Dark Phoenix (2019)

darkphoenix

As I’ve suspected, Dark Phoenix isn’t really as bad as all those negative reviews would have one believe. Not saying it’s one of the better films I’ve seen recently but it is watchable, fairly enjoyable even.

Sure, a lot of things didn’t work. The villains were forgettable. I thought Jessica Chastain was kind of wasted in the movie. The visual effects were great but the fight scenes and the wire works were almost bad—nothing special, maybe just a tad better than the first X-Men movie. There’s some palpable tension in some of the earlier scenes (e.g., that scene with the chopper) but that battle on the streets of New York was a mess.

In contrast to what we usually get from Marvel, there isn’t a lot of jokes in this one or witty one-liners. Instead, we have Sophie Turner trying her very best not to kill Tye Sheridan and James McAvoy early in the second act. Just kidding. I thought her acting was fine. And I was surprised that there’s a lot of fan hate online for our dear Sansa girl. Toxic fandom, these kids.

Unlike the last Spider-Man movie, there’s emotional weight in here, a somewhat compelling story about guilt, forgiveness.

As a movie about mutants, the “other”, the rebels, and their internal conflicts—this being embedded in the X-Men movies’ DNA (as Deadpool said, X-Men is “a dated metaphor for racism in ’60s”)—I found this to be more interesting than some of the last movies from Marvel such as Captain Marvel and Black Panther.

Early in the movie, there is a disagreement between Charles (James McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Charles seems to be too accommodating in helping the US government, to the extent of sacrificing the team. For Mystique, this wasn’t what they fought for. Charles’ rationale was that the X-Men being celebrated as the heroes is better than them being treated as the “other”, whatever the cost. It was a compromise that would blowup in his face later on when after an incident involving Jean Grey, they were again treated as enemies, collared and chained, and dragged across concrete like criminals by heavily armed police officers.

The nine-episode animated cartoons from the ’90s is still the best Dark Phoenix Saga, live action or otherwise. But Dark Phoenix isn’t all that bad and I liked this one better than the all too predictable X-Men: Apocalypse. And as a “Dark Phoenix” movie, it’s definitely better than The Last Stand—y’know, the one where a half-naked Hugh Jackman finally gets “intimate” with a badly made up Jean Grey.

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