During a rescue mission in space, Jean Grey is hit by a mysterious cosmic energy that heightens her powers. This transformation makes her unstable and extremely dangerous. Now she doesn’t merely pose a threat to her X-Men family, but the world at large. The X-Men need to choose between saving her and saving the rest of humanity.
Although ‘Apocalypse’ didn’t live up to expectations after ‘Days of Future Past’, it managed to show us how powerful Jean Grey can be. ‘Dark Phoenix’ further builds on that, and yet the stakes feel slightly compromised. Sure, the world is at risk again, but not quite enough is done to make you care about the consequences. This is probably because we didn’t spend too much time getting to know the new characters, mainly Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp). Now we’re suddenly meant to care about them, particularly Jean Grey, over the course of this one film.
Meanwhile, the more established heroes that we’ve connected to, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and even the surprise fan favourite Quicksilver (Evan Peters), all seem to take a back seat when it comes to character arcs and narratives. Yes, they all have their moments, but they’re fleeting at best. All the actors have given solid performances, even with the limited material. Michael Fassbender gets the raw end of the bargain with Magneto, and yet, Fassbender really sells it. Same goes with James McAvoy, although this is probably the weakest version we’ve seen of Charles Xavier, and yet James McAvoy, is reliable as always. Sophie Turner has a fair amount of screen-time, and she brings the right amount of pathos to Jean Grey that helps move the film along.
The biggest problem in this film is its villain whose motives are pretty run of the mill – destroy this world to rebuild it in their own way. It’s neither new nor exciting. Action wise, there are a few fun moments, but nothing memorable, especially with a third act that appears to be quite rushed. What could have been a big surprise twist with a lot more impact is ruined in the trailers thanks to lazy marketing. The weak screenplay and script weigh down the characters with some clunky dialogue. Despite good performances, ‘Dark Phoenix’ is a letdown for several reasons, least of all because the female characters in this film take prominence, and they deserve better. So do we.