Quick Hit: What starts out right goes wrong in a hurry.
The cinematic X-Men story is one that has… a varied history, to be kind. There was the original trilogy, the different Wolverine spin-offs, the Deadpool spin-offs, and then there was the most recent iteration of films as well. We here at DFP have covered a variety of these films with varying degrees of success in rating them (some are all the way in the A+ range from me, some are much, much lower (looking at you Apocalypse). But one of the stories that has been done twice is the Dark Phoenix saga, which is a treasured classic in the X-Men canon. The original story was tackled in the much maligned X-Men: Last Stand, which was the conclusion of the original trilogy. While it’s been a while since I’ve seen that, I don’t remember it being nearly as awful as most people make it out to be. I certainly feel like it was better than this.
The gist of the story here is that Jean Grey develops some increased powers after an encounter with a mysterious energy in space. From there, she starts to lose control, eventually going crazy and attacking members of the X-Men. It’s a story that has a lot of depth in the comics, but got breezed over a bit in Last Stand. However, this film does a decent job at introducing it, but then doesn’t seem to know what to do with the characters. There is very little emotional depth that is sprinkled throughout the story.
That’s really disappointing, because the seeds for a much better story are there. For instance, there’s a subplot where Charles (James McAvoy) is verbally confronted by Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence, largely phoning it in here) for making the X-Men be about him rather than about making things a better world. It seems like he has had the success of the X-Men go to his head and that he’s no longer concerned for the safety of the members. That’s something that I feel like was worth exploring, but outside of this conversation, there isn’t really much there. Another part that I thought was interesting was Magneto’s (Michael Fassbender) little cult compound of mutants. But instead, the story rushes through these little moments.
While there are a lot of mutant powers on display throughout the film, and some of them end up having a variety of nice set pieces, a lot of it feels like a “been there and done that”. Nightcrawler has some nice moments in a plane, but it doesn’t approach the feeling you got at the beginning of X2. Quicksilver is again granted the chance to seemingly slow time, but it’s nothing compared to the Time in a Bottle sequence. So what is this moving really gaining us?
The answer, unfortunately, is not much. I can give it this grade because I still enjoy seeing McAvoy and Fassbender verbally spar, and I think that the cast is there and some of them do a great job of what they’re given. But overall, the movie just isn’t very good. I guess we’ll keep waiting for a good adaptation of this classic story. Until then, I’m giving it a “D+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"