Why? This word perfectly encapsulates my frustration with the existence of this film. Why also happens to be the mantra which I constantly repeated out loud in the near empty theatre forming questions such as:
- Why was this movie made?
- Who thought this would be a good idea?
- Why did Sophie Turner enroll in the Bella Swan school of acting which comes with extensive courses in how to:
- Roll your eyes
- Use audible gasp or make other noises to express the single emotion your character has
- Be monotone
- Be in a horrible relationship which leads to cataclysmic events
- Why were characters we love absolutely butchered?
- And so on so forth…
It is safe to say, I am not a fan of this film. I love the X-Men… but this was an all-new low for a franchise that has been all too familiar with lows.
Now, this review will have no spoilers. Yet, even if I WANTED to spoil anything… I really could not. This film suffers from a serious case of linear-plot-itis. Not only was the plot predictable BUT a whole segment of it was entirely pointless. There was no reason whatsoever for the inclusion of Jessica Chastain’s character in this film. Her ark (or lack thereof) did nothing for this film except extend the audiences’ misery. Aside from this erroneous inclusion and waste of talent (Chastain being a great actress) I have a few issues to poke with this film.
The characters in this film were monotone and lifeless shells of their former selves. Characters such as Professor X and Magneto were absolutely derived of their individuality, humanity, and personality which left the great actors who play them to struggle with a subpar script. Mystique was horrible too, her character was written to be that of an archetype rather than the mutant we have all grown to adore. The other characters were similarly treated. Shells of themselves.
This film reminded me very much of Game of Thrones Season 8 – the writing was sloppy, the story was rushed, and there was absolutely no reason these characters should do or act the way they did onscreen. The decision our main characters make that directly impact the narrative were so far away from what they would have done in previous films it gave me a headache. The characters were treated as pawns on a chess board: going from point A to B with no rhyme or reason – simply following the instructions.
Multiple characters made complete 180s in their motivations within minutes just to serve the plot. I yearned for some emotion to be displayed onscreen, some character building, or even payoff from this nearly 20 year journey. But no. What we got instead was akin to Anakin mirthlessly flirting with Padmé on the beaches of Naboo (no, I do not like sand). The most emotionally poignant scene was filled with tropes and cliches making it unbearable and groan worthy.
However, the worse offender was Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey. Let me be absolutely clear: I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH HER CHARACTER BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN. No, I appreciate strong female leads and I think as a society we need them. What I DO have a problem with is the way her character was written. Nothing against Turner of any of the actors/actresses who appeared in this film, just the writing. Without going into too much detail, her character borrowed heavily from Anakin in the prequels: a whiney brat who is taken advantage of by both the ‘good’ guys and the ‘bad’ guys. This was an injustice to the amazing character in the comics and other media representations. The betrayal she felt, all that sadness, love, hate, anger etc… was lost in her onscreen depiction. A few tears and yelling is all we got.
I just wanted to see some time spent examining the psychology and nature of the characters – to see how they change from the beginning to the end. I would have loved to see Jean Grey evolve and transition over time, slowly building towards the finale of the film. Instead, we were presented with another 180 flip within hours (oh look we can make another GOT reference). It was just poorly executed.
The writing was horrible, as a touched upon above. Yet the dialogue was even worse. The script felt like it was the first time any of the writers, producers, and director(s) worked on a film. Every conversation between Turner and Sheridan (Grey and Cyclopes) felt like it was from a tween romance film à la Twilight. It was painful to watch the two skilled actors deliver those dreadful lines. Do the writers seriously believe this is what 20 something year olds sound like when they are in love? The rest of the cast did not fare any better.
Jennifer Lawrence’ Mystique Nicholas Hoult’s The Beast? Nope. Their lines were painfully executed. They felt robotic and meticulously crafted (in all the wrong ways). It was hard to suspend any belief when the writing was this poor. The film’s script honestly felt like it was written by a group of students the night before a project was due… and not a 200 million dollar film.
Speaking of the budget, the CGI in this film WAS atrocious. It looked so bad, it was almost cartoonish. From the first 10 minutes onwards, it was (again) painful to watch. Whenever a mutant (especially Magneto) used their powers I had to laugh at how bad the CGI was. Yes, I will admit there were a few beautifully rendered shots, but on aggregate Batman V Superman‘s Doomsday looked like an award-winning creation compared to this. Moreover, characters such as Mystique looked grotesque and a far cry from their earlier reiterations.
However, my biggest complaint is that this film feels completely soulless. Nothing stood out, no scenes created any empathy for the characters, nor was there any emotion or affect expressed throughout the film nor in the audience. The 114 minute movie managed to pack in numerous explosions, fight scenes, and scenes where our characters are just talked to give us too much exposition, but very little else. Even the fight scenes were ‘meh’ at best. The film holds the audiences hand and spoon feeds the narrative to viewers, and it suffers for it. The characters could not be developed as the film was too busy trying to make sure we understood what was happening. It was too busy showing us the powers of these mutants instead of showing us the mutants behind the powers.. the characters…Why did they do this? I do not know.
Overall, I have to give Dark Phoenix a:
This film was a pathetic ending to the incredible franchise which helped kick-started the super-hero genre. One final whimper before The House of Mouse swallows it and incorporates it into the MCU. This was not the way to end things. Fans wanted a BANG… but we got a dud.
Obviously, this film will go on to make millions and I am just a 21 year old student who writes reviews for fun…,but I do hope us fans realize how powerful we are. We are the ones buying tickets and merchandise. And as long as we keep spending millions on everything these companies throw at us, no one is to blame but ourselves.