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1 ½ (out of 4)
20th Century Fox’s former piece of the Marvel pie is going out with a wheeze rather than one last hurrah. After Apocalypse popped a blood vessel grasping for epic scope, Dark Phoenix, the fourth installment in the rebooted X-Men series, inverts the abnormality of X-cinema to its cheesiest and most frugal form. The final mutation of the now extinct franchise places its chips on Sophie Turner's latent Game of Thrones popularity and a twice-tried storyline stuck on the overpowered character Jean Grey. I thought Famke Janssen was always lacking personality, especially in X-Men: The Last Stand, but this immaterial redo (directed by the same spotty writer Simon Kinberg no less) is on its own level of eh.
As far as the 12-film, 19-year Fox franchise is concerned, there really is nothing new under the sun – same old themes, character traits, reflective politics, generic platitudes and clumsy confrontations. The story of Dark Phoenix is not unlike Captain Marvel in many ways (premise and villains largely) but the dialogue itself lands with a crash and thud from start to finish, as if a spec script made it through all of shooting. Even the extraordinary displays of mutant combat barely live up to the usual freakish fun until its admittedly exciting – and entirely reshot – finale.
Michael Fassbender's Magneto sustains his one beautiful note but he and Baby Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee, the best of the new X-generation) are underused despite being the current company's best in show. Baby Cyclops sucks (or maybe Tye Sheridan does) while Evan Peters' Quiksilver gets classically nerfed early on. James McAvoy hardly does justice to the role of Professor X anymore and J Law literally can’t die soon enough (whoops spoilers, like anyone cares).
Beyond Disney buyouts, this was already the bastard child of the X-Men series. An initial trilogy, a prequel trilogy and three successively improved Wolverine films (not to mention two separately successful Deadpool films) led to this: a hamstrung borderline-parody of a superhero film full of phoned-in acting, TV editing, lackluster visual effects and more than a few stretches of unintentional humor. Phoenix deserves to be left right in the ashes, never to be reborn except under strict direction of Master Mouse.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
The Rise of Skywalker
A Hidden Life
"So what've you been up to?"
"Escaping mostly... and I escape real good."
- Inherent Vice