After the last movie of the X-men series flopped, “Dark Phoenix” was supposed to be a new start for the franchise instead. Yet the metaphorical bird coming from the ashes does quite the opposite; making the film the weakest of the series.
Following the events of “Apocalypse,” Jean Grey still struggles to control her immense powers. During a mission in outer space, she comes in contact with a mysterious aura which amplifies her force but also fuels her inner conflict. When the other X-Men try to help her it becomes a catastrophe, and it’s again up to Professor X and his school of mutants to step in and save the world.
For several years, the rights to some of the popular superheroes like Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Deadpool, and the X-Men haven’t been with their original creators at Marvel, but rather with Fox. That’s why Spidey only showed up fairly late in the MCU’s first phase, with the others having their own franchises. While Fantastic Four after several attempts never really took off and Deadpool does his own thing, the X-Men series includes an original trilogy, a prequel trilogy (now a quadrilogy), and several spin-offs that proved to be cash cows for the Fox studio as well as a kickstarter for the comic adaptation genre in the early 2000’s. Yes, Marvel Studios wouldn’t even exist if not for the first two films about Professor X and Magneto, but almost 20 years later, the situation has changed.
Now Marvel has its own studio and has produced over the last decade a series of movies that is the definite pinnacle of superhero films. Even DC, Marvel’s biggest competitor, struggles to find a formula that makes their own cinematic universe work. Meanwhile at Fox, after a successful reboot of the X-Men series with “First Class” and “Days of Future Past,” they didn’t appear to know where to go with the series and seemed to focus more on spin-offs about the mutants “Gambit,” “Dr. Doom,” and the “X-Force.” In addition, the studio has produced “Dark Phoenix,” another sequel to continue the X-Men series after the mediocre “Apocalypse.”
In the beginning of the year everything changed. After long and intense negotiations, Disney (the owner of Marvel) bought Fox, so now the rights to all characters are reunited under one roof. However, Disney also just spent 71.3 billion dollars, so changes were inevitable and almost every project in development got cancelled, except for “Dark Phoenix” which was largely finished at that time.
Unfortunately with “Dark Phoenix,” the franchise finishes at Fox at an all-time low and is expected to barely recover its production costs. This is largely due to a bad script, which fails to present a strong antagonist or any new accents for the series. Literally everything in this movie we’ve seen before in the previous ones.
This is particularly sad since the filmmakers were able to bring back the all-star cast featuring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, Nicolas Hoult and Tye Sheridan, as well as Jessica Chastain in her first superhero movie. The special effects are also decent but can’t hide the fact there’s basically no story that carries the movie. After Magneto made a whole football stadium lift off two movies earlier, a flying train hardly raises an eyebrow.
Fans of the old movies will also be upset that the timeline was reset in “Days of Future Past.” “Dark Phoenix,” just like its predecessor “Apocalypse,” has problems fitting into the existing canon of movies, with some events being completely contradictory to the first trilogy.
Sequels must be better, bigger and faster than their predecessors. Unfortunately, “Dark Phoenix” fails to deliver on any of these items, so it is only consequential that the series ends here. Time will tell how and when the X-Men will be integrated in the MCU in the future, but it’s definitely clear that the franchise is in better hands there after Fox lacked a clear vision for the franchise over the last two movies. The X-Men are dead, long live the X-Men!
Dark Phoenix (2019); Written & directed by Simon Kinberg; With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Jessica Chastain; Music by Hans Zimmer; Cinematography by Mauro Fiore; Edited by Lee Smith; Produced by Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Schuler Donner; PG-13, 114 minutes.