‘Dark Phoenix’ Review: The X-Men Movie Starts with Something New but Returns to Its Old Ways

Dark Phoenix tells the story of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) getting new destructive powers and the X-Men coming together to either save her or stop her.

Some fans questioned why we were getting this storyline again since it was covered in X-Men: The Last Stand with Famke Janssen as Jean Grey. The interesting thing is this new movie actually did feel like a different kind of storytelling for the franchise at the beginning before returning to its old ways.

The movie is at its best when focusing on Professor X

The first portion of the movie really catches up on what the X-Men have been up to recently. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is now leading the team on missions, but she is torn. She doesn’t agree with Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy)’s approach to creating lasting change for mutants.

This whole conflict is interesting and feels fresh in its approach. We really get to examine the professor more without bringing in his more militant friend, Magneto (Michael Fassbender.)

Although the conflict is interesting there are messages and dialogue that is cringingly on the nose. For example, Raven tells the professor, “You might want to change the name to X-Women” because they keep saving the men. That messaging gets muddled by the movie’s villain.

Jessica Chastain plays Vuk, a creature from another planet that is trying to track down Jean Grey. A lot of the conflict that was raised at the beginning of the movie gets undercut by this female-presenting character’s actions. Vuk also seems pretty one-dimensional despite having a compelling motive that could make her more complicated like Magneto.

The movie also uncomfortably handles the professor being a powerful man with a disability. When a character talks about him he is referred to as a man in a chair in a condescending way. Another character later tells him to walk seemingly to mess with him.

There is a way to acknowledge the character’s privilege that he certainly has from being a rich and powerful white man. Throwing around that he has a disability in the mix isn’t that and again confuses the message some of the characters are giving to the audience.

Sophie Turner handles the emotional weight of her role well

Sophie Turner at Premiere Of 20th Century Fox's "Dark Phoenix"
Sophie Turner at Premiere Of 20th Century Fox’s “Dark Phoenix” | Getty Images/Jon Kopaloff

Dark Phoenix is a darker movie posing the question of who are we? Do we evolve?

Jean Grey is trying to figure out who she is throughout the story while dealing with her new power. Turner does a great job portraying the unleashed emotions of feeling desire, rage, and pain. The visuals around her and her power are also beautiful.

The movie does very much feel like her movie at the beginning until Magneto comes in. When that happens X-Men is up to its old tricks. The movie even explicitly acknowledges its repetitive ways with Magneto’s dialogue to Charles. That can lead to laughs for fans of the franchise, but after getting a taste of what can be done in the first half of the movie, it did leave a desire for a different kind of storytelling.

In the end, the movie is enjoyable enough. There are some things that felt new about it and others that were predictable. The action didn’t really stand out as super exciting, and the movie is much more heavy on emotion. Hopefully, the franchise goes down a new direction in the future.

Dark Phoenix will be released in theaters on June 7, 2019.