After nearly 20 years, the X-Men film franchise comes to an end with the thoroughly lackluster “Dark Phoenix”.
The X-Men movies are often credited with kicking off the superhero movie craze back in 2000, and they’ve put out a dozen films since then. But everything about this new and final film pales in comparison to the far more popular and lucrative Avengers franchise — not least of all because Disney has bought the rights to the X-Men movies and will be starting over from scratch in a couple years.
“Dark Phoenix” is not some grand send-off or fitting conclusion. It’s just another movie, with everybody going through the motions to churn another one of these out. It’s fine. The special effects are pretty cool.
While on a rescue mission in outer space, X-Woman Jean Grey is possessed by a dangerous and violent cosmic energy source, which turns Jean dangerous and violent herself. Then it’s up to a semi-familiar group of mutant superheroes to try and save Jean from becoming too much of a bad guy.
One thing the Avengers movies definitely get right that the X-Men movies get wrong is consistency. The same characters and actors who were around in the first Avengers movie were still together in the last Avengers movie. But the X-Men films have gone through so many reboots, time jumps and actor changes that none of the characters on film really matter anymore.
Out of the 12 X-Men films so far, this version of Jean Grey has only appeared in two of them, so it’s a little hard to work up too much concern for her character arc. And I have to say “this version” of Jean Grey because there’s been more than one, at different ages, and it’s a whole thing.
The few actors who have been around more consistently — like Jennifer Lawrence as the shapeshifter Mystique or Michael Fassbender as Magneto — feel like they were ready to leave this franchise behind several films ago. The most famous of the lot, Hugh Jackman, doesn’t bother to return as Wolverine.
And if you’re not tuning into the X-Men movies to see your favorite actors and characters teaming up again on the big screen, you’re left with a fairly mediocre story. It’s an OK film, perhaps even enjoyable at times, but it’s such a whimper of a plot. There’s nothing to get very excited about unless you’re already a die hard fan of these X-Men films.
If that’s the case, hopefully you’ll take some comfort in knowing Disney and Marvel will make some better ones in the near future. “Dark Phoenix” is little more than a mildly entertaining distraction.