X-Men: Dark Phoenix Hardly Rise from Ashes for Marvel/Fox Franchise

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X-Men Dark Phoenix BD

Back in the day when the UNCANNY X-MEN were jumping from one classic arc to the next classic arc, the House of Ideas threw a huge curveball at us when it was revealed Jean Grey had been possessed by a cosmic entity so powerful that it could -- and did -- destroy planets. And even though she was supposedly cured of this, there was still a need to balance the scales of justice. She couldn't just walk away from a genocide unscathed. The death of Jean Grey for the actions of the Phoenix Force was more than just a classic story -- it was a pivotal milestone in the history of the X-Men.

Getting an accurate retelling in a movie was a hopeless case from the beginning. To do it even the slightest justice would have required a season of a live-action X-Men series.

So what we get with X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX is pretty much a standalone film that uses some of those ideas and character names, to tell a completely different story.

In the FOX universe, Charles Xavier (JAMES McAVOY) has achieved his dream of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. His team of X-Men are viewed by the public as superheroes, with action figures and all the trappings that go with hero worship. Even Magneto (MICHAEL FASSBENDER) has found refuge in a plot of land granted him by the government to serve as a sanctuary for lost mutants.

But this peace is a fragile one. When the President calls up on the X-Men to rescue some stranded astronauts from orbit, what they believe to be a solar flare endangers the whole team, and nearly kills Jean (SOPHIE TURNER). When they arrive home, they find Jean passes all physical inspection -- but it does not take long for them to find out there is something seriously wrong with her power, which has been amplified to levels that beggar all measurements.

The force that has taken over Jean is the object of a race of aliens that have been pursuing it, led by Vuk (JESSICA CHASTAIN). The aliens are also more powerful that the super-powered mutants, making them a threat to be carefully considered. When Jean lashes out with deadly consequences, and learns the secret Charles has been keeping from her, Xavier's team loses the support of the U.S. Government, and finds themselves incarcerated, their powers dampened, at a time when the world may need them the most.

X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX is a subdued superhero story. The special effects are well done, although the team roster does tend to make one realize just how much blue tends to be a dominant melanin tone for mutants, with Beast (NICHOLAS HOULT), Nightcrawler (KODI SMIT-MCPHEE) and Mystique (JENNIFER LAWRENCE). The team is so large, and the battles such melees, that most of the X-Men are pretty much cameo appearances, not having nearly the attention paid to them as occurs in the MCU's AVENGERS franchise.

The ending leaves much to be desired, and it appears writer/director SIMON KINBERG cribbed his last scene from THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (hardly the Batman film you'd want to copy out of the Nolan trilogy). If you're a die-hard X-Men fan, you'll no doubt see this even if you expect to be disappointed. If you come in without all the baggage of forty years of comic book reading, then you can have a better acceptance of the story, and perhaps even look past some of the wooden acting.

3.5 / 5.0