“Dark Phoenix” is not the perfect conclusion to the long-running “X-Men” film series. It borrows a few elements from the franchise’s earlier films, particularly “The Last Stand” and “First Class.” Familiarity aside, the cast brings out their strongest performances in the end for director Simon Kinberg’s debut.
“Dark Phoenix” takes place nearly 10 years after “Apocalypse.” The film focuses on Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner, who absorbs a dark cosmic energy during the X-Men’s latest mission in space, which turns her into the Phoenix. Manipulated by a shape-shifting alien named Vuk, played by Jessica Chastain, Jean is forced to bring out the evil side of her personality and turn on her friends and family.
When I saw the trailers for the film and heard it would be the last main “X-Men” movie, I thought it would be the perfect conclusion, but to my surprise, it wasn’t. For example, spoiler alert, Mystique is killed while trying to reach out to Jean to convince her that she’s better than being a girl who has a traumatic past and cannot control her powers.
In addition to Mystique’s accidental death, it was hurtful to see the legendary heroes become divided for the majority of the film. Most of that division came from debates over Charles Xavier/Professor X, played by James McAvoy, manipulating Jean’s memories of her mother’s death caused by her telekinesis years ago, instead of helping her embrace the truth and making it right on her own.
The other problem is when Mystique called out Charles for sending the younger X-Men on more dangerous missions to gain better publicity among the humans, rather than helping the team fight harder to give mutants a better place beyond the human discrimination they faced.
Finally, “Dark Phoenix” could have used a better ending. It should have ended with all the X-Men being alive and standing together for their next superhero task, not certain characters being killed off and others moving on with their lives. I was also surprised there was no fancy scene-stealing by Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters.
Now, here are some of the light moments in “Dark Phoenix.”
One is when Jean embraces her gifts, overcomes Vuk’s clutches and realizes that the X-Men were her true family all along. Another moment is watching Scott Summers, played by Tye Sheridan, mature into a leader for the younger team members and believing that there is still good in Jean Grey, even when people like Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender, started to lose faith in her.
Despite the losses they had to suffer and the anger they had felt, the X-Men stood strong to save the day. It was great that Magneto briefly dropped his rage to help the X-Men take on the D’Bari, Vuk’s alien race. I was also happy to see Professor X realize his errors and let Jean confront her own demons on her way to stop Vuk.
In addition to the cast and emotional backgrounds, the costumes, visual effects and musical score by Hans Zimmer worked out well. I was glad to see the classic yellow and black spandex suits from “First Class” come back for the X-Men. The visual effects re-intensified during Jean’s escapades, and the space mission in the beginning was intense. Hans Zimmer’s music accentuated the tragic and bright scenes for the film, such as when the X-Men fall after losing Jean and Mystique, then get back up.
Overall, “Dark Phoenix” was not the best way to end the main X-Men series, but it still delivered a suspenseful, heroic adventure. It also shares the importance of overcoming past mistakes and redeeming for one’s future. As dark as it may be, the cast and crew put in their best effort, and “Dark Phoenix” is certainly worth a watch.