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article imageReview: ‘Dark Phoenix’ goes up in flames Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 7, 2019 in Entertainment
‘Dark Phoenix’ could’ve been a great movie about a powerful woman, but it fails by relying on clichés and misunderstood stereotypes.
Fans of the Phoenix saga generally came to the story in one of two ways: through the X-Men comics or via the ‘90s animated TV series. The last couple of attempts to incorporate the fiery narrative into the film franchise didn’t amount to very much and definitely didn’t do the epic storyline justice. Now, they’ve given the immensely powerful mutant her own picture in which to explore her abilities and unleash the rage that accompanies it. But it’s not all fire and brimstone as there’s a lot of complex emotions to deal with as well. Dark Phoenix tries to encapsulate all of these things while telling one of the superheroes’ most beloved narratives.
There is currently peace between mutants and humans, and Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) is trying to maintain the precarious truce — but Hank (Nicholas Hoult) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) are worried it’s at the expense of their own kind. When they’re sent on a dangerous mission into unpredictable territory, it’s all hands on deck. Jean (Sophie Turner) is told to anchor a rescue mission that puts her in the proximity of something that looks like a solar flare, but is actually the source of the Phoenix’s power. Attracted by her strength, it’s absorbed into her body and she immediately begins to change. Suddenly, her abilities are amplified and she loses control at the slightest agitation. Her friends, in turn, are faced with the need to kill her if she can’t bring them under control or allow an alien race to harness the power for themselves.
The first thing to get out of the way is this feels like a misguided attempt to shoehorn this amazing narrative into the “trending” women of power film movement. It certainly had the potential since there is an opportunity to highlight three significant female X-Men in the picture, but its approach is way off course. Listening to Raven berate Xavier for his recklessness, only to end her speech by claiming the women are always saving the men so he should consider renaming the team “X-Women” is cringe-worthy. Making Jean a hysterical woman killing her feelings rather than eating them is just an easy way to induce mass destruction, but doesn’t do the Phoenix justice. In the meantime, Raven is left to spew cliché words of friendship and understanding, Storm says almost nothing at all, and Jessica Chastain’s new alien invader character whispers in Jean’s ear about how the men controlling her life have ruined it — so everyone must pay.
The visual depiction of the Phoenix is appealing. She begins as a disorienting force in space, lighting the galaxy’s darkness aflame. When Jean begins to lose control, her eyes blaze and her skin cracks revealing an inferno beneath the surface. When the power becomes all encompassing, she’s surrounded by a fiery aura that reflects the intense energy contained within her. Overall, it’s stunning. But for the number of times she cries in these moments, it feels like a missed opportunity to have not included a searing sound as the tear touches her burning skin to match the irrationality of her character arc. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is also taken in a strange direction, though it’s easier to rationalize his role as leader on a mutant island.
A comparatively minor issue is the inaccurate ages of the characters when positioned within the rest of the franchise’s timelines. The exactness in this case isn’t integral to the story, but it’s one of those details that wouldn’t be missed in the MCU proper. Consequently, now that the mutant heroes are back under the Marvel umbrella, fans can hope they’ll retake the reins and maybe one day deliver the Phoenix movie everyone deserves.
Director: Simon Kinberg
Starring: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender
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