Saturday, June 8, 2019

Dark Phoenix

Sigh... I truly do not know where to begin this review.  I have written and podcasts so much about this movie over the last few years that doing this review feels like spiking the ball after a touchdown.  As the embargo was lifted, the early reviews are slamming this movie from all sides and me doing that just feels like piling on- not that I don't love a good pile on, but after watching Dark Phoenix, I just feel more defeated than anything.

This last set of X-Movies from Fox don't feel like a victory lap as much as a car running on fumes trying to make it to the gas station.  Any momentum the franchise had from Logan and Deadpool was completely used up by the changed release dates,  news of all the reshoots and reports of an inconsistent story and plot being handled by first time director, Simon Kinsberg.  Top that off with the Disney acquisition of the Fox properties and this movie was doomed to fail from the beginning and I often wondered aloud why even bother putting this movie out as Fox's final offering of our marvelous mutants.

And therein lies the rub of the run of Fox and the X-Men.  Fox should be given credit for leading the way into our superhero movie obsession.  With X-Men in 2000, they made it possible for MCU to even think about putting together a superhero team in the Avengers.  X-2, I contend is one of the best superhero movies ever and the ending with the Phoenix effect still gives me chills as I type this.  But things fell apart quickly as the franchise, much like the comics became obsessed with Wolverine and began to put out substandard product just as the MCU began to gain its footing and the disparities between the two became more and more evident over time.

Fox hit the soft reboot with First Class that reinvigorated the brand and Days of Future Past gives X-2 a strong running for me as the best X-Men movie.  Of course they followed that up with Apocalypse and thus begins my review of Dark Phoenix....

The movie begins with a flashback of young Jean Grey, in a scene eerily similar to the start of Shazam by the way, and the accident that changed her life.  Charles comes into Jean's life recognizing that she is special and brings her into his school for Gifted Youngsters but also places barriers in her mind to not access the trauma her actions caused on the day of the accident.  Its a flimsy plot point based on the outcome that happens later.

In modern times, Charles has cozied up to the humans and the X-Men, wearing the awful ass Frank Quietly uniforms are not as hated as they go out and do projects for the government.  The President has an X-Phone to call up Charles when shit in the world goes left.  In this instance, a space shuttle encounters a solar flare and needs to be rescued and the X-Men are on the way.  Of course nothing goes as planned and as Jean saves the last pilot of the shuttle, she is engulfed by the "solar flare".

Look, this movie has no real ties to the comic and in a sense, I understand because the Phoenix Saga is epic and grand and any attempt to tell this story over one movie is fool hearted, but a nod to such a recognizable series would have gone a long way here and Kinberg and company skip over that.But while Jean gets accosted by the flare, a series of beings make their way to earth in the hopes of finding who took the solar flare.

Back on earth, all of Jean's senses are turnt up as the kids would say, and at a party she looses control of her powers.  I must make mention here that Storm at the party uses her powers to make ice cubes.  The alpha level mutant has been reduced to making ice, but I digress.  Jean's new found awakening has her breaking through the blocks Charles set up as a child and she sees what Charles did and is off to see her father, whom she believed was dead.  Both Raven and Beast, recognizing what Charles did as messed up, along with the rest of the team go to confront Jean and we ( spoiler coming) get the death of Mystique.  There is no real emotional weight to this moment and I get the sense that no one was more relieved to die in this than Jennifer Lawrence.

Jean is then off to see Magneto, who for some reason was given 40 acres and a Mule by the government and is living and farming some land with a bunch of unknown mutants.  To paraphrase my friend Task, hundreds of mutants to pick from and they surround Magneto with a bunch of unknowns.  Jean wants Eric to teach her how to not do bad things... sigh and of course the government comes looking for her and we get this ridiculous battles that is terrible on multiple levels.

Now on earth, Jessica Chastain, playing a D'Bari character, Vuk is on earth in search of the solar flare that gave Jean her powers.  I love Chastain as an actress and she is wasted in this entire movie and is still the best thing in it.  Once she finally catches up with Jean and explains the solar flares history and powers, Jean tries to give Vuk the powers.  The X-Men intervene, as Beast has gone heel and joined Magneto in a revenge tour to kill Jean for killing Raven.  Its full on preposterous as Magneto pulls a subway out for no real reason at all and the battle is ended with the mutants being captured by the government using the power dampening collars that are synonymous with the X-Men but damn in they ever mention that or how the government got that technology.

This leads to our climatic scene on the train... the train reshoot that was done because the original ending looked to similar to Captain Marvel.  It makes no movie sense as the government is being attacked by Vuk's people.  They are using heavy caliber firearms and they are no selling the bullets.  Yet when the X-Men get free, somehow Nightcrawler takes out on with a buck knife.  Its just so bad and when Jean and Vuk have their final battle, its anti-climatic but so on brand for the rest of the movie that it makes sense.

Truly, I was not sure if Fox could ever top the awfulness of The Last Stand, but they were able to find the bottom with this movie.  It lacks story cohesion, emotion, and basic common sense.  Its bland and lifeless and that is me being kind.  I do not know who the fans of this movie are because its certainly not comic book fans or fans of the animated series.  They have taken one of the most classic X-Men stories and fucked it up now twice.  I am not a huge fan of Disney controlling everything, but hopefully they can get the X-Men movie franchise back to a level of respectability.  They deserve that and more.  Vaya con Dios Fox.  In this you wont be missed!

The Producer

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