X-Men: Dark Phoenix

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Director: Simon Kinberg

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Jessica Chastain, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Written by Simon Kinberg, (based on the story “The Dark Phoenix Saga”) John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, (comic book created) Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Running Time: 113 mins

Cert: 12A

Release date: 5th June 2019

The X-Men, the most interesting of the concepts created by the late Stan Lee, has also been the most troublesome when it comes to big screen adaptations. The first two films about the mutants worked well, followed by the disastrous The Last Stand. Then the series was reinvented with First Class and Days of Future Past, in which we travelled back in time to the younger X-Men days. Sadly, the last film, Apocalypse, was a dreadful bore, so the hopes are resting on this final instalment of this current incarnation before Marvel Studios take the series back and start creating their versions. Sadly, this is no Endgame, and what should have been a spectacular bow-out is more a damp squib.

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Accepted by the humans, The X-men are using their powers for good. When a space shuttle is in trouble, The X-Men head up to save the crew, but in a freak accident, psychic Jean Gray becomes a victim of the space flare, giving her tremendous powers. With it, she starts to piece together her life and finds that Professor Xavier has betrayed her and yet she seems almost impossible to stop, even by old enemies.

Where to start with the things that are wrong with this film? What begins as promising with a spectacular set piece in space, slowly descends into what can only amount as button pushing. Where Avengers: Endgame scored so high was leaving the set pieces till the middle and end of the film. This seemed to have set pieces all over the place as if character development and plot were second place to explosions, fights and a mass of CGI. Writer/director Simon Kinberg had plenty of opportunities to deal with the subjects of past decisions coming back, how the change of attitude towards the mutants have changed their characters, and the demons inside both Jean and Xavier.

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Instead, we get Xavier hitting the bottle while Jean starts hitting out at her former friends. One moment, which should have been as heartbreaking as those in Endgame, is so lacking in emotion, you shrug it off. Considering we’ve been with this incarnation since 2011, you would have thought that a critical moment would either shock or at least caused some reaction. Of course, each of the mutants has to show off their powers every opportunity possible, so scenes are set up to allow plenty of time for each. Even the ending feels rushed, with the finale set on a train and brimming with CGI moments. None of which excites. We won’t even start with how these characters haven’t aged since the ’60s.

I feel sorry for Sophie Turner. Taking on the role of Jean Gray, in previous movies, she has had very little to do. Here was her chance to shine, and while it’s a valiant effort, she is badly let down by a ropey script that does her no favours. The same can be said of James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier. We know what a good actor he is, but here his character development is that he drinks a bit. Both, Michael Fassbender, returning as Magneto, and Jessica Chastain as the alien adviser to Jean, are given nothing to do and are a waste of their acting muscles.

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Superhero movies have evolved. They are no longer just about set pieces. They are about character and conflict between characters. Villains no longer exist to rule the world; they are human, too, with good reasons to do what they do. X-Men: Dark Phoenix has none of those traits. Like last week’s Godzilla, audiences want more than just special effects. They want stories that make you laugh, make you cry and then make you amazed. I didn’t laugh, cry or be surprised at this. As it’s the last film of this particular series, I came out glad they weren’t carrying on. Let’s hope that now it’s home with Marvel Studios; they can reinvigorate a series that seems out of steam.

2/5

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