During a mission to save the crew of a damaged space shuttle, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is exposed to an immense cosmic energy, one that probably should have killed her. Instead it amplifies her abilities, to the point where she no longer has full control. With people getting hurt, the X-Men have no choice but to step in. But with a secretive alien race - led by the mysterious 'Vuk' (Jessica Chastain) - looking to control Jean and her new found power, will her friends be able to save her before it's too late?
Sophie Turner's Jean Grey takes centre stage as Simon Kinberg and Fox take a second crack at turning the Dark Phoenix saga into a movie. I think it's fair to say that X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a lot better than The Last Stand...not that that's saying much. With The Last Stand they made the mistake of relegating the Dark Phoenix storyline to a subplot, at least this time it's *the* story. Interestingly enough history has repeated itself. Twice Bryan Singer has directed an X-Men movie that sets up Dark Phoenix, and both times he has not returned to direct the subsequent movie. Does this mean that this movie was cursed from the start?
Well I don't know about that. In fact, Simon Kinberg has done fairly well in his directorial debut, producing a reasonably fitting conclusion to the Fox series. It's odd then that as much as Dark Phoenix concludes this series, it also leaves things open, as if someone at Fox wasn't quite done with the X-Men. No doubt a result of shooting prior to the Disney/Fox merger, and a lot of delays. Dark Phoenix makes for an interesting story - one that's been well interpreted here. Kinberg and his team have nailed the look and style of the movie, and lets not forget Hans Zimmer's magnificent score. The whole cast deliver good performances, in fact the movie is at its best when all of the major cast members are on screen together - the early space shuttle rescue and the train sequence are particular high points.
Unfortunately Dark Phoenix has fallen into the trap of giving away too much in the trailers. However, where most trailer reveals give away the best bits of a movie, this one gives away the fate of a very significant character. So much so that the major parts of their performance are in the trailers. And they're not the only one, Evan Peters' Quicksilver also falls victim of a severely limited appearance, again most of which is in the trailers. We do get his signature slow-motion/high-speed sequence, but nowhere near the scale we've seen in previous movies.
But what really makes Dark Phoenix stand out is Sophie Turner. Her performance as Jean is spectacular, never have we seen this troubled mutant so vulnerable, and yet so powerful. As Jean's life comes crashing down around her, she's pulled in all different directions - by the X-Men, by Vuk and her people, and by her own wants and desires. Turner is able to emote this inner struggle, everything that Jean is dealing with in a way that feels genuine. Where Famke Janssen's portrayal of the character was unpredictable and a force to be reckoned with, Turner's is all that but still Jean, and ultimately you still feel sorry for her.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix brings Fox's X-series to a reasonably fitting close. One in which the cast - who we've known since First Class - are able to give their characters' stories a satisfying conclusion - mostly. It may not live up to X-2 or Days of Future Past, but it's a definite improvement on The Last Stand and Apocalypse.
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