And so, after 19 years of chugging along faithfully, the often uneven, sometimes brilliant, always interesting X-Men franchise finally comes to the end of it’s current incarnation (of course there’s still the unfinished business of New Mutants but we won’t worry about that right now – because Disney isn’t either).
Semi-regular franchise screenwriter and guide for 20th Century Fox’s X-Verse, Simon Kinberg has finally graduated to the directors chair and has decided to give the Dark Phoenix saga another shot as the previous attempt, (X-Men: The Last Stand; also scripted by Kinberg) fluffed the classic storyline royally by having it’s corrupted heroine pretty much stand around in a red coat and do bugger all but
this time around filmmakers promise something different…
10 years after the events of Apocalypse, Professor X, Beast, Mystique and the gang are enjoying not being hated and feared by the world and actually work in tandem with the world’s governments to perform rescue missions and the like. During their latest, a daring save of the crew of a crippled space shuttle in orbit, something happens to blossoming telepath Jean Grey which causes her powers of telekinesis to grow exponentially to dangerous levels. Thus ensues a scramble to control the God level mutant who is barely in control of herself between a Charles Xavier who has grown egotistical and complacent in his success, a vengeful Magneto and Beast allied in grief and Jessica Chastain’s mysterious alien who knows the secrets to Jean’s “accident”.
Let’s address the elephant with mutant superpowers in the room first, as the finale to a series of film’s whose timeline is frankly a mess, Dark Phoenix isn’t nearly good enough to pass muster, especially as it comes mere months away from Marvel sticking the landing after their 22 film Infinity Saga. However, taken as just “an X-Men film” there’s actually a surprising amount to enjoy.
Ok, so it’s nowhere near as fun as First Class, cool as Deadpool, emotional as Logan, smart as Days Of Future Past or as flat-out fantastic as X-Men 2 but it has it’s moments, and it’s certainly better than Apocalypse or X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Maybe the problem is we needed one more movie inbetween this and Apocalypse to really bond with this newer incarnation of Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm and Nightcrawler, maybe while caught up in the Disney/Fox merger something got lost in translation, or maybe this was too big a project for Kinberg to make his debut but there is a surprising lack of urgency in the script. Oddly, Kinberg proves to be a better director than a screenwriter staging some decently punishing action that strains the 12 certificate to it’s limits (although the kickass train fight at the climax was done entirely in reshoots so probably thank the Second Unit Director for that one).
Also the majority of actors are given some juicy bits to chew on, Sophie Turner, never the greatest of actresses in Apocalypse OR Game Of Thrones (Stark Phoenix?) actually convinces the audience of Jean’s plight. McAvoy (who always soars when Chucky X is playing against his nice guy image) and Fassbender are nicely served while Jennifer Lawrence takes a mercifully (for her, at least) early shower.
But despite all these individual points that work perfectly fine, the whole simply doesn’t have the pomp and circumstance needed to bring a 19 year franchise to the close it deserved – the big picture just isn’t big enough.
X-Men. Ex franchise.