X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Honest Trailer for X-Men: Dark Phoenix Shows How the Movie Is Every Kind of Awful

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X-Men: Dark Phoenix is not a good movie by any conceivable metric, and now the full extent of its terribleness is laid bare in a new Honest Trailer. How on Earth (or in space) was Dark Phoenix released in this form?

Honest Trailers rightfully heaps a lot of blame at the feet of writer/director Simon Kinberg. Kinberg was also the co-writer (with Zak Penn) of 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, the previous movie that attempted, with extremely limited success, to tell the story of the Dark Phoenix Saga. For some reason, even though Last Stand was not well received, Kinberg was not only allowed to write Dark Phoenix, but he was given the director’s chair, in what Honest Trailers calls “failing upwards.” This was Kinberg’s directorial debut—the final movie in a massive franchise with a $200 million budget. It’s unclear, especially after missing the mark with Last Stand, why Kinberg would have been trusted with such a huge undertaking.

The trust was misplaced, as you can see from just the five minutes of clips and scenes in the trailer above. Honest Trailers dubs the production Kinberg’s $200 million “student film,” and the script has been lambasted for going light on poignant emotional elements in favor of endless action sequences. The actors look like they want to be anywhere else, and quite a few of them are phoning it in; the over-emphasis the last few X-Men movies have placed on Mystique because she is played by Jennifer Lawrence is at least alleviated by Mystique exiting stage left, pursued by a skewer. And while we love Sophie Turner around these parts, as Ethan Anderton at /Film points out, “It might help if anyone other than Sophie Turner took the role of Jean Grey, who seems to be sleepwalking through every scene, showing about as much emotion as a houseplant.”

Don’t cry for Simon Kinberg. He’s back at work directing the female-led spy movie 355, starring Jessica Chastain (who was somehow roped into a thankless role in Dark Phoenix), and as a producer, he’s working on everything from Deadpool 3 to the new Logan’s Run to the new Death on the Nile. Fox is still letting him tool around with yet more mutants, as Kinberg is also a producer on The New Mutants and X-Force. If I turned in the Dark Phoenix script as my final creative writing project in college I probably wouldn’t have graduated, but Hollywood seems like a wild place, extremely forgiving to an anointed few. Though the film was the lowest-grossing movie in the X-Men franchise, making only $252 million on that $200 million budget, there seems to have just been a collective shrug and “well, we tried” attitude rather than any real soul-searching or taking to task about what went wrong here.

As our Princess Weekes pointed out on Well, Actually…, if you aren’t interested in telling complex stories about the women of the X-Menespecially in a film ostensibly based around a woman and her trauma, you shouldn’t be making X-Men movies.

Did you see Dark Phoenix? Are you still recovering? Let’s talk about this mess in the comments.

(via Honest Trailers, /Film, image: 20th Century Fox)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.