Dark Phoenix follows the X-Men crew as they encounter an intergalactic force in space. When Jean Grey becomes possessed by the force, she begins to exhibit excessive power levels and high aggression. The X-Men must find a way to stop the threat from destroying everything while also trying to save the comrade within.
Dark Phoenix Review
There are a lot of reasons that Last Stand failed. But I feel the simple truth is that it was doomed from the beginning because it remained true to the power level of Jean Grey's Dark Phoenix. When you are so powerful that you can disintegrate any opponent with the swipe of a finger, it makes battle sequences and building any sort of conflict virtually impossible. The results are boring action sequences and a plot that strains to be productive for the characters.
I will commend the film for pushing the boundaries of acceptable violence in PG-13 by violently thrashing the humanoid aliens of the film. They are stabbed, obliterated by machine guns, dismembered, decapitated, crushed, and broken all the while getting away with it by limiting or dismissing blood altogether. But still, some of the scenes are delightfully brutal.
Dark Phoenix often struggles with these same elements, but it did make two clever tweaks that helped make this a better attempt at Phoenix than the Last Stand installment. Firstly, though it wasn't the route I would have liked nor was it perfectly executed, they introduced aliens that provided fodder for our X-Men to fight outside of the all-powerful Phoenix. This allowed there to be moments of action with objectives on the line that were achievable. Yet, the aliens inevitably felt like a cheap solution in the end and were one of the most poorly written elements of the movie with countless plot holes.
Secondly, the film focused a great deal on the established characters of the First Class crew. There are some great moments with Beast, Magneto, Grey, Cyclops, and Professor X that genuinely tackle different elements of humanity and morality. Scenes on Magneto's island and some harsh verbal spats with Professor X and [insert X-Man here] carry significant weight.
Of course, the biggest flaw with the film was the attempt to try Dark Phoenix again at all. Just like The Dark Knight "changed things...forever..." for superhero movies, the Avengers' Thanos set a bar on how to handle uber-powerful villains. And really what it comes down to is that these villains need to appear mortal in battle, even if they are more powerful than all the heroes combined. A perfect example of proper execution is the battle on Titan in Avengers: Infinity War. "All that for a drop of blood" is one of many great lines from Thanos in the fight, but he takes plenty of other bloodless hits in the fight that genuinely appear to cause him harm and more grief than he was prepared to handle. While Thanos would eventually prove unbeatable, the battle also proved the heroes weren't pointless in their attempt. It's a perfectly executed balance that admittedly requires a rework of the Phoenix character to pull off. Then again, Thanos used to fly around in a Thanoscopter, so...retconning the comics isn't always a tragedy.
While I consider Days of Future Past to be the peak of the X-Men franchise, the single best scene is Nightcrawler's infiltration of the White House in X2. Nightcrawler continues his acrobatic escapades in this film as well. His best moment is giving his best Wolverine impression by going berserk on some alien henchmen with some well-choreographed teleporting madness. Magneto also gets in on the far-more entertaining close-combat fun with his own sequence. Needless to say, the film isn't without its moments.
This iteration of Phoenix has heart, like most of the films in the X-Men franchise, but it lacks strength because the ultimate power on display dilutes the power of everyone else. The goals of the aliens contradict themselves multiple times scene to scene and it becomes laughable. To be frank, the trailer implied to me that Jessica Chastain's character was a manifestation of Jean Grey's consciousness when she comes in contact with the Phoenix force, maybe going as far as to be an iteration of the Sentry/Void concept. While this wouldn't necessarily solve the all-powerful villain angle like their alien solution [sort of] did, it could have opened up a lot of possibilities of fighting on a psychological battlefield against this manifestation of the psyche. But I guess that was sort of already attempted in Apocalypse, so...maybe I should just shut up.
Really what it all comes down to is that Dark Phoenix should have been scrapped and we should have gotten the Mr. Sinister arc we all deserved.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 5/10
Horror Quality: 3/10
Film Quality: 5/10