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‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ review: Fiery finale of overly familiar franchise

X-Men: Dark Phoenix may follow a predictable storyline but its fiery conclusion should surprise you at the last minute.

X-Men Dark Phoenix is the twelfth installment to the X-Men franchise, and it serves as a direct sequel to X-Men: Apocalypse. The film is set in the early 90’s, a time in history where normal humans have started to accept mutants as part of society. Professor Charles Xavier, founder and head of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, is the leading figure for the mutants’ cause. Charles has created good relations with the U.S. government by giving the X-Men a positive, hero-like image, and in some instances, they’re even perceived as celebrities. However, all of that will be put to risk when young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) acquires an incredible increase in her mutant powers via a freak accident during their space rescue mission. Jean’s new powers come at a deadly cost as she becomes an uncontrollable and extremely violent threat. The rise of ‘The Phoenix’ is the film’s central arc that serves a decent tribute to the classic comic saga.

With a lot of film and TV franchises ending this year, Fox gives its loyal fans a fitting conclusion to hold on to. In a way, it can work as an antidote to the emotional high we got from Avengers: Endgame and the polarizing feel that we have from Game of Thrones. Notwithstanding its messy screenplay and direction, Dark Phoenix doesn’t completely feel bad. Despite the early backlash, this will be appreciated more over time for how different and ballsy it is. It’s direction is done in such a tonal and stylistic manner that we don’t usually get in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) battles with her inner demons in ‘Dark Phoenix.’

Contrasting Jean Grey and the other mutants in X-Men: The Last Stand (which was also based on the Dark Phoenix saga in the comics), this alternate version is a better fit for this generation. Dark Phoenix is visually satisfying. The action sequences here are well played and remarkable as the X-Men really acts as a team, with all the mutants complementing each other’s ability to fight a common enemy. The film doesn’t overuse the same setup for each fight scene. Cyclops eventually steps up with his signature laser eyes, Storm continues to be an electrifying wonder, and Jean Grey unleashes her no-holds-barred potential in which The Last Stand simply didn’t have.

The instrumental pieces composed by Hans Zimmer are very powerful and emotionally-stirring. He also astounds in amplifying the sharp and crisp sound design that fans will really dig. The cast performances are impressive as they portray their characters one last time, in ways that we have never seen before. James McAvoy amazes us again with his grit even though the script occasionally disappoints with stale dialogue. Michael Fassbender as Magneto remains to be the character that you wouldn’t want to miss because this time, he has his morals and judgement more founded than anyone else.  

The rise of The Phoenix. Sophie Turner in ‘Dark Phoenix.’

While these two OG characters have always been the emotional pillar of the franchise, the script is generous enough to let McAvoy and Fassbender share the spotlight with Turner, who plays the titular role with such range from sweet innocence and raging intensity. She shines best in showing her villainous side. I daresay that she’s the better version of Jean Grey and I foolishly hope that some of the cast, including her, will be reconsidered in MCU.

As the twelfth installment of an overly familiar franchise, it’s safe to say that the audience has developed a special attachment to these characters (including the original cast) for the last 19 years and it’s nerve-racking to see how it all ends. On the other hand, some viewers who have voiced out their superhero fatigue will still feel a sense of relief now that the X-Men’s book under Fox’s umbrella can be finally put into the shelf.

One last stand (L-R): James McAvoy (Charles Xavier/Professor X), Andrew Stehlin (Red Lotus), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler), Tye Sheridan (Scott Summers/Cyclops), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy/Beast), Kota Eberhardt (Selene), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto).

Overall, the conclusion to 20th Century Fox’s venture satisfies on an entertainment level, even if it’s not as compelling enough should it stand against your usual Marvel film. It’s a bittersweet feeling because it’s never really a farewell as we can only be hopeful for greater reiterations to come once these mutants finally crossover the MCU after the Fox-Disney merger.

3.5 out of 5 stars
Produced by 20th Century Fox, ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ stars Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Tye Sheridan and Kodi Smit-McPhee . Directed by Simon Kinberg. 114 minutes.
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