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Shocker: Critics Call Dark Phoenix a Waste of Time That Doesn’t Live Up to the Source Material

Sophie Turner as Dark Phoenix

The early reviews for Fox’s Dark Phoenix film are out, and … well, it seems like getting one of the people who was brought in to write The Last Stand, the franchise’s last attempt at this storyline, to do this movie wasn’t a great choice. Imagine that.

In this directorial debut, Simon Kinberg was given an opportunity few people get: He got to rewrite his own movie, but not only that. As the screenwriter for X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse, he had the chance to set up a solid foundation for the Dark Phoenix story and give Jean Grey the character arc that she deserves, and so far, it looks like he’s failed to do that. Twice.

What seems to be the consensus, even from more positive reviews, is that the movie is an improvement over The Last Stand—the lowest possible bar—but that the failures of the film are cumulative, rather than just one bad element: weak writing, a checked-out cast, and a failure to meet the expectations set up by the narrative itself or the X-Men universe. There is praise for Sophie Turner and some of the younger actors, but Lawrence and Fassbender seem to have checked out, which, considering the dull ways they have been written in recent movies, is not surprising.

William Bibbiani from The Wrap:

The most impressive thing about Simon Kinberg’s “Dark Phoenix,” the 12th movie in 20th Century Fox’s wildly inconsistent “X-Men” superhero franchise, is that it’s not the worst one. It’s rather embarrassingly scripted and acted out by a cast who, pretty much across the board, look like they’d rather be anywhere else, but at least it’s not quite as awful as “X-Men Apocalypse,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” or “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

Don Kaye from Den of Geek:

But Dark Phoenix can’t shake the feeling of attempting to do too much with too little, all with the knowledge that everything is coming to an end whether they succeed or not. But look at the bright side: even though this doesn’t rate as one of them, a solid half of the 12 X-Men films produced to date have been good or great. Now the legacy of the X-Men will pass into a new set of hands, and hopefully it will rise, like a certain mythological bird, again.

Angie Han from Mashable:

Turner puts a mighty effort into her performance as Jean, but can only do so much to elevate the stilted dialogue and muddled character motivations she’s given. McAvoy does a capable job of delivering slightly better material, but is shortchanged by the film’s divided attention. The other characters, including Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), are just there to serve as set dressing, and accordingly, most of them give performances as wooden as the mahogany furniture lining Xavier’s mansion.

Rodrigo Perez from The Playlist:

Kinberg wants to fast forward to the famous ‘Dark Phoenix’ story from the comics— Jean Grey’s powers grow god-like and she goes cuckoo, already covered once in 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” which he wrote(!)— and he’s got a clever and timely idea about supercilious, powerful men who deceive women to tell it. But arriving at that critical juncture, Grey losing control and going supernova, is never convincing, earned or as poignant as the movie believes it is.

Jim Vejvoda from IGN:

Although not the trainwreck some may have feared given its mostly lackluster trailers, Dark Phoenix nevertheless brings the long-running X-Men franchise to a close in a messy and muddled fashion. The film is marginally better than the previous telling of the Phoenix saga, X-Men: The Last Stand, and it’s certainly better than the bloated and excessive X-Men: Apocalypse, but Dark Phoenix is still a disappointing finale for this nearly 20-year-old series, as Disney assumes ownership of the X-Men characters from Fox going forward.

A.A. Dowd from A.V. Club:

His Dark Phoenix is more thoughtful than The Last Stand, and certainly a more downbeat and introspective X-Men movie than the last one, the goofy and overlong Apocalypse. But it still remains locked down by a very limited idea of what an X-Men movie can be, and a very small vision of one of the most iconic epics in superhero fiction.

David Ehrlich from Indie Wire:

Not only does the movie fumble the baton pass between generations and fail to advance the series’ overarching story in any meaningful way, it also hardly seems to try. Not only does it botch the source material’s signature narrative arc, it also does everything in its power to flatten it out. Not only does it waste an excellent cast on a script that reduces all of its characters to basic constructs, it also puts them at the mercy of a first-time director who doesn’t even know how to make them look cool.

Charles Pulliam-Moore from io9:

What’s most dispiriting about the film, however, are those fleeting moments when it lands on something so right—like the glimpses of Xavier’s campus where multiple classes of students matriculate and certain very iconic, unexpected mutants make surprising cameos—that it feels as if it was plucked out of an alternate universe where Fox had long-since figured out how to make consistently excellent, vibrant X-Men features. […]

None of this is to say that Dark Phoenix is a terrible movie, because as X-Men movies go, it truly isn’t. What it is, though, is a by-the-numbers, mildly interesting attempt at telling a classic story that, unfortunately, it just doesn’t have the time, space, or range to do.

Right now, the current Rotten Tomatoes score is 17%, but I’m sure the audience score will be much better.

I will still be seeing Dark Phoenix, and our review of the film will be out Friday morning, because the X-Men will always be important to me and, with the exception of Apocalypse, I’ve never skipped one. I never expected this movie to be excellent because it doesn’t have the time to be, but I want to see, for my own eyes, Sophie Turner’s run as Jean Grey come to an end, because damn that’s good casting, and I want to watch it.

(image: 20th Century Fox)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.