I am writing this mostly as a public service announcement to fellow avid moviegoers like myself. The latest and alleged final installment to the X-Men saga, Dark Phoenix is hot garbage. I had read a few other reviews of the film prior to seeing it for myself, and I can honestly say the negative feedback is absolutely justified. In fact, after seeing the movie, I think some of the “negative” reviews for Dark Phoenix are too nice.
First, let’s get to the basics. Dark Phoenix features the star-studded recurring cast of the previous installments – James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence specifically. In addition, Sophie Turner stars as the main character, Jean Grey, who becomes even more of a superhuman tour-de-force accidentally during a space rescue mission gone awry.
The accident leaves her even more powerful than before, but unfortunately for her (and us), the events of the film leave her torn as to how she should utilize her newly found arsenal.
The movie basically plays out as you would expect. The plot and arch of the film is very predictable and dry. Not only that, but Sophie Turner’s performance is…well I’ll just come out and say it – brutal. I was hoping she would be able to carry a film in the same way she carried a lot of scenes in Game of Thrones, but there was nobody from Winterfell that could get her out of this mess of a performance. I was praying for the Night King to come out somehow and add a spark to this dud by putting her out of her misery. Don’t worry, that will be my last GoT reference in this review.
Keeping with the TV theme, though, Dark Phoenix kind of reminded me of an episode of Food Network’s Chopped in a weird sort of way. Marvel Comics basically said, “Ok, your task is to make a Hollywood blockbuster finale with the following ingredients: An A-list cast, an awful script, sloppy special effects, and a bag of popcorn with all small kernels (because yeah, even my popcorn sucked).”
Simon Kinberg penned and directed this debacle. Does he sound familiar to you? Probably not because every other movie he has written has been horrible. Don’t believe me? Let’s go through a few of them. Stop me when you find a winner…Fantastic Four, This Means War, no? How about Jumper or xXx: State of the Union, still nothing? Well how about this – it’s no secret that ever since X-Men: First Class, which was one of the best superhero films of all-time in my opinion, the rest of the films in the latest series of installments have all gone downhill. X-Men: Days of Future Past was not nearly as good as First Class. X-Men: Apocalypse was even worse than Days of Future Past. Now, Dark Phoenix is not just worse than Apocalypse, it’s the worst film of the X-Men franchise by a country mile.
Now for the big reveal – aside from First Class, Kinberg wrote ALL of them! This series of X-Men films has gone from initially producing one of the best films in the history of its genre, to one of the worst. That’s like watching the Cleveland Cavaliers go to four straight NBA finals, only to become one of the worst teams in the league the following year. Both the Cavs and Kinberg have found ways to somehow achieve greatness in futility.
On top of that, despite the fact that each movie in the series has clearly been considerably worse than the last, Marvel allowed Kinberg to write AND direct this movie! Needless to say, Dark Phoenix was doomed from the start.
Here’s how bad this script was – Jessica Chastain was in this movie and gave probably her worst performance of her career. I don’t blame her for this, though. Nobody can turn a fast food burger into filet mignon. Audrey and Katharine Hepburn could’ve both come back from the dead and still not been able to salvage this film!
The tagline for Dark Phoenix is “every hero has a dark side.” While that may be true, I can certainly tell you that this movie is evidence that every good actor has a bad performance eventually. Dark Phoenix had an estimated budget of $200 million, and I would venture to guess a lot of that went to overpaying this group of terrific A-list actors (sans Sophie Turner) to be in this catastrophe. Not to say Sophie is a bad actress, but when it comes to the big screen, she still needs to put some serious work in to be mentioned in the same breath as her star counterparts. I’m still holding out hope that she can have a successful, legitimate career after playing Sansa Stark and not turn out like Kristen Stewart after playing the beloved Bella Swan.
Aside from the horrid script and mediocre performances, Dark Phoenix also had chaotic special effects and was shot at some weird camera angles with unnecessary up-close facial shots that were annoying and bothersome (but hey, that’s Kinberg). At times I didn’t know what was happening because the effects were so unrealistic and over-the-top that I couldn’t make out exactly what was going on during the majority of the fighting scenes.
I hope McAvoy, Fassbender, J-Law and Chastain take this loss with grace and never look back. Even Tom Brady hasn’t won every Super Bowl he’s played in. A script so bad that it makes all of the aforementioned actors look bad translates into a film that is not worth watching. After an hour into it, I honestly wanted to walk down the hall and just watch Avengers: Endgame again. Kinberg drove this script the wrong way down a dead end, one-way street. Sometimes it felt like Jumper (also written by Kinberg), while other times it felt like a superhero Breakfast Club.
I know I’ve poked fun at this movie but in all seriousness, instead of rivaling Endgame as one of the greatest superhero film finales ever, Dark Phoenix managed to be like Professor X and slowly crawl towards the finish line – becoming the worst film in its franchise and perhaps one of the worst films of the year.
MATTER RATING: 4/10
OSCAR SCALE: 0/10
BY: CHRIS GUEST