Flying into space, the X-Men rescue a shuttle hit by a solar flare. Its rays threatening to kill all inside, they manage to recover the crew. However in doing so, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is left behind. Racked by the huge force of the solar flare, she shocks everyone by subconsciously assimilating all of its lethal power. Upon returning to earth she seems to be fine, however Jean’s fragile hold on her new powers threatens to consume everyone around her.
... confidently steps out of the wreckage that was ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’.
After the underwhelming ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, it seemed as though the X-Men franchise was set to finish on a low note. However after a troubled production and extensive reshoots, the re-cut X-Men: Dark Phoenix has now become the surprise third chapter in the trilogy. Fully embracing the darkness alluded to its title, this is an X-Men movie with the gloves taken off.
Gone are the starry-eyed promises of a co-operative future with mankind. Instead they have been replaced by gnawing tensions and veiled critiques of Xavier’s school for the gifted. Unafraid to throw its much beloved characters under a more critical light, ‘X-Men: Phoenix’ quickly becomes a film firmly aimed at its adult fanbase. Whilst clearly touched by the downbeat feel of ‘Logan’, the absence of Hugh Jackman actually goes unnoticed here as Nicholas Hoult steps firmly into the acting frame with his performance as Hank McCoy / Beast. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender again impress as Professor Xavier and Magneto but however it is Sophie Turner who steps up, giving real energy to her troubled and confused Jean Grey. In support, Kodi Smit-McPhee ’s performance as Nightcrawler also brings a much needed sense of doubt and disquiet to the handful of scenes he steals.
That said, sadly the down-the-line style dialogue of ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ has survived its previous episode with ‘Dark Phoenix’s’ beats heavily articulated in excruciatingly staccato’d sentences. An easy flaw to fix with a wave of a editor’s razor blade, this is a film that would benefitted from a tighter edit where more was inferred than painted in by scene numbers. That said, by its third act, you can mentally blindside these blemishes and still enjoy the consistently dark tone which never lets up. Sacrifices are made, casualties are incurred and tissues maybe required for a film that is far more consequential than usual comic book fare.
So, whilst the debated merits and comparisons to be made between ‘X-Men 2 / X2’ and ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ may rage on, Dark Phoenix confidently steps out of the wreckage that was ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ to recover most of the lost ground. A solid and entertaining addition in this updated trilogy of movies, Dark Phoenix is a threequel that rises from the ashes of indifference to deliver a surprisingly entertaining ensemble adventure.
In the end, given the distance it has thematically travelled, you might want to make a similar journey.