Dark Phoenix ★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Nice fridge you got there, Kinberg. 

Honestly, this isn’t that bad, but it’s definitely not good. I was actually feeling kind of okay about going along with it until the climactic fight scene, which reminded me that these movies have been spinning the same wheels in the same direction for quite a while now. 

There are so many potentially interesting ideas here that never come to anything.  We have aliens so traumatized by their own planet’s destruction that they’re willing, actually eager, to commit mass murder themselves. There’s Hank, the heretofore compassionate X-guy, getting blinded by his trauma to the extent that setting off Magneto to go do a murder seems like the only way to make things right. We even get even one solid minute of moral questioning about the things that successful idealists might owe to themselves after they’ve done what they said and made the world a better place. 

But then another godsforsaken final battle gets going and the X-friends just go apeshit buck wild and totally slaughter the only survivors of an alien civilization without a second thought, which I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to cheer them on for doing. Like, Jean is basically an actual almighty force of nature: she could do anything with them, right? Talk to them, imprison them, or indeed—the whole thing they’re even fighting for—make more of them and restore their frikkin’ planet to mend some of the damage caused by her pet cosmic energy bird. But no. No, there needs to be another badass massacre sequence followed by yet another ultimate sacrifice. And then it sinks in that both major character deaths were died by women who chiefly served to make their man friends very sad. Kinberg even has the sheer nerve to include a meta-conversation in which Charles and Hank lament about how Raven developed into an interesting, important character in the last few movies, only to be abruptly killed for no compelling reason. Yeah, Simon, there’s a way to avoid that kind of tragic, clichéd fate: JUST WRITE A FUCKING SCRIPT THAT DOESN’T OFF TWO-THIRDS OF THE FEMALE CHARACTERS. I’m so tired of it. So tired.  

But. Perversely enough, there are so many little grace notes sprinkled in here that I still can’t bring myself to hate this: that brief bit with Dazzler, of course; the honestly funny moment when it looks like we’re getting yet another slo-mo Quicksilver rescue, which then gets entirely undercut; some genuinely great work from Sophie Turner and Nicholas Hoult, trying as hard as they can to make some of this bullshit convincing; that quick glimpse of Storm gleefully teaching the kids about electricity at the end; the callback to the ongoing chess game from the first movie; and, finally, some acknowledgement that Charles Xavier is basically the worst and should not be put in charge of a school for any kind of youngsters. I never want to watch this again, but there are six or eight moments I’ll probably be happy to revisit on YouTube occasionally. 

However, this is still obviously a franchise sorely in need of a hard reset and some better tropes. If the next movie that’s likely to come along in three to five years could please be focused on someone besides Logan, Jean, Charles, and Erik, that would be great. Maybe a teen comedy in the spirit of the current Spider-movies, with Kitty Pryde as the protagonist? I could maybe bring myself to look forward to that. But please, for the love of Uatu, just do something different.

 But bring back Halston Sage. Seriously, those Dazzling seconds are the only solid reason to see this.

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