Let me make one thing clear: this new X-Men film from 20th Century Fox and Marvel Entertainment is not a good movie. It’s utterly boring, it has dialogue and scripts that feel like they have some weight and importance when in fact it doesn’t, and it introduces a lot of plot points that do not go anywhere and thus wastes everybody’s time.
However, there is some merit to this film’s existence. Seven points, in fact, that doesn’t make this second take on the acclaimed Chris Claremont run a complete pile. It’s still a seminal pile, but not 100%.
80% give or take.
In no particular order, here they are.
#1: The Third Act Train Fight Was Badass
It really doesn’t matter if this part of the film was shot by a different group of people or if it’s tacked on at the last minute. I mean, sure, as a whole film it does. But props when it’s due: the penultimate fight is actually well-shot and fun to watch.
You get to see the new and old X-Men team up with Magneto and his cronies as they fight the show’s antagonists -shapeshifted dudes, without spoiling anything- in style. The camera flow, the properly focused shots during fast moments, the light banter, head nods, and teamwork: it just works here.
It sure as hell isn’t enough to elevate the film beyond “bad” territory, but at the very least it’ll make a good YouTube watch when the film gets distributed after its theatrical run.
#2: It Proves Once Again That James McAvoy Is A Great Charles Xavier
Just like Patrick Stewart back in the 2000s, the directors made a great choice in convincing James McAvoy into playing the world’s distinguished telepathic headmaster Professor Charles “X” Xavier, who somehow is more at fault for the high mortality rate of the X-Men and his students.
Throughout his run from X-Men: First Class until now, he brings a combination of pathos, intelligence, cocksureness, and naivete that hasn’t been seen in a while. He wears both hats of a mentor role and a righteous crusader for mutants, and switches between them seamlessly.
Again, it’s not enough to carry this tepid film since he’s done the same and arguably better in the other X-Men films. But if anything, he can make a lacklustre script sound decent and seminally hold your attention.
#3: Michael Fassbender Still Can Work It As Magneto
It’s clear as day that Michael Fassbender is cashing in a cheque for this one. But he’s been a great scene-stealing Magneto from X-Men: First Class until now. His stern way of handling things and cold demeanour still gels together in tandem with James’ Professor X role.
#4: Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops Makes Me Giggle During A Supposed Pivotal Moment
For the wrong reasons, of course. Try as he might, Tye Sheridan didn’t have much to work with. There’s a bit in the middle where Cyclops tries hard to talk someone out of a bad situation.
It didn’t work, and it made him say a line so badly delivered and rushed that I laughed out loud.
#5: It Didn’t Damage Sophie Turner’s Career Too Much
For a main character on the poster, Sophie Turner did try her darndest with her Jean Grey/Phoenix role. The gradual transformation from boring ol’ Jean Grey to fun-loving and danger-revelling Phoenix, obviously portrayed better in the comics, is teased a bit in the film but needed way more than just a frat party scene and a visit to her childhood home.
And it sure as hell needed a better instigator than the disposable antagonist group led by Jessica Chastain’s character. But still: props for making the role kinda work and make us sorta care about Jean Grey’s transformation and the aftermath. She didn’t make the movie terrible; everything else did.
#6: It Made Me Appreciate X-Men – The Last Stand…By A Smidgen
X-Men: Dark Phoenix did the unthinkable. It made me rewatch the worst X-Men film in the original movie trilogy and appreciate it more. Sure, Brett Ratner made an unfocused film with plot threads that go nowhere and comes equipped with dumb lines and script bits.
But it had a lot more action scenes that felt epic and was fun to watch. The bridge scene with Magneto, the Danger Room scenes, and the battle royale at the end; everything about those action scenes just reminded me that it was a comic book movie film long before the MCU guys made it infinitely better. Forget the hyperbole back then that this film killed the X-Men movie franchise; that dubious honour goes to X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Plus, you cannot top Kelsey Grammar as The Beast. You just cannot; don’t even try.
#7: It Made Me Look Forward To Disney & Marvel’s Eventual Treatment
Now that the House of Mouse and the MCU owns the rights to the X-Men brand, the correct people will now get things done and hopefully create a better X-Men film that ties in with its current cinematic universe. It’ll take a long, LONG while, but at the very least, even if it ends up being average and adheres too much to its MCU hero’s journey template, it’ll still be leagues better than this snorefest.
To put it simply, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is uncannily unnecessary, is a giant-sized bore, and hits its X-Factor way too late.