The X-Men franchise was a pretty impressive success until Dark Phoenix hit the screen. Unlike the rest of the movies, Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix was a box-office failure that drew outpourings of dissatisfaction among viewers and critics alike.
Before we launch into the highs and lows of the movie, a brief introduction: Dark Phoenix brings us the story of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), a telekinetic, telepathic orphan who becomes a threat to her allies, the X-Men, following a single encounter with a blast of cosmic energy in outer space. She recovers a blocked, traumatic memory of her childhood and must learn to live with her past and master her volatile powers.
The Bad, The Good, The Compromise
Writing for Roger Ebert, Brian Tallerico called the movie “a joyless, lifeless, boring affair” and criticized the lead actress, Sophie Turner, for coming off as more “Android” than human. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times was no more impressed, directing blazing disapproval at the cast. She accused Turner of being unable to “fill the character with the necessary nuances and mood changes” and wrote off the remainder of the cast as “weak or worse.”
While the flak was abundant, there were also some positive reviews, many of which came from casual viewers. One Shekhar Sharma described the flick as a “visual masterpiece” and commended the performances of Turner, James McAvoy (who played Dr. X) and Michael Fassbender (who played Magneto).
It might seem irreverent to conclude a beloved franchise with a flat and awkward commercial movie in which the veteran cast did not play to their strengths because of the limitations of their ill-directed roles. All this said if you want to give Dark Phoenix a chance, do it for the special effects (a certain redeeming quality) or the love of Marvel.