Screen Reviews

Published on June 11th, 2019 | by Kevin Given


Review: X-Men: Dark Phoenix

>MAJOR SPOILERS< It’s 1975 and 8-year-old Jean Grey (Summer Fontana) is traveling with her parents in a car when they get into an accident which is inadvertently caused by Jean’s telekinetic powers. Charles Xavier (McAvoy) becomes her mentor and Jean’s father (Scott Shephard) willingly sends her to his care. Professor X is the only one that can control her powers.

We Jump ahead to 1992 In an impressive scene where our heroes save astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavor. This is where Jean (Turner) is exposed to the Phoenix and her powers are strengthened to the point where Charles can’t control her anymore. She discovers telepathically that her father is actually still alive after she had been led to believe that he died along with her mother. She grows upset with Charles and tracks down her father. He’s shocked, and scared, that she found him, and the encounter turns nasty. Charles and the X-Men track her down and, after a huge battle she winds up killing Mystique (Lawrence).

Jean finds herself hating what she’s becoming and tracks down Magneto (Fassbender) in an attempt to find herself and how to control her rage and powers. She hopes that Eric’s experiences can help her with her own powers since he learned to control his own rage. And now Vuk (Chastain) and her followers, members of the shape-shifting Skrulls…er…D’Bari race having tracked the Phoenix force to earth and Jean Grey. Vuk wants the power for herself and another battle ensues. The final battle culminates aboard a train.

My Review: What an incoherent mess of unfinished scenes and identity politics. All the men are ineffectual dolts, while the women are all knowing and all powerful. At one-point Mystique even says “…the women are always saving the men around here. You might wanna think about changing the name to X-Women.” Gee, remember when men and women worked together as a team, both making mistakes, both learning from those mistakes and treating each other as equals? It wasn’t that many films ago. The name isn’t even X-Men: Dark Phoenix could it be because Marvel studios EVP of production Victoria Alonso believes the name X-Men is outdated? At any rate, the film succeeds in driving a wedge between the male and female characters.

Everyone blames Charles for Jean Grey’s predicament. But what was the Professor supposed to do? You had a man who couldn’t trust his 8-year-old daughter after he realizes that she’s responsible for the car accident and death of his wife. He loves his daughter but is also, and rightly so, afraid of her. At any time, she could lash out at him and kill him as well. Charles is the only one with the ability to raise her and keep the world safe from her. There were no other decisions here. Just think of all the awesome themes that could have been explored with just that scene, but, of course, they never are. This script is so obviously a first draft. Why? The only thing I can think of is that the sale of Fox to Disney went down either before or during production so all involved only gave the production half an effort, realizing they would never produce another X-Men movie.

The performances are a mixed bag. You have the classic actors who are always great, hell, Michael Fassbender could read the ingredients to a bowl of cereal and make it sound Shakespearean. But then you have the younger actors, most of whom aren’t given much to do. But Sophie Turner, who’s given the most to do, is horribly miscast. I personally have never seen Game of Thrones so I can’t comment on what she’s done with that. But my gut feeling is that she was only cast in this franchise because of her popularity with that show. I don’t see her struggle with the Dark Phoenix entity at all. She just whines about how she can’t stop causing damage. For a much better exploration of that theme watch the second Star Trek pilot Where No Man Has Gone Before. Superb performance by Gary Lockwood.

Some of the action is well done, such as the rescue of the astronauts, while other action scenes are by the numbers, especially the final confrontation on the train. The car accident was almost a complete copy of the one in Shazam and was done better in Shazam, a film which also underperformed, but will probably end up making more money than this stinker. The final insult to the iconic character of Charles Xavier is the removal of the sign that bears his name for the replacement of the Jean Grey School for gifted children.

Do I need to bring up the obvious disregard for continuity? These films are supposed to take place in the same universe as the Patrick Stewart/Ian McKellen films and evolve into those chapters. Yet they kill off Mystique who will later rescue Magneto from prison as seen in the first movie and Charles Xavier retires leaving the school to Jean Grey, even though we get no hint of that in the first movie. Screw continuity and let’s just go for the jugular.

We’re going to crap all over your franchise and classic characters in the name of politics and inclusivity, which excludes white men, now please go buy tickets to our movie. Ya know, maybe it’s not the name X-Men that’s outdated, maybe it’s Hollywood itself. I will give it two stars for the attempt to make this film watchable by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender ** (5.3 rating) 

Director: Simon Kinberg

Producer: Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg

Based on X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Music: Hans Zimmer

Cinematography: Mauro Fiore

Production: 20th Century Fox; The Donners’ Company; Marvel Entertainment; TSG Entertainment

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures


James McAvoy

Michael Fassbender

Jennifer Lawrence

Nicholas Hoult

Sophie Turner

Tye Sheridan

Alexandra Shipp

Jessica Chastain

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About the Author

Kevin Given has studied with "Longridge Writers Group" and "Writer's Boot Camp" a speech/communications major from the University of Maine Presque-Isle/Orono sites. He has created the "Karl Vincent Vampire Hunter" franchise which includes 2 novels and 8 comic books. They can be found on amazon, Indyplanet and Kindle. For a limited time you can get digital copies of "Karl Vincent: Vampire hunter" #1 and "Files of Karl Vincent" #1 for free on Indyplanet. Kevin is producing the third novel in the series "Dracula Rising" (working title) and developing "Foul Blood" into comic book form.

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