The final instalment of the X-Men reboot is an unruly tangle of belonging, family and identity with plenty of CGI mayhem and big action set-pieces. Stuck with the mis-casting of Fassbender and MacAvoy, it relies on Sophie ‘Mahogony’ Turner stepping up as the empathetic core and she’s just not that kind of actress. Blown away by Jessica Chastain’s icy villain and Jennifer Lawrence’s too-short stint as Mystique, Turner is the weak nail in the wall from which the whole thing hangs.
I have no idea where the heck we are in the re-booted X-Men timeline following Days of Future Past, but honestly I stopped caring. 1992: the Space Shuttle encounters a Big Blobby Energy Thing, the X-Men ride to the rescue and Jean Grey (Turner) gets zapped with a billion volts of plasma, undoing Professor X’s decades of careful tele-therapy.
Don’t you know it a bunch of shape-shifting homicidal aliens are also after the power of the Big Blobby Energy Thing, as well as a new home and Earth fits the bill.
In short: Phoenix on the rampage, the X-Men fall apart, Magneto leaves his mutant reservation in search of revenge, a corner of New York gets trashed and everybody ends up on an armoured train battling the aliens.
With a script about as subtle as dropping a concrete block into the bath, this is pretty much X-Men – The Opera (with a thonking Hans Zimmer soundtrack). Lawrence gets a shoe-horned jibe about renaming it the X-Women in a ‘Me-Too’ moment that clangs horribly.
Hoult and Lawrence aside, the team lacks the star power of the original line-up; Sheridan, Ship, Peters and Smitt-Mcphee leave little impression and there’s a whole gaggle of Magneto’s sidekicks I don’t even know who they are.
In the middle of it all Chastain and Nicholas Hoult quietly get on with the job. Post Craig as Bond, can we please have Chastain for our next Bond villain, please to add some class to the proceedings?
Vastly experienced TV and movie producer Simon Kinberg (Logan – good, Days of Future Past – not good, Fanstastic Four – terrible) steps in as Writer/director to take an entire X-Men story arc and smoosh it into a disappointing hour and fifty four minutes. Whatever the plans for the X-Men (I’m a fan) in the MCU Phase 4 (or wherever we are now), let’s hope it’s more coherent than this. RC
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
Director: Simon Kinberg
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Running time: 1hr 54min
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jessica Chastain, Scott Shepherd, Ato Essandoh