"Dark Phoenix" Review: Bring the Reboot Already
The real hero in Dark Phoenix is Hans Zimmer. His score elevates the film to a darker, more somber mood. It’s just unfortunate that the writing doesn’t quite match the composition, because if it had, this would be an excellent final bow!
The X-Men have elevated themselves to friends of humanity thanks to Professor Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) crafting. After a mission to space goes awry, the team is sent up to retrieve the astronauts. Of course, no mission can go perfectly and rather than letting the solar flare hit her team, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) absorbs it. Fortunately, she doesn’t die, but unfortunately, it wasn’t a solar flare she absorbed either. As time proves, it’s something more powerful.
This franchise is known to have horrible or half baked villains. Enter Vuk (Jessica Chastain). I wish I could tell you what she is and the depth of her power, but the movie didn’t tell me. So all I know is that she’s an alien life form who came to Earth with what was left of her fledgling empire and took the body of a bleach blonde woman. Their goal is to retrieve the power that went in to Jean, rebuild on Earth and they will stop at nothing to get it.
Where Dark Phoenix soars is in the action sequences. Seeing certain characters’ power on display is entertaining. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) shines with some of the sheer might he possesses. Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) gets to go ham for a moment of line of sight teleportation at it’s finest. The climactic train sequence is definitely of note.
The problem that we’ve come to expect with these films is its character development. You just don’t care. Jean’s backstory is shown, but her family is nothing more than a setup. Quite frankly, for this to be the classic ascension of Jean to the Phoenix, she barely gets to do much on screen. There was an opportunity to make her really dark, but that didn’t happen. They could have put her full power on display. She can wipe out planets in the comics for goodness sake! Instead, you could call her the Accidental Phoenix in this film because many of the bad things she does aren’t necessarily on purpose. They come from an “oops I did it again” motive. Wins and losses are just beats on a screenwriter’s page here. The big bad Vuk is certainly just an antagonist in the film whose team seems invincible without explanation.
I’ll give co-writer/director Simon Kinberg credit for trying here. This was an effort in the right direction. The tone felt right, the costume design tried, the cast tried, Hans Zimmer infused his superhuman score, but alas, they just couldn’t get this up the hill of good filmmaking. Did I mention Hans Zimmer’s score is awesome? It’s entertaining, but if you wait to catch it when it’s streaming you’ll probably do yourself and your wallet a favor this weekend!