence that I can tell you that Simon Kinberg, who wrote and directed the film, has given us a take on this epic X-Men story that feels fresh and stands way beyond whatever was attempted before. It has enough surprises, twists and great scenes to make any memory of X-Men: The Last Stand fade pretty quickly. Kinberg achieves this by focusing on the characters and their relationships with each other. Where the previous movies focused more on politics, xenophobia and world-ending phenomenon; this final entry doubles down on its themes of family, love, betrayal and pride.
Though the Phoenix saga is known for being an event of cosmic proportions; this movie is made better for all the small moments that it has to drive the conflict. I can only imagine how difficult it could have been to convince executives that the best way to close the franchise was to go smaller and deeper; but it was definitely the right choice.
Though I highlighted what the film did right in the previous paragraph, I don’t want to lead you astray by making you believe that this movie is groundbreaking; because it’s not. There are no outstanding performances, though everyone did a great job with what they were given. I thoroughly enjoyed every scene Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr was in. His Magneto is one of my favorite comic character adaptations of all time and in this movie, he does not disappoint. Some of the direction that they took certain characters also made for very interesting storytelling choices that worked.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is this…
Dark Phoenix deserves a chance, and I think that everyone that has ever enjoyed an X-Men movie should go see it. I liked it. I enjoyed it quite a bit. So now that means they’re 7 for 10 with me. Not bad at all.
Dark Phoenix is out in theaters today. Go see it and let us know if you think it deserved a chance.