Sunday, 9 June 2019

X-Men - Dark Phoenix

50 Shades Of Jean Grey

X-Men - Dark Phoenix
USA 2019 Directed by Simon Kinberg
UK cinema release print.

Well, my credibility as a reviewer is tested again as I seem to be of a completely opposite opinion to the rest of the world about this movie. I can’t remember hearing as much negative word of mouth about a film as I have about X-Men Dark Phoenix and, I have to say, since the continuity of the X-Men series was completely destroyed early on in their run, I have found the series to be a bit hit and miss, to say the least. And news just came in that the box office on this one is a disaster so... yeah, I guess I’m a bit out of synch with people in general. This one, however, is one of the better entries in the film series as a whole as far as I’m concerned and, I have to say, I really wasn’t expecting that.

The film is yet another adaptation... and I use that word in a very loose sense here... of the Dark Phoenix story arc from the comics and the first time around they tried this with Marvel Girl (aka Jean Grey), was way back in the first real mis-step of the series... X- Men - The Last Stand. In that film, Jean Grey was played by the wonderful Famke Jansenn in what turned out to be... definitely not the super-group’s last stand. Here she’s played by Sophie Turner and, over the last few films, I’ve really got used to her in the role and here, where she has to carry big chunks of the plot as the film is literally centred around her and her ‘Dark Phoenix’ incarnation, she proves herself more than capable of carrying the movie.

And, like the title implies, it’s a dark film. Well... mostly. It maybe is a little too light at the end but there is the death of one of the major characters fairly early on in the movie (no, I’m not going to spoil it and say which one) and, although I was kinda hoping for a Blake’s Seven style bloodbath at the end here, it does lighten up a little on the aftermath. Also, this is definitely the last of the X-Men films as we have come to know them. In a final twist coming in hard from the real world, this part of the Marvel Universe owned by 20th Century Fox is now owned by Disney (who now own Fox) and so when the characters inevitably return, I expect they’ll be going for a completely different look and feel so they can dovetail them into the current Marvel Cinematic Universe so, yeah, end of an era.

What this also means is it doesn’t make good on the post credits sequence of the previous movie and nor does it have its own post credits tease. More annoyingly, perhaps, is that the developing plot line of Quicksilver being Magneto’s son without the father realising yet is never finished off. No resolutions on that front here so... it’s kind of a shame they didn’t sort this loose end out.

However, almost everything else about this movie... I liked. The strong cast of regulars supporting Sophie Turner such as James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult etc were all great... as was Jessica Chastain as the lead alien villain of the piece. The action set pieces were good and the story was a little smaller in its focus but there is still a sense of something huge at stake here... not just the future safety of the Earth but also the impact of the consequences of events here flipping public attitudes to mutant-kind back to those of non-acceptance and intolerance (something which I don’t think was credibly resolved at the close of this film, to be honest).

There are also some nice shot compositions and transitions too, including a nice moment where, after pulling a wooden chest out and revealing his Magneto helmet, Fassbender pulls it down onto his head as a way of showing the audience he’s coming out of retirement which then immediately cuts to a similar close up of McAvoy as Professor X pulling off his Cerebro helmet.

There’s also Hans Zimmer’s score which, even though I love this composer (see here for a review of one of his wonderful live shows), I was somewhat sceptical of. As it happens, he does a really good job here and I’m looking forward to grabbing the CD of this one as soon as it goes on sale (it’s rumoured there will be a proper CD release sometime after the stupid download and I hope this is the case here... although the company might have a change of heart after seeing the box office if we’re extra unlucky).

The special effects look pretty good too and even the Magneto stuff, which I sometimes find a bit rubbishy looking, was pretty amazing this time around.

On the downside, this film continues to throw continuity to the wind and, after the events we heard hinted at in Logan (reviewed here), totally fails to conform to them in this movie and has you wondering just who the heck is green lighting writing decisions such as these.

However, despite the odd grumble, I have to say that this is easily the best Marvel movie so far this year.... after the not too terrible Captain Marvel and the, well, way too terrible and disappointing Avengers Endgame. X-Men Dark Phoenix walks all over them, in my opinion and I am just breathing a sigh of relief that, even though it’s had its ups and downs, the franchise is definitely going out on a high note here... despite what other reviewers would have you believe. Will definitely be picking this one up on Blu Ray the week it comes out over here and, you never know, might go back and have another look at it at the cinema too (the IMAX 3D was quite good on this one, for a change). Definitely a darkish film, like a few of its predecessors (one might even say a Dark Grey film) but that’s definitely a strength and it looks like a solid entry into the franchise to me.

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