Cinema: Dark Phoenix is exasperating, not too exciting

by Shane Dillon

As with the recent Pokemon film, I don’t have a superfan’s grasp of core lore in such pop culture fare, but I know just enough about the X-Men universe to know that Dark Phoenix (Cert 12A, 114 mins) takes a classic X-Men story, but doesn’t quite hit the mark.

As has occasionally happened with previous X-Men films, this one largely hangs on the fate of a single core character, and the battle for their very soul as their incredible power can be used for good or evil alike.

In this case, Jean Grey’s (Sophie Turner) in the frame, as she’s already arguably potentially the most powerful Mutant, thanks to her incredible psychic and telekinetic powers – but getting zapped by a mysterious alien power during a space shuttle rescue mission gone wrong in this film is just the start of her problems.

The film has already nicely set Jean up as a force to be reckoned with, as a nod at young Jean’s deadly, accidental-parent-killing-powers has her pegged as someone struggling to control her abilities, but zapping her with a bazillion volts of a mysterious alien space energy even further ramps them up.

Cue the usual dithering from the divided X-Men over what to do about Jean, whose surging powers are very attractive to the good and bad mutants alike, but threaten Jean’s identity as a new personality – that of the titular Phoenix – emerges; an identity that’s increasingly happy to surrender to the growing dark power within.

It becomes clear that the only way to save Jean might be to kill her – but can even the X-Men take on the Dark Phoenix?

Unfortunately, while Dark Phoenix is going out as a franchise finale, the end result is more exasperating than exhilarating, with some turgid dialogue, underwhelming set-pieces and a general feeling of going through the motions.

Even the final act – a decent fight sequence on a train – fails to tap into the diverse characters’ potential, with the resultant scrap (which only arose because of extensive reshoots) unleashing the characters’ powers, but it’s all just too little, too late.

Sophie Turner does her best as a conflicted Grey, but it’s hard not to think of what she endlessly mutters about her unwanted new powers throughout the film: variants of “I didn’t ask for this”.

I’m afraid that neither did we, Sophie. Neither did we…

  • Verdict: 4/10

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