In Dark Phoenix, Simon Kinberg pulls double-duty as both director and writer to bring the classic saga from the original X-Men comics to vivid life on the silver screen.
An ill-fated trip to space to save a stranded shuttle seems to cost Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) her life. Miraculously, she survives, although infected by a force that not only resurrects her but also enhances her powers far beyond what anyone could ever expect. Unfortunately, this change in Jean has consequences – affecting her mind, her outlook, and her ability to distinguish right from wrong and friend from foe.
Kinberg brings his familiarity with the characters from his prior work in the franchise to this script, delivering a much more engaging Phoenix saga than his previous writing for X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. The writing is often insightful, paying solid homage to marks from the original story. Unfortunately, in some areas where the script deviates from the original, it suffers. Adding a subplot to the arc dilutes the emotional devastation of both Jean and those around her. Additionally, the ending seems a bit rushed after all the build-up. Another twenty minutes of character development and ten minutes in the final act would have served Dark Phoenix well.
The film reunites the cast from the previous X-Men: Apocalypse, and they are clearly comfortable both in their roles and with each other, giving solid performances across the board. Sophie Turner, fresh off the conclusion of Game of Thrones, is center stage, showing us that she has acting chops outside of that world, but not yet exhibiting a wide range. Jennifer Lawrence gives the best of her performances as Mystique, and Michael Fassbender continues to be the driving force behind Magneto’s evolution. The team receives a more level amount of screen time. Unfortunately, that time is not sufficiently used for the development of the characters.
The special effects and cinematography are stunning but frenzied, particularly in the fight scenes, which are often blurry. The intent is clear, but the translation to screen makes the action difficult to follow at times, particularly as the film nears its conclusion.
Dark Phoenix, with a bit more work, could have successfully taken the rocky start of the earlier films and mutated it into something unique and better than before. And while it is one of the better X-Men films to date, fans will likely continue to hope for further evolution.