Directed by: Simon Kinberg
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan
The X-Men franchise has been riddled with a rollercoaster of quality with the same creators somehow. One can be tremendous for the next one to be lacking resulting in the following one being great again. The lack of consistency creates a crazy game of guessing which one will not be a dumpster fire. Unfortunately, due to an uninspiring story and a troubled production, the Fox X-Men franchise ends not with a blaze but with a poof of smoke.
Following the fight with the main villain in X-Men: Apocalypse, the young group of mutants led by Xavier (James McAvoy) are a full-fledged group of world-saving superheroes. They even have the capability to go into space, which leads to Jean Gray (Sophie Turner) absorbing strange space energy that only heightens her powers. Now with an odd alien group chasing Jean for these abilities, she needs to confront this new amplification of her powers, as Xavier and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) have different solutions to how to deal with her.
The premise of this film has been done before and only 13 years ago if you can believe it. For some reason, the plan with these young mutants was to repeat the same story they did more than a decade ago and I am legitimately surprised (not really) that having the same writer involved in both iterations resulted in two of the worst films in the franchise. This newer version has the same troubles that X-Men: The Last Stand had, which failed due to focusing too much on the men of the story reacting to Jean rather than being fixated on her. This follows a famous storyline from the Marvel comics and while I am not familiar with the text, I doubt that it plays out the same way as these two film versions. This story belongs to Jean and the internal struggle of having this much power and not knowing how to control herself. The film would have been better off focusing on her, especially when having an actor like Sophie Tuner helming the role.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to make this about the guilt Xavier experiences from repressing some of the bad memories Jean had as a child. At that point, the story just gets boring and follows the same beats. It brings back Magneto, who now leads a compound of other mutants with land granted to him by the government. Strange, considering that he killed hundreds of people, but he can happily retire with other mutants. It brings him back to the story even if no legitimate reason for his reintegration exists. It only results in him and Xavier having the philosophical debates that they are famous for.
I am typically a defender of this franchise because the central theme of the X-Men carries such strong thematic weight. They represent people who are different than the norm and show humanity at its worst with how they are shunned simply because they have powers that the average human does not possess. The best ones really focus on this theme, but Dark Phoenix wants to be about spectacle and really has Jessica Chastain doing something strange. She belongs to an alien race trying to receive the power Jean absorbed because it destroyed their planet. So, these aliens want to get to Jean so they can take the same energy that demolished their home to do what exactly? Not sure, but the story has to have an arbitrary villain outside of Jean because it’s just necessary. None of it really makes sense.
No one came out of this film looking good and the franchise continues to do a disservice to my personal favorite X-Men character, Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), by not giving him anything to do whatsoever. Jennifer Lawrence definitely did not want to be there and definitely pulled a Harrison Ford in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Xavier becomes an extremely unlikeable character and potentially great characters in Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) might as well not even showed up. It results in such an unfortunate ending for a franchise that I have a soft spot for. Doomed from the start and the final product resulted in an incoherent mess.