Movie Review : Dark Phoenix (2019)
One can recognize a real comics book nerd by his/her appreciation of X-Men: superheroes who live in constant fear of their own terrifying powers. They never had the most mainstream appeal. What made them special was the realism of their relationship to “normal” human beings and their powerful personal struggles. The holy grail of X-Men storylines is the Dark Phoenix Saga, which is wild, complicated and revered by fans. Every true blue X-Men nerd wanted a Dark Phoenix movie more than they wanted a girlfriend… until they were granted their wish last summer.
Dark Phoenix is kind of a disaster. But in a really funny way?
So, this iteration of Dark Phoenix is basically Jean Grey (the excellent Sophie Turner)’s origin story. It is revealed in the first scene that she accidentally killed her parents when she was young and taken in by Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). It’s all fine and dandy until Jean get stranded on a mission in space and gets absorbed by an unknown cosmic force. Or did she absorb it? It multiplies her psychic abilities and gives her many other powers she cannot quite control. She also cannot quite control herself. But an unknown force is vying to take control of her.
I would’ve freakin’ loved Dark Phoenix if I was 10 years old. Because I would’ve been like: “oh shit, I could’ve come up that.” It was written (and directed) by Simon Kinberg, the same guy who penned the X-Men movies we all love to hate, like The Last Stand and Apocalypse. He also wrote xXx: State of the Union, so make of that what you will. But Kinberg really outdid himself with Dark Phoenix. His screenplay suffers from one major problem: the characters never shut the fuck up. Even when they should. Let me explain why this is so unintentionally hilarious:
There’s a scene where Jean Grey runs away to Magneto (Michael Fassbender)’s island because she wants to understand how to stop hurting people. The latter is harvesting turnips with bad boy mutants and chilling his life away. Long story short: the army comes for her and while they’re interrogating Magneto, a helicopter propeller starts spinning on its own. The interrogating soldier’s like: “Stop that shit right now.”
“It’s not me” says Magneto.
* Jean Grey floats by *
“No… IT’S ME,” she says, melodramatically.
Ensues a scene where Jean Grey and Magneto swipe at the air for three minutes like the Spice Girls in Stop Right Now that ends so pathetically by Magneto screaming Arnold’s iconic Predator line: “GET TO THA CHOPPAAA”. How dare you, Simon Kinberg? How fucking dare you try to borrow credibility for your terrible movie by shamelessly scavenging a classic action movie? It’s not clever. It’s desperate.
See the problem here? Jean saying: “no, its meeee” is supposed to be some grand reveal. But everybody knows it’s her. The audience knows it’s her. Magneto knows it’s her and the U.S army soldier sure as shit know it’s her. There’s only two mutants able to pull it off on the island the first one was distracted while the propeller started spinning. Dark Phoenix is marred by these writing insecurities. The propeller scene is the best example of it with the pathetic wink to Predator at the end, but it’s all over the movie. Dark Phoenix thinks you’re either stupid that you’ve never seen a movie before.
Shout out to the most useless mutant ever in Dark Phoenix. I call him Nu Metal Guy. His mutation is that he’s got living dreadlocks he can use to stab people in the face. I swear to God he’s real. Did he exist in the comic books? If so, was he create in the late nineties when Korn were cool? Josie and I started laughing uncontrollably whenever he was on screen. He’s one of these unintentionally hilarious variables in Dark Phoenix. Judging by how Simon Kinberg reduced the Dark Phoenix Saga to a metaphor about puberty, he might’ve created this amazing edgelord himself.
I laughed a lot during Dark Phoenix. So, I guess this is good? I find genuinely little redeeming value to it outside of unintentional comedy. Jessica Chastain is a solid antagonist, but her storyline is criminally underwritten. Sophie Turner and Michael Fassbender do the best they can. Otherwise, this is probably the worst X-Men movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve read the Dark Phoenix Saga like ten years ago and this movie captures little of what made it such an engrossing read. It really is a crime against the X-Men. But at least it’s funny? It counts for something, right?