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X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix

These posters are all starting to look pretty much the same

dir: Simon Kinberg


Almost everyone that liked the first two X-Men films really hated the 3rd one directed by one of the worst directors in the business, being the appalling Brett Ratner who I hope never gets to direct again. That 3rd flick, The Last Stand, was pretty hateable. In it the character of Jean Grey goes fucking crazy and wants to destroy the world, for some reason.

Bryan Singer, who directed the first two flicks, did not get to direct the third one, and was so offended by it that when he got the chance in X-Men: Days of Future Past, he made it so the earlier film never existed. Would that we all had such power to undo the actions of the past. If Bryan Singer actually possessed such power, perhaps he could travel back in time and undo the sexual assault and harassment he’s been accused of. I hope neither he, nor Ratner, ever work again, because both of them are pieces of shit and neither deserves forgiveness.

So, one of the people who wrote the third film, being Simon Kinberg, decided it was shit too, and thought “maybe I can do the same story properly, and people will like it, and like me too, maybe?” So he decided to direct a version of the Dark Phoenix storyline where Jean Grey gets even more powerful and threatens to – something – the world. I dunno, she kills a few people unintentionally, and probably had some impact on property values.

Former allies and enemies join hands and either try to save Jean or kill her, depending on how they feel at any given moment, but ultimately the story is pretty much the same as in the Last Stand. If I wrote the script on one film, and it turned out to be shit, and then a studio gave me even more money, told me to write it again pretty much the same way and also to direct it, I would consider myself the luckiest motherfucker on the planet.

I have had arguments with people in the past about Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, in terms of whether she was a decent actor or not. I thought she was great in Game of Thrones, and only got better as the character improved over time. All of my defences of her acting fall apart here. She is, as are most other people in this flick, pretty dull. The combined effort of all these British people putting on American accents pretty much leaves them with nothing left in the tank for the “basic talking or acting” scenes.

I’m not sure I understand why they were so committed to telling this story again. It almost seems like a compulsion at this stage. Maybe they should have a third go at it, why not, to finally get it right?

It’s a boring story, on its own. It wasn’t that interesting the first time, and it gives you even less to think about this time around, almost nothing for your heart or mind to latch on to. This time the character is possessed sort-of by a force of cosmic energy that is powerful enough to scour planets, but the essence of the story is the same: someone kill Jean before it’s too late, because She’s Lost Control.

She’s meant to be dealing with the suppressed trauma of killing her parents and being abandoned, and the blocks placed inside her mind by Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, in smarmy principal mode), but mostly it just means she can’t control her telekinetic powers any more. And whenever she gets angry, these like energy wrinkles appear on her face, which is probably a fate worse than death for a young actor, and she starts destroying stuff in a jealous rage.

If we hadn’t already watched a million movies about people with powers, whether they come from The Force or mutation or radioactive spiders or genetically engineered pumpernickels, struggling to do Good instead of do Bad, perhaps some of the scenes of Jean trying to control her powers or letting rip in a final admission that sometimes it’s a blast to destroy stuff and stop being the goody-goody all the time could have been remotely interesting or entertaining. Turns out, not so much.

An alien species that probably would have been the Skrulls until Captain Marvel graced out screens, but instead here are called the D’Bari come to Earth, kill some Southerners at a dinner party for no apparent reason, then skulk around trying to get to Jean to give up the goods. So, in the central dilemma, the X-Men and presumably the ‘bad’ mutants are either trying to stop or kill Jean, and to that they add these other aliens, who don’t really add anything other than more CGI bodies to kill. They contrive ways to ‘seduce’ Jean to the Dark Side, for their own purposes, but that seems entirely extraneous. Jean’s problem is feeling guilty about killing her mum, and being unable to stop her emotions from triggering the Phoenix energy into wrecking things. She specifically, at one point, visits Magneto in order to ask him how he stops himself from killing people all the time. This seems to at least indicate that she wishes she could stop killing people, until, a few seconds later, she starts killing people again.

That right there? That makes her a saint, surely. Give her the Nobel prize you should have given Greta Thunberg, you Swedish dolts.

All the while the other main conflict is meant to be between Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult, who, at this point, we have to consider is slumming it by appearing in these films) and Prof X, whose arrogance is apparently clouding his judgement. It’s not really clear that it’s the case, but since Hank’s power is turning blue and hairy and not much else, it’s hard to argue with the guy.

A lot of people were disappointed by the last X-Men flick called Apocalypse, melodramatically enough, and by a lot of people I mean the people that actually bothered to be in it and those who watched it as well. Apocalypse was at least unintentionally funny a few times. It also aimed for the stars, even though it missed, it got a lot of otherwise serious people to do a lot of bonkers stuff. It suffered from having a great actor (Oscar Isaac) in a terrible role. But at least it did a few things.

I have no idea what they were aiming for, emotionally, this time. I also don’t really know what they thought we would take away from it. Sophie Turner brings an affectlessness that almost all the other characters seem to bring as well, including the villains, especially Jessica Chastain as the leader of the boring aliens, so much so that it seems like no-one really cares about anything, nothing really impacts that badly (except for the people that get killed and the unrequired loves they left behind). And though the normal humans seem like they might turn against the mutants again, they always turn against the mutants; that’s the whole freaking point of the series.

The one glimpse of anything that I found interesting was the place where Erik Lensherr / Magneto and presumably the other ‘bad’ mutants that don’t want to get along with humanity wanted to set up their own community, far from the prying eyes of the envious and the powerless. I remember hearing of the concept of Genosha in the comics, the mutant separatist country (which I thought was like in Antarctica or something?), but here they go cheap and make it pretty much look like a hippie commune / community garden. Which is okay. Not everything has to look as cool as Wakanda.

But come on. In the last film they had Erik destroy Auschwitz. Here they have him pick some fucking beans.

Climax-wise, the story is resolved with waves of CGI energy doing one thing, then doing another, then the bad guys are gone, and the two oldest bastards sit down for a game of chess. And that's that.

And then we all went on with the rest of our lives, trying to remember the details of the film we’d just watched, and failing, somehow. It is probably a good thing that they are saying these flicks are at an end, but, honestly, who are they kidding? Now that everything is Marvel and everything is superheroes, we know they’re going to keep running this shit into the ground, until there’s Wolverines and Cyclopses and Beasts and Magnetos as far as the eye can see.

5 times well if it worked for the Star Wars franchise to keep bombarding the world with ever more versions, it’ll work for them too out of 10

“I don't know what's happening to me. When I lose control, things happen, bad things to people I love.” – is this really any different from what anyone says when they do all the dumb things? – X-Men: Dark Phoenix