DARK PHOENIX – Film Review

Long time X-Men film producer Simon Kinberg takes the reins on the latest installment in the ever expanding mutant-lead series.

Years after the events of X-Men: Apocalypse, the world has now begun to view mutants and the X-Men team as saviors of the universe. Many children look up to them and see them as heroes. With this newfound appreciation, the X-Men aim to widen their mission range and start to take missions in space. While up in space with her fellow teammates, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) suddenly gets a cosmic energy absorbed into her, giving her godlike powers, which she quickly uses for evil. Now it is up to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the rest of the mutants to stop Jean before it is too late.

In the months leading up to the release of Dark Phoenix, there were several trailers that had been released. All of these trailers garnered mostly negative attention on the internet, with many calling the trailers awful. However, I found them to be rather intriguing and I was curious as to how the film would handle the beloved Dark Phoenix Saga storyline. Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix is not the first film to tackle this story, as the 2006 film X-Men: The Last Stand attempted the same thing with poor results.

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Sophie Turner as Jean Grey / Phoenix in Dark Phoenix (2019)

Gratefully, this is a film that handles it much better. A large part of why Dark Phoenix works so well is because of Sophie Turner’s mesmerizing performance as Jean Grey. There are dozens of scenes in which she has to portray extreme emotion with little dialogue and mostly facial expressions, and she does so effortlessly. As of right now, her performance is one of the best of the entire year thus far. Also terrific here is James McAvoy as Charles Xavier / Professor X. McAvoy is one of the finest actors working today and he continues to prove his talents yet again with this picture. McAvoy has been in bad movies in the past, but even in those movies, he has delivered a good performance.

It is also loaded with incredibly suspenseful sequences that took me by complete surprise. This is definitely an X-Men film that takes its time to set up characters and small moments to eventually pay off with big exciting moments which was something I ultimately enjoyed. Some may be disappointed by the smaller number of action scenes, but I found the character building to be equally exciting. There is, however, one particular moment in the second act that had me riveted. It was one of the most intense moments in this franchise in a long time.

Additionally, Hans Zimmer’s score works really well here and helps to propel some of the more exciting scenes. It is not one of his all time best scores, but it is certainly a good one that many fans of his work will adore.

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James McAvoy as Charles Xavier / Professor X in Dark Phoenix (2019)

This is also one of the most well shot entries in the series, with the director of photography being Mauro Fiore. There are numerous cosmic shots that looked genuinely breathtaking and not enough people are talking about his terrific work on this movie.

When it comes to fan service in films, many people find it annoying and pointless. I think it is a good thing to have if not used too excessively. Luckily, Dark Phoenix manages to find the perfect amount of fan service to include, having some really great callbacks to previous X-Men films.

As far as the negatives go, the film is unfortunately quite exposition heavy. There are plenty of scenes in which characters are simply sitting around in rooms talking to each other, explaining key things to certain characters, but they are really just telling the audience this information.

It also could have really benefited from an R rating, as the film is rated PG-13 and in some moments, had it been an R, these moments would have been greatly improved. The Dark Phoenix Saga storyline is definitely a brutal one and we have yet to see the sheer brutality of it fully realized on the big screen yet. There have been R rated X-Men films in the past such as Deadpool and Logan which heavily benefited from it, and this should have had the same rating as those two films.

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Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme / Mystique in Dark Phoenix (2019)

Also the dialogue can be a bit weak here as well. For the most part, it works fine, but there are some times in which it can come off cringe-worthy. In fact, there was one scene in the second act in which Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops delivers a line that made my screening audience burst out into laughter when they were not supposed to. The line is meant to be serious, but it will definitely make some individuals unintentionally laugh.

The running time also could have been chopped down by around twenty minutes or so, because it definitely feels longer than it is. Dark Phoenix clocks in at one hundred and fourteen minutes in length, but it honestly feels like a two and a half hour film, and it left me feeling quite exhausted when it ended.

Dark Phoenix manages to find its wings with stunning performances from Sophie Turner and James McAvoy, great action sequences, and well crafted character moments.

Overall Grade: B-

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action including some gunplay, disturbing images, and brief strong language

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner

Directed by: Simon Kinberg

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Running Time: 114 minutes

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