"Dark Phoenix" is a listless conclusion to Fox's X-Men movie series that manages to fail to live up to even the previously-much-panned adaptation of The Dark Phoenix Saga comic-book arc, "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006). Once again, Jean Grey comes in contact with some cosmic steroids that make her overly powerful and extremely unstable. "My emotions make me strong," she contends, failing to mention that it makes her strong at killing and otherwise harming people on a whim. Once again, Professor X squares off against an antagonist over her soul--except, this time, that includes some underdeveloped and generic aliens (led by what's-her-name devil on Jean's shoulder as portrayed by a wasted Jessica Chastain) in addition to a briefer confrontation this time around with Magneto.
The non-mutant people of Earth are here again, too, but their attitudes towards mutants are as erratic and sudden as Grey's mood swings and mostly occupy the background to the super-powered action. In prior X-Men movies, the politics between regular humans and mutants was one of its most interesting parts--rich in allusions to real racial, gender and other forms of discrimination--but not so here. The camerawork, CGI and other effects are rather standard superhero movie fare from a first time director, but one who has been producing them for a while now. At least, Hans Zimmer provided the score, and it's paced rather quickly after all of that test screening, re-writing and re-shooting that has delayed the release for several months. So, what else is there to raise this above a pedestrian exercise in having something to look at while one eats popcorn? I know it's not Jean strapped down in a crucifixion pose. Was Wolverine's time traveling in vain?
The most intriguing aspect here methinks is the added emphasis on the alleged harm Charles Xavier has brought upon children--beginning as far back as with Mystique, but continuing most notably with Jean, as he turns them into soldiers. With feminist suggestions sprinkled throughout (Mystique's quip about replacing "X-Men" with "X-Women," the school renaming and the story's general focus on female relationships and the fate and powers of one woman in particular as mostly men try to control her), "Dark Phoenix" seems to be asking to be read as an allusion to the contemporary, Hollywood-born MeToo and Time's Up movements, but minus any sexual references (in, perhaps, too Freudian of a reading, replaced here by non-consensual penetration of others' minds and bodily injuries, including impalement, due to objects thrusted via superpowers). In this sense, Professor X stands for the since-disgraced likes of Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner, both of whom directed prior pictures in the X-Men series. As potentially subversive, however, as that subject may be, unfortunately, it seems as easy to dismiss such a reading of "Dark Phoenix" as it was for me to consider it. Indeed, none of the other reviews I've yet read have mentioned such a connection beyond the obvious feminist flailing.
Also unfortunate is that the movie itself is dull--a retread largely full of characters we never became as invested in as we did with those the first time around. "The Last Stand" built upon two features that developed the love triangle between Jean, Cyclops and Wolverine. Moreover, Jean's transformation the first time was, if little else, more dramatic, whereas Sophie Turner's Jean had already gone through a bunch of Professor X's mind games in "X-Men: Apocalypse" (2016)--making "Dark Phoenix" seem rather redundant. And three of the characters who have been well developed since "X-Men: First Class" (2011) and "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014)--Magneto, Mystique and Quicksilver--are given short shrift this time. Too bad. I suppose it'll be the Marvel Cinematic Universe's turn for the next evolution of The Dark Phoenix Saga.