X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)

By now the word is out about Dark Phoenix; producers are hastening to clarify their lack of involvement with the project as Hollywood Reporter publishes an exposé on the ‘Dark Phoenix’ Debacle.

Thing is, there’s a gem of a great idea in Dark Phoenix. For the first half hour it’s reasonably well-constructed, and suggests a real interrogation of the franchise’s underlying politics. The ideological conflict between Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has been the core of the X-Men films from the beginning, but its fallen into a holding pattern of repetition over later films. Dark Phoenix offers up a new take, examining Xavier’s paternalistic attitude through his relationship Sophie Turner’s Jean Gray, turned titular ‘Dark Phoenix.’

There’s no reason this couldn’t have been a substantive, fleshed out examination of how well-intended leadership can turn to exploitation without proper respect for individuality. Sadly, Dark Phoenix is a story of diminishing returns, devolving into a series of uninspired action sequences and gradually eroding any political purpose into an incoherent third act. You can blame reshoots, if you like, but the real problem here is an inability to properly commit to purpose.

At least it’s better than the dire X-Men: Apocalypse.

2 stars

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