Dark Phoenix - This X Movie Does Not Rock
Dir: Simon Kinberg
Starring Sophie Turner. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Jessica Chastain
This marks the second time that the Fox-Marvel X Men franchise has tackled the comic book’s much beloved story line – that of Jean Grey into Dark Phoenix, following Brett Ratner’s much derided The Last Stand of 2006. And guess what? They’ve got it wrong again.
Having being responsible in many ways for many elements of the X Men, Deadpool and Star Wars worlds as a producer and writer, Simon Kinberg here proves himself anything but a competent director in making his debut (in for the ousted and much shamed Bryan Singer, of course – not least for the appalling job he did on the last X movie, Armageddon.)
Along with the first couple of Blades, Singer’s first couple of X Men, beginning 19 and more years ago, heralded the rise of the modern superhero movie, something that the MCU came to learn from and own.
Now, as the property rights head back to Marvel after Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox, this long-delayed finale to the first cinematic run of Charles Xavier’s gifted pupils should at least deliver a decent Viking funeral. But in the hands of Kinberg – who now perhaps should be known as a “decent writer/noting director” - this falls flatter than a tired kipper. And no, not even a mutant kipper.
The story is of course now familiar – mutant adoptee Jean Grey (a singularly monotone Turner, so good recently in GOT’s final run, but offering little to latch onto here) receives great power (this time after an X space rescue.) And with great power of course comes…well, great confusion, little sense of responsibility and, sadly, little thought of sense. Jean’s motives remain confused and badly expressed, changing irrationally from moment to moment, exacerbated by the arrival of a brilliantly miscast (and odd-looking throughout) Jessica Chastain as an alien bad guy – again with motivation unclear.
McAvoy’s Xavier is briefly cast as a monomaniacal despot, as opposed to his usual benevolent self, but this is an idea that is soon abandoned or, more likely, accidentally lost in copious reshoots..
It sounds like a mess, but this movie is too inert overall to be much of anything. It just trundles along (it feels like no accident that it’s climactic act takes place on a runaway train), lacking any sense of pace or involvement. And certainly no degree of much need humour. Fassbender, who acquits himself here better than most despite the odds, gets one visual gag in, but beyond that this is a humourlessly dry desert of a film.
When Bryan Singer first helped define all that a comic book movie could be, the X Men were a brilliantly vital, metaphorical example of how comic book cinema could not only break into the mainstream, but redefine it. (And we all know what happened next.)
Here, on their final outing, the once indispensable X Men are all but redundant, in a tale told in such a dull manner, as to almost not be worthy of your time.
Remember all those who laughed at The Last Stand? Well, they’re not laughing now. (They may well be crying.)
Come on Kevin Feige – sort these fuckers out!