Dark Phoenix (2019)
Director/Writer: Simon Kinberg
Cast: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Evan Peters
Again, another film that’s getting the shaft from audiences because they are being led to believe they shouldn’t see it. Hollywood is notorious when it comes to dealing with left over productions from a previous regime. Case in point, Disney bought Fox and so all films that were in the process of being completed during this period are quietly swept under the rug or treated like crap and left to die a quick death at the box office. For example, The New Mutants was one of the productions to get swept under the rug and forgotten. To be honest, that film looked all types of cool, it even had a horror vibe to it. Mutants in a horror film? Hell yeah I’d like to see that one! But since it was made during the Fox/Disney take over, it’s now in limbo, possibly being unceremoniously dumped on Netflix. And then there’s Dark Phoenix, the last X-Men film that will be produced by 20thCentury Fox. Well, people already hate it because they just can’t wait for Disney to take over the X-Men and “give them the X-Men film they’ve always wanted”.
It’s sad too, considering that the X-Men franchise was the one (along with the Spider Man movies) to kick off the currently still going strong super hero craze in cinemas. I remember a time when people just couldn’t believe they were finally getting an X-men film. Now here we are, at a point where people don’t want to back up an X-Men film. And it’s a damn shame too because this is a good one. Dark Phoenix tells the tale of the ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’, one of the most recognized and beloved of the X-men stories. This review comes from a guy who’s just read the Dark Phoenix Saga and has just recently seen Dark Phoenix. So, how did the comic book to film transition fare? Was the film faithful to the comic? For those not in the know the Dark Phoenix Saga is all about Jean Gray and how her powers get out of control and how she likes it. Problem is, absolute power corrupts absolutely and Jean ends up turning so powerful that all she cares about is pleasing her ever growing thirst for power, which includes the ability to devour worlds and everyone in them. She actually rivals Galactus in that sense, and Galactus is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel universe! But how do the X-Men react to Jean going evil? Can Cyclops stop loving her? Can the X-Men and the rest of the world forgive her for all her evil doings?
As expected, some changes do occur from comic to silver screen. The biggest one for me is that Jean’s reason for turning evil doesn’t come from within her, but rather from an entity that possesses her body while on a space mission. This point is the one that “bothered” me the most as I actually dug that element of the story, the fact that the evil comes from within, that idea that we all have a dark side that we have to contend with, that side that we learn to keep in check, to control. The other big change is that they completely eliminated the plot line involving The Hellfire Club and their desire to control Jean and use her for their purposes. Finally, one last change was that the aftermath of Jean going evil and how she is judged by an alien race for having destroyed and entire planet and all the millions of people who lived in it. These changes were probably made for budgetary reasons, to keep the story “smaller”, and I get that. Which is why I’ve always thought this story should have been better suited for a trilogy of films rather than telling the whole story in one film.
The good news is that the story manages to retain the gist of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Jean is still battling with her inner demons and the fact that she quite enjoys the influx of power. The story is still about her trying to control it. So we get all the important points that the original story hit. What’s good about the film? Is it as bad as the media and mindless movie reviewers would have you think? Hell no. In all honesty, I enjoyed this X-Men film more than I enjoyed parts 3 to 5! It is a very eventful chapter in the X-Men saga. To my surprise it is very well written. Now take in consideration that this film was directed by Simon Kinberg, the same guy who wrote X-Men’s 3 through 5! So he knows the X-men inside and out! Thankfully Kinberg takes the opportunity to fix a lot of the mistakes and quirks that fans haven’t enjoyed from previous entries and even makes fun of his own films. For example, Mystique has a line where she pokes fun at how it’s the women who are always saving the men and how the group should be called X-Women. Also, just when Xavier is about to go on one of his famous ramblings where he starts to babble people to death Magneto says “save it, nobody is listening”. Poking fun at how sometimes Magneto and Xavier go on these endless rants!
Why do I say that I enjoyed this one more than other X-Men films? Well for one, the dialog is straight and to the point which I loved. The film doesn’t feel like it was filmed entirely in a green room; this one feels like they actually shot the film in locations! In terms of action, this one delivers. There’s a moment where all the X-Men get together to gather Jean that’s just wow. There’s another scene on a train that will blow you away! Another plus is that the X-Men don’t hold back on their powers on this one. Remember how in X-Men you were upset because they put Storm to fight against Toad? Well, that doesn’t happen here! On this one all the X-Men go completely ballistic! In fact, they are more violent with their powers on this one than any previous X film, excluding Logan (2017) of course. Also, there are some amazing moments on this one like Magneto vs. Jean! Anyhow, sadly this one is dying a quick death at the box office. But what can you expect? They were writing bad reviews even before the film was released. Good news is, we will see the X-Men rise from the ashes like the Phoenix by way of Disney/Marvel's take on the franchise, gotta say I’m mighty curious about that iteration of the X-Men. But this last Fox film was a great swan song; I recommend you see it in the theater.
Rating: 4 out of 5