A journey of 19 years comes to it’s closing chapter as the X-Men face their greatest ever, and most personal fight in X-Men: Dark Phoenix and it’s full of extravagant action.
The X-Men face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiralling out of control and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.
Long-time X-Men champion Simon Kinberg steps up to take the directing chair here for Dark Phoenix, and he crafts an interesting tale of family tension and unmatched power. In this latest chapter of the X-Men franchise, following the events of X-Men: Apocalypse, mutants are now free to live side-by-side with humanity and the X-Men are celebrated as international celebrity heroes. But when a new extra-terrestrial danger arrives on earth the very heart of this team is threatened and it’s here where things get interesting. With his film, Kinberg crafts a unique trinity dynamic between Charles Xavier, Jean Grey and Erik Lehnsherr and watching the dynamics of two different causes play out here results in plenty of action.
Once again James McAvoy commands particular attention as Professor Charles Xavier, a champion for mutant rights and acceptance who through hard work and time has made the world a brighter place for his kind, albeit inflating his ego in the process. His story here is one of hubris, as a past secret comes back to haunt him and threatens everything he has built. It’s fascinating to watch McAvoy’s turmoil as Charles has to battle the inner demons of his student Jean Grey, whom he has come to see as a surrogate daughter and their relationship and battles between one another highlight this thematic battle between adolescence and adulthood that the X-Men franchise has always examined. I liked how tested McAvoy was in the role and we really got to see Xavier’s flaws open up as he once again had to put away his own sense of self and return to the moral centre of this world that he has always been. And it resulted in plenty of great drama.
Taking centre stage in Dark Phoenix is Jean Grey herself and rising star Sophie Turner has plenty of material to work with here. After a freak accident leaves her imbued with a god-like alien power we see a terrifying power play burst out of her character, and this gives Turner plenty of room to stretch. Watching her as Jean, and the fluctuating boundaries of this new character I read into it an examination of an almost bi-polar individual who fluctuates violently between herself and this savage new force inside of her. As the Dark Phoenix, Jean is an unstoppable force and you buy into Turner’s dominance of the screen through the power that she wields. But next to this is the hurt and anguish that she finds herself in after she snaps back to herself and this drama is a real test for the character. Dark Phoenix was a big step up for Turner and she really proves herself here as she absolutely commands the centre of the audience and its attention.
Finally completing this trinity is Michael Fassbender who returns as the dark and charismatic Erik Lehnsherr. And Magneto himself has undergone considerable change here. Brushing aside his past anger and violence he now appears to have found some sort of peace with an assortment of followers on the island of Genosha, creating a self-contained homeland for them. But the arrival of Jean Grey and her actions bring out the beast in him and soon he is donning the helmet of Magneto once more. Fassbender has always been the straight-up cool factor of this franchise and again he does not disappoint with his performance here. His appearance also brings the narrative back to the brotherhood themes that were first explored between himself and McAvoy back in X-Men: First Class, and it’s great to see this relationship once again come full circle.
Fans who are wanting action will be in for a treat with X-Men: Dark Phoenix as Kinberg layers it on heavy. Jean’s powers turn her into a literal living weapon and the film’s third act is one massive action showcase that really throws you back into your seat. Another thing that I really enjoyed about X-Men: Dark Phoenix was the science fiction leanings that the film went in, and this again set it apart from the other comic book movies in the genre.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a fun ride for fans of the franchise and brings about a close to the series with a spot-on sense of nostalgia. See it now.
Image: 20th Century Fox