Dark Phoenix Movie Review, Eye Candy and Action!

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A Brief History

On June 7, 2019, the latest and last in the X-Men series of movies from 20th Century Fox, Dark Phoenix, made its debut across the country.  Although we did not get a chance for a pre-screening, we saw it on our own dime in RealD 30-D.  Based on the Marvel X-Men comic series and the graphic novel, Dark Phoenix, the film has just about nothing to do with the graphic novel!  While many other movie fans have complained about this disconnect with the written story, even though I read the graphic novel in preparation to seeing the film I was not bothered in the least by the diversion in story lines.

Digging Deeper

Critics have savaged the film (23% on Rotten Tomatoes, though audience approval is 64%) largely for this reason, but seriously, if the film was true to the book, it would last many hours.  Just think of it as a different story with the same main character.  Speaking of characters, some of the X-Men in the book do not appear in the film, and vice versa.  In fact, the villains are totally different, too.  Perhaps you should avoid reading the story until after seeing the film so you do not get too distracted with the differences.  Or like me, just take the movie as a separate story line.  (The villains in the book belong to a super-elite rich person’s club, while in the movie they are just evil aliens.)

Cover of X-Men Legends Volume 2: Dark Phoenix Saga (1990), trade paperback collected edition. Art by John Byrne.

As stated in the article title, the movie is a visual treat of colorful characters battling it out with each other in spectacular fashion.  Nice and bright and clear, with none of the murkiness the big battle in Game of Thrones got criticized for.  Special effects are typically outstanding, and the casting and acting is generally good, though one particular scene seemed staged and awkward.  Although we do not like to provide spoilers, the scene we mention here is in the trailer and has been discussed ad nauseum on YouTube.  It is the part where Charles Xavier, aka Professor X, played by James McAvoy, is told off by Raven, aka Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence, when she asks him when was the last time he risked his life on a field operation (words to that effect) and goes on to moan about the name of the group, “X-Men,” saying perhaps the group should be known as “X-Women” since the female members keep saving the day.  Aside from the obvious pandering to the “woke” crowd, the dialog just does not come across as realistic or sincere, and Professor X is in a wheelchair!  He is not really fit for field work, is he?  He has obviously paid his dues, as any X-Men fan knows, and the dressing down is uncalled for and wrong.  The urging directed at Phoenix to not kill the main villain also seemed kind of trite and forced.  That villain just killed hundreds of humans on and about the train and would undoubtedly continue her murderous rampage if allowed to seize Jean Grey’s power.

On the other hand, the Dark Phoenix story line is indeed heavy on the female super-hero and super-villain side of things, and Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, aka Phoenix, is by a long shot the most powerful mutant in the X-Men Cinematic Universe.  (The “Dark” part of Dark Phoenix comes from the book in which Jean Grey becomes a brain washed bad guy known as The Black Queen.)  The part where Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix becomes a “bad guy” happens for real in the graphic novel, but not really in the movie.  Instead, she just seems conflicted about her powers and to what extent she should use them.  It is not as if she joins the enemy!  (Though she does accidentally kill an X-Men character, whom we will not name.)

The cast and producers promoting Dark Phoenix at the 2019 WonderCon in Anaheim, California.  Photograph by Gage Skidmore.

The $200 million budget was padded by the entire final battle scene being reshot, moving the site of the battle from space to a train.  Who knows what the space battle looked like, but reportedly the entire part was filmed, then re-filmed as a train battle so as to differentiate it from “an unnamed film,” or because of poor test audience reception of the film. The reshoot cost even more time than money, and the main filming of 2017 had to wait for final editing after the 2018 reshoot, pushing back release to June 7, 2019.

Dark Phoenix has lots of action.  Lots and lots of action.  Not so much character development, except to give us more background on the title character, Jean Grey.  The audience is expected to know who all the other characters are, and we suspect they do.  With the Disney-Fox merger, Dark Phoenix marks the end of the Fox produced X-Men films and the series will almost assuredly get a reboot in the future.  Anyway, we went to this action super-hero movie with the intention of watching exciting action and that is what we got.  We went away quite satisfied with the movie and shaking our heads over the criticism the film has received in other quarters.  Why is everyone so critical nowadays?  Seems as if you cannot make anyone happy, let alone everyone!  (For reference, see Game of Thrones final season and critical comment!)

Promotional poster

Okay, bottom line is we liked the movie very much and enthusiastically recommend it to fans of comic book superheroes.  (And superheroines!)  Our guess is even young children can handle the violence of the film as it does not contain bloody gore and the like.

Question for Students (and others): If you read the graphic novel, do you like the written story or the movie story better?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

Theatrical release poster

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Claremont, Chris, and Jo Duffy. X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga. Marvel, 2012.

Stuart Moore. X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga. Titan Books, 2019.

The featured image in this article, a scaled-down, low-resolution image of a poster for the film Dark Phoenix, is used in an article that provides critical commentary on the film per fair use under the copyright law of the United States.  The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, 20th Century Fox, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.