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X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)

The students at the Xavier Institute of Higher Learning are growing into their powers, and some of them are becoming even more powerful than they had expected. Leading that group is Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). When a space mission goes awry, Jean’s abilities begin to consume her and she loses control. When an extraterrestrial being takes Jean under her wing and attempts to show her the power that she possesses, the X-Men must respond before things get out of hand. X-Men: Dark Phoenix depicts the titular superpowered team, led by Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), as they face their greatest foe yet–their friend, Jean. This will be anything but simple for this band of brothers and sisters.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is far more emotional than I remembered, and it captures the essence of pain and suffering like most other X-Men movies haven’t been able to. Looking ahead, films like Deadpool and Logan are able to appeal to emotion in a very raw sense, but looking back, I’m not sure that any of the films that come before this in the X-Men timeline possess this factor on a scale like X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The amount of pain and suffering that each of the characters present throughout the film experience is unprecedented–everyone does such a beautiful job of conveying said emotion and they bring something very visceral to the table. Everyone does a wonderful job, but two of the actors stand out to me more than the others–Michael Fassbender (Erik Lensherr/Magneto) and Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy/Beast). Fassbender has been at the top of the list in terms of talent among X-Men related actors since he entered the scene in 2011, and his conveyance of emotion in X-Men: Dark Phoenix sees him exude brilliance once again. Hoult is one that tends to slip between the cracks in discussions regarding the superhero franchise, not because he isn’t talented, but because he’s surrounded by so many other wonderful actors that he manages to end up in the shadow of others. He’s been incredible since day one, but in this installment of the franchise he is asked to tap into his emotions more than ever before–and he leads the charge of pain and dismay that transcends the entirety of the film. In one scene, where Hoult sits opposite McAvoy, the agony that Hank feels emanates from the screen, consuming viewers, and taking them on a journey of genuine suffering.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix acts as the finale to the prequel series of films headed by Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg. It does a wonderful job of wrapping that series up, but it causes a number of significant continuity issues for the remainder of the X-Men films (i.e. X-Men, X2: X-Men United, etc.) and that’s not good for the brand. There have been numerous interviews conducted with the aforementioned Singer and Kinberg when they have expressed numerous ways of the franchise making sense in terms of continuity, but I’m not sure that I want to have to manipulate a timeline in order for things to make sense. X-Men: Dark Phoenix loses grip of the reality of the franchise, and while that doesn’t necessarily hurt the individual film, it’s a frustrating thing for fans who had been following the franchise for nearly twenty years at that point.

Whenever I examine a superhero-related film I always have to ask myself if the action was so overwhelming that it drowns out the rest of the narrative–and, I think, based on my previous statements, it’s clear that the emotion present in X-Men: Dark Phoenix is more than able to resonate with viewers. That doesn’t mean, however, that the action is uninspired–because quite the opposite is true. There are several major action sequences throughout that are integral to the film, and they are done better than most of what I’ve seen in this universe of films before. They feel authentic and organic, and viewers see new and old faces fight for something even bigger than survival. Writer Kinberg and the stunt department create an immersive world of action and excitement that is sure to entertain viewers of all ages. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is fun, full of energy, and everything you could hope for in terms of action.

I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong (at least I think I am), and my take on X-Men: Dark Phoenix after watching it for the first time was that it was one of the worst X-Men films to date. I have to retract that statement, however, as I could not have been more wrong. Continuity issues aside, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is everything that I could have wanted from this franchise and from these characters. This film exceeds expectations as it shoots for the stars and hits its mark. I’m so impressed with the visuals, the score, acting, directing, cinematography, and literally everything else. This just may be the best X-Men team-up film to date.

Written & Directed by Simon Kinberg.

Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jessica Chastain, Scott Shepard, Ato Essandoh, Brian d’Arcy James, Halston Sage, Lamar Johnson, etc.




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