by Ian Morton
As the studio responsible for bringing Xavier’s army to the big screen hands back the franchise rights to the Disney/Marvel machine, it seems like serendipity that the end of this iteration should come as the franchise edges towards it’s 20th anniversary.
Since the year 2000, the X-Men have been a staple of the cinema landscape. Kicking off the career of Hugh Jackman, breaking box office records and arguably the reason for the current super hero generation, 20th Century Fox managed to do something that had never been done before.
With so many accolades behind them, it would be great to see the illustrious super team get the well deserved farewell they fought so hard to build over the last 2 decades. Unfortunately however, this is not it!
Only fractionally better than Apocalypse (which isn’t saying much), Dark Phoenix is not a film to get angry about, just one chock full of disappointment. Contrived plotting relies way too much on the audience knowing who the characters are why they should care about them, lacking any real depth unless you have prior knowledge of the key players involved. Granted, superhero franchises live and die on audience participation but here it feels like someone picking up The Lord of the Rings at Return of the King or Harry Potter at the Deathly Hallows.
This lack of care seemingly bleeds into the performances of almost all involved. Reading the press interviews, you certainly get the feeling that the cast enjoy catching up with one another but it seems to come at the cost of the actual film. In a stark contrast to the 2011 soft reboot/prequel, X-Men: First Class, DP is like everyone meeting up for a cheeky pub lunch reunion only to be rudely interrupted by the occasional casting call – like they all had somewhere better to be.
The new generation of mutants introduced in X-Men: Apocalypse do have some moments to shine here but they ultimately fall short in taking the limelight away from veterans Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. While it may be an emotional turn from Sophie Turner, there is little more than a few tears amid clunky dialogue and undeveloped plotting. As with Apocalypse, the other X-heroes remain surprisingly underused given an impressively growing list of movie credits between them.
At the heart of everything however is just how surprisingly amateur it all feels. While new to the directors chair, writer/director Simon Kinberg is no stranger to the franchise but plays like its his first day at school.
Doing very little to break the genre mould, everything from futile conversations through to exhaustingly close close up’s plague production values to the point where interest quickly wanes. When you pair this with a shockingly poor balance of characters and oddly shot, train-reliant battle scenes and the result is a flat feature with very little to say.
Ultimately, Dark Phoenix suffers from the sheer expectation the genre now has to live up to. Whether you love them or hate them, Kevin Feige and the Russo brothers over at Marvel have rewritten the rule book from which Kinberg and crew have completely forgotten to read. Given everything the series has achieved, Dark Phoenix is a disappointing end to the franchise that started it all.
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