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X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX

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THEATRICAL REVIEW
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By Brent Davidson
6th June 2019

'X-Men', possibly one of the most recognisable comic book hero franchises in history, have never really managed to make their step into the silver screen a success. This is both a huge shame and a surprise. Their world, history and source material are so rich it’s almost impossible to comprehend how anyone could get it wrong.

But here we are, Twelve films later, we're still scratching our heads.

The X-Men are on a dangerous mission to rescue astronauts aboard a stranded ship in space. This ship has encountered a large energy source that has thrown their mission into turmoil. Luckily, the X-Men are here to save the crew! Unlucky for Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), she's still aboard the ship when the entity strikes, but instead of killing her, it becomes a part of her - awakening her long-dormant powers and transforming her into her ultimate evolved form, Phoenix.

Jean’s Phoenix has been teased since all the way since back in 'X2', and it’s a relief to finally see her rise in all her glory. Well, some glory. I’m not going to try and understand the timeline of the 'X-Men' franchise, I’m just going to go with the whole thing got reset in ‘Days of Future Past’ (arguably the best film in the franchise - not including ‘Logan’) and that we're now just kind of rolling with it from there.

SWITCH: 'X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX' FINAL TRAILER

The thing with the X-Men is that so much of their world and message is about morality. It’s almost cliché for Professor X (James McEvoy) to give a rousing speech that turns Magneto (Michael Fassbender) good again - and would you believe it, it happens again in 'Dark Phoenix'. Shocking. For a film that has been billed as the thrilling end to this iteration of the 'X-Men' universe, the only really thrilling part is knowing it would soon be over.

Speaking of thrilling, the cast looked anything but thrilled to be there. Jennifer Lawrence was clearly done and wanted out, and the rest of the cast's performances were only a small step above. This film has some incredible talent in it - but this talent, much like the source material, goes completely wasted. Cyclops (one of my fave characters, played by Tye Sheridan) spends most of the film looking like he needs a hug, and to be honest I was just worried he needed a blanket and a hot choccie (all three of which I’m happy to provide).

It would be remiss of me not to talk about Jessica Chastain. Bad guys need something for us to relate to, so when they are as bland as the X-Men have become, you kind of want them to win. God, I hope she knew she was getting cast as ‘Emotionless Alien Number 3’ when her vast talents were once again wasted on just steadily walking forward and speaking in monotone.

For a film that has been billed as the thrilling end to this iteration of the 'X-Men' universe, the only really thrilling part is knowing it would soon be over.

Jessica Disdain more like it.

For a big-budget blockbuster the graphics were passable but nothing incredible, as you might have come to expect in 2019. Unfortunately the climactic battles left me wanting more. The thing with X-Men is there are so many powers, so many characters. The battles should be huge, yet all we are seeing are characters facing off basically one-on-one (again) with the thrilling final moment not really thrilling anyone at all.

Oh, and I didn’t really speak about Sophie Turner's performance. Oh well.

Everything about 'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' fells like it's been phoned in. They wanted to crack off one more film while they had the rights and before Marvel takes back control. The script is dull. The acting is dull. The score! Oh my god, even the score is underwhelming, and I am a huge Hans Zimmer fanboy; what was he doing?!

It’s just a shame that 'X-Men' was never able to live up to its potential in this form. Drawn of clichés, a tired script and a tired cast, it’s a big wet flop of a film where it looked like the cast were just there to collect their cheques. It’s probably something to wait for a digital release and watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon where you can fall asleep during the exhausting middle section and wake up at the mildly less-exhausting end.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be looking for Cyclops, hot choccie, blanket and hug.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 06/06/2019
RUN TIME: 1h 54m
CAST: James McAvoy
Sophie Turner
Michael Fassbender
Jessica Chastain
Jennifer Lawrence
Nicholas Hoult
Evan Peters
Tye Sheridan
Kodi Smit-Mcphee
Alexandra Shipp
DIRECTOR: Simon Kinberg
PRODUCERS: Simon Kinberg
Lauren Shuler Donner
SCORE: Hans Zimmer
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MINI-REVIEW
By Jake Watt, 6 June 2019
★★★
Despite Simon Kinberg's inexperience as a director and the obvious post-production meddling, 'Dark Phoenix' is a downbeat, unusually thoughtful X-Men film with some juicy drama (it's a lot more satisfying than Bryan Singer's ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’).

The acting is unusually strong. In fact, it's some of the most impressive of the 'First Class' era (minus any film with the power trio of Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen or Patrick Stewart), with the standout performance coming from Sophie Turner as Jean Grey.

The biggest flaw in this film lies in the fact that 'Dark Phoenix' required around three weeks of reshoots and a complete change of the third act. This is felt most heavily with Jessica Chastain's villain and her army of plainclothes tough guys. Originally intended to be Skrulls, Kinberg had to scramble at the last minute to replace them (and a finale in space) when Marvel Studios announced that 'Captain Marvel' would be using the same aliens and a similar climactic set piece.

Essentially, 'Dark Phoenix' is a solid X-Men film and an impressive directorial debut from Kinberg that really had its legs (i.e. villains) swept out from under it by 'Captain Marvel' and studio politics. I am slightly in awe of how someone as inexperienced as Kinberg even managed to salvage his debut film.

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