Simon Kinberg (director)
1h 53mins (length)
06 June 2019 (released)
07 June 2019
Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner first made her appearance as Jean Grey, originally played by Famke Janssen, in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, and she has finally been given her first lead movie role with Dark Phoenix.
The main action begins in 1992, when the X-Men team, who are now well respected and even work on behalf of the president, fly into space to rescue astronauts whose lives are in grave danger after their ship encounters a mysterious cosmic force, and Jean (Turner), a mutant with potentially limitless telekinetic and telepathic powers, absorbs this force to save everybody.
The force makes Jean more powerful than ever and she loses control of her abilities and becomes the Dark Phoenix. Worried about harming more of her mutant family, Jean disappears and leaves the X-Men torn about what to do, with the likes of Hank / Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Erik / Magento (Michael Fassbender) believing she needs to be killed to save humanity, while Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Jean's boyfriend Scott / Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) are convinced she can be saved.
Meanwhile, Jean is approached by Vuk (Jessica Chastain), an alien lifeform who wants to take the force and use it to repopulate her race and wipe out humanity.
This is not director Simon Kinberg's first crack at the Dark Phoenix storyline, having previously co-written 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, which features that arc. However, that movie was released such a long time ago and this one fleshes the story out more, so it doesn't feel tired or an exact copy.
Turner was more than capable of portraying that mix of strength and vulnerability battling within Jean. She is the title character, but a lot of time is also given to Charles - who has an equally important plotline - and McAvoy had a captivating onscreen presence. Chastain is a very talented actress and exciting addition to the franchise, but she was wasted on a bland, stock villain character that she couldn't do much with.
The start of the film was promising, with a solid origins story for Jean and an interesting argument about whether Charles actually has the mutants' best interests at heart. It was full of character and conflict building and it was entertaining and peppered with some action scenes. However, in the latter half, the film goes hell for leather and loses that emotional character focus in favour of big action set pieces. The train sequence was well executed and exciting to watch, but the majority of them were messy, confusing, and filled with substandard CGI.
The film had to undergo extensive reshoots which completely changed the ending. It would be interesting to know how much was reshot and what the original ending would have been, because the final version was deeply unsatisfying. It felt rushed, there was no emotional pay-off and it was hard to know what actually happened because it was visually depicted in a muddled way.
It is baffling that the major character death in this movie was spoiled in the trailers and by Kinberg himself in interviews because it ruined the film's greatest dramatic moment. It made no sense giving up the biggest surprise in advance.
All in all, Dark Phoenix does have its moments and was more entertaining than predicted, but it is let down by its messy and unsatisfying ending.