‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ review: Exasperating experience

Nothing sums up the experience of sitting through Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix, the latest instalment that supposedly caps the X-Men film saga, than one scene in the film.

Xavier (James McAvoy), who just a few days ago was the toast of the town for saving a bunch of astronauts from space and showing the world that his beloved mutants are not a threat to humanity, receives a call from the government.

He has just learned that mutants are once again going to be monitored after one of his favorite students, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), exploded with violent rage and caused quite a ruckus. In a matter of minutes, he sees all the rewards of his life’s precious work reversed.

Dark Phoenix, in less than an hour, closes a franchise that has produced individual films with themes that pushed for progressive attitudes towards diversity and whose narratives pushed the boundaries of the superhero flick to incorporate very real human dilemmas, with a whimper. It seems to be a betrayal of what made the superhero team more relevant than the rest.

TROUBLED. Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner.

TROUBLED. Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner.

Dark Phoenix isn’t so much a bad film as it is a grossly underwhelming one, considering the weight and heft of its predecessors.

Like Xavier when he received that call from the government, it can’t be helped to be frustrated by how the film chose immediate but flat pleasures instead of tackling more complex issues like its predecessors did. Dark Phoenix is just thin in plot and characters. Even more baffling is how everything feels so lazily conceived and executed. The film is curiously lacking in action and when the action finally happens, it feels rushed and reliant on special effects.

Deflated and defeated

Dark Phoenix is supposed to be bursting with emotions. Instead, it feels deflated and defeated.

Aside from Turner who puts quite an effort knowing that the film is centered on her character, all the other actors feel like they’re there out of contractual obligation. Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Raven, is strangely distant, perhaps in reaction to the fact that her character has been reduced to a plot point. All the other mutants have been turned into freaks with powers rather than the symbols of diversity that they once were.

Dark Phoenix is disposable entertainment.

It doesn’t make a dent because it never strived to do so. Its biggest sin is mediocrity and lack of ambition. When all the other superhero films are trying their best to evolve the genre, Dark Phoenix stubbornly rests on formula.

DARK PHOENIX. Jean Gray becomes a dangerous person to humanity.

DARK PHOENIX. Jean Gray becomes a dangerous person to humanity.

Ending a franchise

Dark Phoenix ends a franchise’s fairly successful run in an exasperating note. — Rappler.com

 

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.

Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.