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X-Men: Dark Phoenix: Review

Rating:

It’s hard to believe that the first X-Men film came out nearly 20 years ago and, with the release of Dark Phoenix, a series spanning 10 instalments (or 12 if you include the Deadpool films) has now come to an end. This franchise could’ve gone out on a fantastic high with Logan, one of the most powerful superhero films ever made, but we’re instead stuck with Dark Phoenix. It’s a bland, boring film – a painfully mediocre picture with a weak lead that ends the X-Men series with a whimper.

It’s hard to overstate just how boring the film is

A young Jean Grey inadvertently uses her telekinesis to cause a car accident that kills her parents, but her memory is wiped by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). In 1992, an older Jean (Sophie Turner) is hit by a cosmic force during a rescue mission in space, which greatly amplifies her powers but renders them unstable. Encouraged by the alien being Vuk (Jessica Chastain) to exercise her newfound strength, Jean begins to turn to the dark side, which brings Magneto (Michael Fassbender) back into the fold as the X-Men face their deadliest threat yet – one of their own.

It’s hard to overstate just how boring the film is (save the opening space rescue mission, which is tense and genuinely good fun) – it’s nearly two hours long, but it feels like a race through a set of increasingly dull set pieces, culminating in a daft CGI finale on a train which stimulates very little excitement. There are rumours that the film was initially intended to be two parts, but studio interference compressed it down to one – if that’s true, it’s a great shame, because the Dark Phoenix story needs time to develop. It was rushed in The Last Stand, and it has been rushed again. Rushing through it reduces a tale that ought to be about deep-seated emotional turmoil and turns it into merely loud explosions and a show of CGI twirls on Sophie Turner’s face.

It’s a bland, boring film – a painfully mediocre picture with a weak lead that ends the X-Men series with a whimper

It also doesn’t help that Turner simply doesn’t have the acting ability to headline the film – she was clearly originally cast on the back of her Game of Thrones stardom, but she doesn’t bring anything to this role. She’s a wooden presence who essentially spends the whole film saying ‘I can’t control it’ or some variant thereof, and it makes for a stilted experience. What’s more, even the film’s established actors can’t do much and, importantly, don’t want to do much – they’re all clearly bored with their roles and it shows in their performances. You can see it in their eyes – look in particular at Jennifer Lawrence (as Raven), whose total lack of enthusiasm for a final contractually-mandated performance is really evident. They just want to be done with the X-Men, and it does beg the question – why should the audience care about the film when the actors clearly don’t?

Is there anything to save the movie? Hans Zimmer’s score is technically fine if rather generic and, despite an abundance of CGI, it doesn’t look awful, but these are little consolations in what is otherwise such a dull film. It’s hard to even summon up the emotions to condemn Dark Phoenix – it’s just too unengaging to connect on any level.

It also doesn’t help that Turner simply doesn’t have the acting ability to headline the film

As I said earlier, we could’ve gone out on Logan – instead, we finish with the worst film in the entire franchise (even the much-derided Origins: Wolverine had Hugh Jackman to save it somewhat). It’s generic, clichéd and boring – a shameless cash-grab rather than the send-off that the series really deserved. Whatever else is on cinema screens at the moment, I guarantee it’s better than this. Please don’t let the studio insult you by giving this film your money.

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