Dark Phoenix is the perfect symposium of all the mistakes of a saga that has ended up committing the monster of all sins; it’s become boring

Dark Phoenix

The X-Men saga is the chronicle of nonsense. The original film has notched up some accolades over time: in 2000, to risk telling this story about the fear of what is different, tolerance and the authoritarian road we’ve gone down as a society and to do it on a modest budget, nothing astronomical, was an act of courage. But although it was not an excellent adaptation of the comic, it was a good superhero movie that surprised us in its commitment to a more realistic drama than one would have expected. Let’s not forget that this was the age of Matrix, of the heroes who challenged the laws of gravity, of Sam Raimi’s overly digitized Spider-Man. In the second installment, director Bryan Singer raised the ante and won: the sequel was superior in every aspect and was well on track towards a universe worthy of expansion. Then, with The Last Stand the problems really began. The conversion of Jean Gray to Dark Phoenix was disappointing and, above all, allowed the franchise to laminate all its expressive potential. Aware of this, Marvel and Fox did the best they could to refurbish it. The result was X-Men: First Class, still the best movie about the mutant family and also the demonstration that Matthew Vaughn is one of the filmmakers who best captures the spirit of a movie. But the glory was as fleeting as a summer flower. Fox didn’t come up with anything other than returning the ball to Singer in X-Men: Days of Future Past, which, without being a complete disaster, was a poor adaptation of one of the best X-Men comics. Things could still get worse, and they did with X Men: Apocalypse also by Singer and one of the most mediocre, boring and disappointing superhero movies in the history of the genre. Never before had the title of a movie summed up its creative balance so well: it was the death certificate of a saga that had already lost any stylistic and temporal coherence. Shortly afterwards, there was an announcement that Marvel had regained the exclusive rights to X-Men (coinciding, in addition, with the departure of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine), but first Fox wanted to retell the story of Dark Phoenix as a swan song to the franchise. Well, the result was a far cry from redemption from its mistakes, on the contrary, it’s no more than the extended death throes of an already agonizing tale.

How can you retell the story of Dark Phoenix and do it badly, again? Well, the answer to this question is that if you want to do something differently, don’t ask the same screenwriter you had the first time around; Simon Kinberg, currently making his directorial debut, who had already penned The Last Stand. Well, on this occasion, he insists on abandoning every single element of a story that had all its ducks in line to give audiences a cathartic experience. But it’s so badly scripted, so lacking in soul, that the result is the worst thing that any movie might be accused of; it’s boring! Ok, we take note of Kinberg’s efforts to redefine the saga aesthetically, giving it a more fatalistic air, but without dramatic depth, we couldn’t care less about the goings on. For the entire first hour, nothing much happens in Dark Phoenix beyond the anodyne transformation of a character announced by the title and, to top it all off, it’s one of those films in which the characters have lots of dialogue. They talk a lot, but it’s about nothing in particular. There is no real feeling of loss, there is no real perception of danger. It’s evident they pulled out all the stops in the editing room (the film took ages to premiere due to the endless post-production problems, which included shooting additional scenes and even the rumor that it would never actually be released), but that doesn’t excuse the flat dialogues. In fact, the only time we’re saved from entering REM phase of deep sleep are a couple of action scenes, especially on the train, that give us a glimpse of what the movie might have been. Special mention here to the lack of conviction transmitted by Sophie Turner as Jean Gray, a character that would have been played by Jessica Chastain had Fox not transformed the saga into the most ravaged chronology in film history. In the end, the only thing we can truly take from Dark Phoenix is the thought at how Ryan Reynolds would be laughing at Deadpool 3.

Pep Prieto: Journalist and writer. Series reviewer at ‘El Món a RAC1’ and “Àrtic” Betevé show. Essay author of “Al filo del mañana”, about travel movies in time, and of “Poder absoluto”, about cinema and politics.