The last time the “Dark Phoenix” saga from the X-Men comics was adapted for the big screen was in X-Men: The Last Stand back in 2006. While Dark Phoenix isn’t completely identical to the way the storyline was adapted in that film, it still feels quite repetitive. It’s a rehash of the same conflict that is present in the X-Men prequel series and offers shades of X-Men: The Last Stand despite not being a complete replication.
When Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) absorbs a cosmic force while the X-Men go on a space mission, she becomes more powerful than ever. As she explores her newfound abilities, it becomes revealed that Xavier put a psychic block on her when she was a child. Eventually, Jean returns to her childhood home and as her abilities take a hold on her, her loss of control results in the death of one of the X-Men. Any of that sound familiar? That’s because it’s identical to X-Men: The Last Stand which is rather frustrating because Dark Phoenix proved to be an opportunity to get the storyline from the comics right. The biggest difference between both films is that thankfully, the Phoenix force isn’t Jean’s dual personality like in The Last Stand.
As for the other areas in the story that feel repetitive, there’s the tired conflict of Professor Xavier and Magneto. Again, those two are at odds with one another before they must begrudgingly take sides against a greater enemy. It's the same story for the last two films and it's so boring. In addition, despite the film being called Dark Phoenix, it continues the franchise’s tired tradition of underusing or disposing its female characters. While Sophie Turner does a capable job with what she’s given, Jean Grey is still written as a mere plot device rather than a full-fledged characterization.
Once again, the film is titled Dark Phoenix which means Jean Grey should be a central part of the narrative. But instead, she’s sidelined for even more Professor Xavier woes and how he wasn’t the proper father figure Jean was led to believe he was. So, the picture doesn’t exactly earn its somewhat controversial “X-Women” line. It may be said that they’re the heart and soul of the team yet the film doesn’t do right by them. For the record, the rest of the X-Men: Nightcrawler (Kodi-Smit McPhee), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and even Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) are quite underutilized as well. So much so that they feel like background characters.
If there are any positives this film has, it’s that it slightly demonstrates the themes of prejudice that are a key component to the comic books and have remained present in the franchise’s other entries. Also, James McAvoy still gives it his all despite the poor material he’s given, proving himself to be the MVP of the prequel series. Thankfully, he delivers since the more prominent cast members like Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, and Jessica Chastain are autopiloting their performances.
What could’ve been a poignant, epic conclusion to a lengthy franchise ends up being an unmemorable spectacle that’s a quick payday for those involved. Even when it tries to be distinctive, it still becomes a tired rehash. As a result of its underwhelming quality, Dark Phoenix goes up in flames.