While the X-Men series of films has ways to go to catch the total number of films in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe for newbies), I assume that the audience for Dark Phoenix is baked in. Otherwise why would anyone jump in at this point? For example, I’ve never seen a movie from The Fast and the Furious series in theaters and can’t imagine starting now.
Only those who already liked the X-Men films, or really liked any of the actors involved, will be keen on seeing this. If this is you, then you’ll probably like it just fine. Most people will likely spend some time trying to figure out where Dark Phoenix fits in the film canon (if you care about such things) while forgetting, as I did, that the franchise reset itself in X-Men: Days of Future Past. There will also be the nagging feeling that you’ve seen this story before. It’s as if writer/director Simon Kenbthe is hoping we all forgot X-Men: The Last Stand, when the true power of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) was previously unleashed.
In Dark Phoenix, the seventh and the final installment of the X-Men series, we’re introduced to how Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) came to live with the X-Men when her parents died. Jumping to the present day, we see our excellent cast of characters built from X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse working together to save a shuttle mission in the 1990s. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) reluctantly leads the group, after arguing with Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) about creating a world where mutants are at the beck and call of the government, rather than living their own lives. This argument grows into an indictment of Prof. X’s selfish reasons for “protecting” people and pulling strings he shouldn’t.
Of course, things do not go as planned and Jean Grey absorbs a substantial amount of energy from space that alters her powers. Trying to cope with this new development, and fearful of Jean’s evolving powers, the X-Men finds themselves at odds with one of their own. While the friends’ divided storyline played out in The Last Stand, where the threads connected a little differently and the consequences were different, consequences, it still resonated for me.
The place where the movie really lost me was in the whole arc involving an outer space entity that provided Jean’s power boost (yes, really), and the race of aliens (lead by Jessica Chastain’s Vuk) that want to steal her power. While there were a few moments of female empowerment reminiscent of Captain Marvel, the story fails to connect those pieces in a meaningful way. Even the enjoyable fight sequences could not mask the cheesy and trite moments in the plot. A point further emphasized by a terrible tacked on final moment that really soured the rest of the film for me. Alas. Not the way to end a series.