PG-13, despite the fact that it is the first official X-Men movie without Mr. Knife-Hands. There is an f-bomb from Scott "Cyclops" Summers...really out of the blue. It wasn't one of those necessary f-words. It was just...there. There's violence. People die horribly. Magneto goes to town with some of the insane violence. Really, the entire final fight is an excuse to kill people in cool ways using mutant powers. Some major characters are bumped off. There's an attempt at finding a debate about morals that could be awkward. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Simon Kinberg
Yeah...that was a fizzle. I was in the minority of people who thought that the trailers looked like they could be promising. Everyone said that the movie was going to be blah. Maybe I just convinced myself that the movie couldn't be that bad. Yeah, the trailer didn't knock my socks off. But I'm one of the handful of people who kind of dug X-Men: Apocalypse. I didn't have X-Men fatigue, despite the fact that I rarely got into the comics. Boy, I was wrong.
The first thing I was wrong about was that there was no real world moral debate about seeing this movie. I mean, I still have to sleep on the fact that I thought that this was a Bryan Singer entry in the franchise. I was watching this movie and, thinking that he had lost his mind as the press has suggested, really had no idea how to make a movie anymore. Then, the first thing that pops up in the credits after the movie ended was, "Directed by Simon Kinberg." That's when I thought that he got taken off the film like he did with Bohemian Rhapsody. That seemed like the most likely scenario. I read that he was disappearing off the set of X-Men movies too. After the fact, I read that J-Law only agreed to do Dark Phoenix if Bryan Singer wasn't directing it. Ever since Fantastic Four (I refuse to look up where the "4" goes), I haven't had the greatest respect for Simon Kinberg, which isn't really fair. His name is on a lot of the X-Men movies I actually really like. It's just that this feels like the Simon Kinberg of Fantastic Four fame. I mean, I kept waiting for the movie to get good or even have a sense of cohesion. I knew that this was 20th Century Fox making up for X-Men: The Last Stand. This is the film franchise that actually got a second chance to make it right. People be obsessed with Jean Grey and the Dark Phoenix story that the movie studio actually gave the kinda / sorta same folks an opportunity to have a do-over. It's not even a complete reboot. It's some of the same people who worked on the original to do it again. There's actually some even references to the fact that the movie had been made before. There's actually a scene where Jean lifts up the Professor and you think that she's going to shred him apart again. The same scene...again. Again, I'm actually very forgiving of The Last Stand. Dark Phoenix is so much worse. I can't understand why it is so much worse. But you know what I'm going to try to do? I'm going to try and figure it out.
I take it all back! (Okay, I take none of it back. I just know what's wrong.) The biggest thing that I had issues with is that I didn't care about...any of the characters. The previous films in the X-Men universe focused on three people: Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique. Those are the characters that have been set up as characters who matter. In the original trilogy, the heavy hitters were Xavier, Magneto, Wolverine, Rogue, Jean, Scott. I'm sorry, Storm. But we actually had pretty intense storylines with those characters. I suppose we had that cool Quicksilver sequence in this one as well. I adored the Quicksilver sequences, by the way. Side note: The coolness of those scenes always put Quicksilver out of commission way too fast. He became way too powerful to actually be a character. This movie also puts him out of commission to give Jean a chance. Anyway, Jean and Scott aren't major characters in the reboot films. Nightcrawler was barely a character. Dark Phoenix asked us to care about characters who never mattered before this point. As much as I didn't want another chapter in the Xavier and Magneto / Raven drama that the other films have been playing up, we have been set up for that. There has been a mission statement for the new X-Men movies and this hard left as a conclusion makes no sense. Yeah, we want to do Dark Phoenix. I'm not even all that mad about it. Sure, I wanted to see what Bryan Singer was going to do with that character after being promised that for so long. But the reason it works far better in a bad movie like The Last Stand is because Jean, Scott, and Logan were set up for the inevitable conclusion. I was doing something insane before writing this and reading comments about Dark Phoenix. Note: I almost never do this. But Dark Phoenix was a really big misstep and I needed to hear bias confirming vitriol from the masses to make sure that I wasn't insane. One of the comments, believe it or not, was actually remarkably smart. Dark Phoenix is a Thanos level character. This is something that needs to be rolled out slowly. It has to be teased over many, MANY movies before being unveiled. I know that Dark Phoenix was supposed to be two movies at one point. I mean, I'm counting my blessings that it was only one film because I was mortified that I dragged my wife to that movie. (It's emotional collateral to bring my wife to movies that suck because then I don't get to take my wife to movies for a while after that.) But the X-Men have been so sporadic.
There was this gimmick that I initially loved. I talked about this in my other X-Men reviews. The film followed the characters once a decade since the '60s. It really works for the '60s and '70s. Those really grounded the film around major events that reflect the events of the characters. The '80s didn't really have that as well as the other films. There was nothing important about setting this movie in 1992. It went to a place that didn't really make sense for the X-Men. The X-Men were finally accepted. They were full fledged superheroes. It's an interesting place to take the characters. I know what a message could have been. Sure, it would have had nothing to the '90s, but commenting on how woke we thought we were during the Obama administration only to turn around and be the same phobic people we've always been. The '90s don't do anything for this movie. The setting is actually a waste. Making the X-Men heroes without hammering that point home is a completely mixed-message. Also, I really have a problem with the aging system in the X-Men later sequels. It seems so minor, but these characters haven't grown. At all. In forty years, both physically and mentally, they are pretty much the same characters. They have learned some lessons. The superficial part of me can't get over the fact that in a decade, James McAvoy is supposed to be Patrick Stewart. I admit it. It bothers me. But look at Hank McCoy. Nicholas Hoult is playing Beast the same way in the '90s as he did in the '60s. I hate me from nine years ago. Always. I hate that guy. I want to think that I'm growing and changing as a person. My responsibilities tend to match my age and those responsibilities change my outlook on the world. Some things will always stay the same. But having the characters keep returning and looking the same despite the fact that the gimmick promises me that it would be different is frustrating. This movie also continues the trend of people being mad at Xavier for choosing crappy answers in crappy situations. These character choices are rough. This also really points at Kinberg. Simon Kinberg also wrote X-Men: The Last Stand and tried getting the exact same conflict into this story. Why is this so important to the characters? I know it's cool having Xavier with faults, but we need to build up to these moments. Xavier has been this bastion of morality up to this point and then he just throws it all away willy nilly? No, that choice was made under duress.
When a film has reshoots, I tend not to freak out. People lose their minds when reshoots happen and it often isn't great news. But I also understand that reshoots are part of the studio system. Geez, this movie was a reshoot nightmare. It has to be weird to be X-Men in an era where the MCU is just tearing up everything. There's a bunch of moments from this film that are reminiscent of MCU moments that really worked. I heard that a bunch of the reshoots had to do with the fact that the MCU did these moments better in other films. Apparently, the shapeshifting aliens in this movie were originally the Skrull and that this movie was actually very similar to Captain America: Civil War. There are so many elements that I can see were left that I completely believe that. But this is the big dismount! It is supposed to be the film that took so long that it had to be perfect. There had to be a moment where people realized that this film wasn't good. There's no structure to this film. A lot, and I mean a lot, of this movie is Jean moping about being the Phoenix. There's never an attempt for her to use that force for good. The Phoenix is so undefined, it is criminal. We know that she can blow things up with her head, but why would she want to? Much of the film is Jean visiting characters we've met before and being vaguely upset about having these powers. Isn't the entire series about people learning to deal with these abilities that they didn't want? Why isn't that explored? Why isn't comfort a theme? Magneto treats her with fear. Shouldn't Magneto be all rah-rah? And this leads me to the most bizarre choice: aliens. I know. The Dark Phoenix story allows for aliens. But aliens are a point in the goofy column. Evil aliens are a huge point in the goofy column. Seriously, Jessica Chastain saw that part and said, "YES! That's the part I want to play"? It's so bizarre. They add nothing to the story. Jean should be the villain. There's no need for the generic aliens. I don't care if they showed up for an issue of the X-Men. Those characters are super dumb and they add nothing to the narrative. They are playing this weird game of parallel storytelling that is just wildly embarrassing. Also, why doesn't Jean just kill Erik? She crushes his helmet, which seems like an easy way to kill him that would be appropriate. She killed Mystique and she liked Mystique. Why not smoosh Erik's head? He's there to kill her over the death of Mystique. He kind of has earned it by this point. Why not just smoosh him real good? But back to my thesis: Aliens are dumb and need to pay their dues before just being accepted nimbly-bimbly into a film.
I defended a lot of the X-Men movies. They are, as a franchise, way too good to leave on this stupid note. The MCU is going to do great things with them, I hope. It's just a real bummer to think that this was the movie that is going to end the collection. The weird thing is that I really like the poster. That might make me a bad person.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.