Phoenix Flames Out
The final movie in Fox’s long running X-Men franchise (provided that New Mutants actually comes out), Dark Phoenix was poised to end this phase of Marvel’s mutants with a bang. But reviews and box office proved that Fox’s mutants went out not with a whimper, but more of a collective “shrug” from audiences. Despite changing release dates for more reshoots, the final X-Men movie couldn’t stand out among the comic book movie crowd of 2019, especially when it’s compared to the bombastic finale that was Avengers: Endgame.
It’s really fascinating just how this franchise has gone under Fox’s watch. Perhaps some of the trouble comes from the fact that despite being a franchise, there’s never been that much continuity between the recent X-Men films. Aside from First Class and Days of Future Past, almost every movie has had things that directly contradict events established in the previous film. It started with The Wolverine having Logan lose the adamantium in his hands, only to have it reappear at the beginning of DOFP. Sure, that’s a nitpick that’s easily solved by some dialogue explaining that it happens off screen, or that you can piece together as happening at some point in between the films. But there’s also the fact that Professor X died in The Last Stand, and The Wolverine and Days of Future Past follow the timeline established by the original X-Men trilogy, so how exactly is he back? There’s the end credit stinger from Last Stand that insinuates that the Professor transmitted his consciousness into another person, but it’s never discussed or touched on in either of the movies he appears in after Last Stand.
It gets even worse as the new films go on. One of the many problems I had with Apocalypse was the fact that it completely ignores the fact that Mystique took Wolverine to the Weapon X facility at the end of the Days of Future Past. When the X-Men are brought to the facility (in a completely pointless sequence, btw) Mystique is with the team, and has no recollection of bringing him there. That’s a pretty major plot hole, and no one involved with production seemed to care enough to give a solid reason for why that fact was overlooked.
You could say that these are just someone nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking, but I think it actually showcases exactly why Dark Phoenix is falling flat with audiences. Even the biggest naysayers of the MCU have to admit that the studio pays attention to details to make sure their overall stories make sense. That’s why Endgame‘s big moments pay off so well. But the X-Men franchise has tried to have it’s cake and eat it too, allowing creative freedom for directors, but also wanting to have big, epic moments that cater to their movies as a franchise. But those moments end up being unearned because we don’t have enough time to care for the characters involved.
I love Michael Fassbender’s take on Magneto. I love James McAvoy’s take on Charles Xavier. Hell, I even really like Sophie Turner as a young Jean Grey. But there’s only so many times you can watch Magneto team up with the X-Men only to end up betraying them before you say to yourself “okay, you are all straight up idiots for teaming up with him this time”, and with Phoenix, it seems like even the actors themselves are feeling the same way. With the exception of Sophie Turner and Jessica Chastain, everyone else looks so tired to be going through the same press junket over and over. When you’ve made it so that even Michael Fassbender can’t feign interest in the videos hyping the film up, you know you’re in trouble, and audiences pick up on that. Unfortunately, Dark Phoenix is a prime example of that.