1 out of 5 stars
'I always felt the 'X-Men,' in a subtle way, often touched upon the subject of racism and inequality, and I believe that subject has come up in other titles, too. But we would never pound hard on the subject, which must be handled with care and intelligence.' Stan Lee
With all the talk of Avengers: Endgame, most people forget that the first Marvel ensemble franchise had its beginning eight years previously with X-men in 2000. A world that focussed on Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) as the central character, this franchise has had varying degrees of success throughout its history. Taking advantage of time-travel and re-introducing the original cast with fresh new talent with X-men: First Class, the potential for this series seemed limitless. Then the merger of Disney and 20th Century Fox changed everything and now Marvel fans are salivating at the possibilities of the X-men joining the Avengers. But Fox has its final hurrah with this story narrative with Dark Phoenix.
The focus for this concluding chapter is the character that most may not know is the most powerful character in the mutant troupe, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). As a young mutant, she was taken into the capable hands of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters after a family tragedy in the girl’s life. Under Professor X’s tutelage, she became an integral part of the team that was hailed as the X-men. The early 1990’s were a time when these ‘gifted’ individuals were celebrated, because of their willingness to serve humanity and help in times of extreme difficulties.
While assisting with a potential Space Shuttle tragedy in the orbit of the earth, Jean is exposed to an unknown force that accentuates her powers and causes her to become emotionally unstable. The celestial force brings with it a contingent of shape-shifting aliens who take on the form of humans and intend on harnessing the young mutant’s abilities or taking it from her.
As Miss Grey struggles to find her past and manage her new identity, things get dark quickly and many within the X-men team bear the brunt of her violent evolution. This divisive situation causes the mutant unit to band together with Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and his band of misfits. They must work to find Jean before the leader of the alien team, Vuk (Jessica Chastain), finds the unstable mutant and unleashes the power within the Phoenix on the world.
The challenge for this franchise is working out where it will tell its stories since the time line was irrevocably damaged during X-men: Days of Future Past. A good film that caused mayhem in the timeline and has made the subsequent films struggle to find their identities. The confusion around where the two worlds of the X-men past and future reside is evident in this screenplay. A theory that may help to explain how such great acting talent could look so disoriented by the problematic paths that the movie travels down.
The emphasis on dark in the title must have been the direction for this screenwriting team. The key element missing in this film was the humour to balance out the violence. Without this obvious light and shade, the story remains on the darkside and never recovers. Lacking this counter balance to the profoundly emotional elements of the story makes this an exhausting experience with little to celebrate in the end. Unlike the ‘snap’ of the MCU, the pathway for this tale of woe provides little hope for the future of this franchise.
To look at the positive side of this post-merger experience, Fox has successfully closed the door on this chapter of the X-men in the new world of Disney/Marvel. Unfortunately, this group will go out with a whimper as opposed to the powerful roar as it entered into the lives of cinema goers throughout the past two decades. Dark Pheonix should have been an exciting launch from the ashes of the debacle that was X-men: Apocalypse, but proved to only be a forgettable flash in the pan. Hopefully, Kevin Feige and company can resurrect these heroes and give them their due in the future.
REEL DIALOGUE: Why is there such a stigma with mental health?
Even with modern advancements and education, people still have a hard time knowing how to respond to the topic of mental illness. Dark Phoenix seems to be making a statement on those who struggle with their mental stability. It is not new to society, throughout the Bible there are references to individuals that struggle with these internal challenges. The realities portrayed in the Bible help to show that the answers can be found in the words of Jesus. God can help through the journey and know that it is better to seek help than to struggle alone.
Passages on mental illnesses: Psalm 34:17-20, Matthew 17:14-20, Philippians 4:6-7, 2 Timothy 1:7
Who to contact if you need help? Beyond Blue or Wesley Mission