As a die-hard X-Men Cartoon fan, the movies have definitely made it harder to keep up with my beloved teen-time cartoon. Walking into “Dark Phoenix” realizing with shame, I had no idea where the last film actually left off. ‘Logan’ while being the last one in theaters, is actually a spin-off of the Wolverine character. So which one was it really as again the franchise has jumped around in its own history, undertaken a few time travel stories and even recast many characters while keeping others the same. This makes it a little hard to pin down which films follow which, and which are set in which timeline. Alas, “X-Men Apocalypse” is the last one, but in all honesty, it’s tough to remember exactly what happened, where it left off and what time-line frame it was in though a quick bit of research reminded me it was a 1983 timeline. Moving on…
Dark Phoenix is set mostly in and around 1992, though we do go backwards in time to where the movie actually starts us off with a young Jean Grey getting in a car crash with her two parents. After the rescue, we find out that her powers were responsible and she feels guilty for killing her mother but with her memory unclear and Prof. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to the rescue, Jean comes to his children’s home for mutant kids. From here we dramatically switch over to an Apollo spacecraft being launched and in profound trouble in space with the President enlisting the help of Xavier, Beast/Hank Mc Coy (Nicholas Hoult), Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summer/Cylops (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Peter/Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and Kurt/Nighcrawler (Kodi Smit–McPhee) are all aboard when they realize that the ship with the astronauts is being spun by a cosmic force, and lest we forget that this film storyline is all about Jean Grey aka Phoenix, she steps in to save the last of the crew while being enveloped completely by this cosmic force.
It doesn’t take long for this to start affecting Jean’s life and the life of everyone around her. And while I won’t say who lives and who doesn’t, there are a few major deaths in this final story as most would expect there to be. Once Jean realizes with this new found cosmic powers that make her the more powerful than ever, she finds her dad, John Grey (Scott Shepard) is alive and that Charles has lied to her about her both of her parents being dead. What Jean doesn’t realize yet is that Charles lied because her father didn’t want her anymore. Getting really edgy at this point and as we see that her dad is still alive through her mind-reading flashbacks with Charles, she escapes the mansion via an emotional roller-coaster to find him. With no where to go, she ends up on Erik/Magneto’s (Michael Fassbender) private island given to him by the US government, but soon wears out her welcome there also when he finds out what she did when leaving the mansion and this sends Magneto on a rage after her also.
You might think this telling is off-kilter in so many ways,, but this is truly how the film is moving along. Everything is jumping time-lines and places again, though not so simply followed as in previous films. We finally get to the point where we realize what Jean’s powers are really meant for when we meet aliens Vuk (Jessica Chastain) and Jones (Ato Essandoh). They need her to restart their planet and their people with said power.
This films cast is stacked high with star profile, but there is also moments when you realize they have failed somewhat to do the hard work of character development that the cartoon and the comics both accomplished. It had been around a long time before the Dark Phoenix saga of Jean Grey had even begun and we felt we knew her character well enough to care. In the cartoon/comics this story kicked off even more adventures for the X-Men, giving the characters time to come to terms with Jean Grey’s transformation and the damage inflicted. With this film, we barely know Turner’s version as this is only her second showing, and yet, a whole film is devoted here.
But this new movie isn’t the beginning of another chapter, it’s a definitive end. Amid the expected ending of an all in/all out CGI battle between the X-Men and aliens not being up to par with what we have come to expect with such films, the aliens that aren’t done in a way to make them exciting in the least, though they do shape-shift into humans, we can say the same about the mutants. It’s an ending that could have led into something so much more spectacular had Fox not been sold to Disney and we now know a hard reboot is happening and everything is going to change. The rest of Dark Phoenix‘s plot is very much taking liberties with the original saga in order to contain and connect the narrative, for better or worse. And for better or worse we can only wait and see.
Media Review Screening: Monday, June 3, 2019 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
‘DARK PHOENIX’ OPENS IN THEATERS WORLD-WIDE – FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2019