Dark Phoenix is somehow worse than The Last Stand
Here is JOE's review of the new X-Men movie.
In the last few years, we have watched each and every superhero house get their shit in order.
Obviously, Disney have been hitting home run after home run with the MCU, but Warners and DC have course-corrected recently with Aquaman and Shazam!, while Sony have made Spider-Man essential viewing again.
For the most part, Fox have done pretty well, thanks to Logan and Deadpool, but their take on the X-Men themselves has gone from bad to worse, which is sad to see, since it was the franchise's first outing in 2000 that essentially kick-started the whole tsunami of comic book movies we've been enjoying/enduring (delete as necessary) since then.
Back in 2006, we got X-Men: The Last Stand, the first of the "bad X-Men" movies, which told the Dark Phoenix story with the original cast.
Things got better for the first two prequels - 2011's First Class and 2014's Days Of Future Past - but then the dire Apocalypse arrived in 2016, representing a proper low-point for the franchise to date.
Returning to the Dark Phoenix story once again with the new cast was pretty risky, considering it was told (unsuccessfully) a decade ago, from the same writer as the new version (Simon Kinberg), who doubles down here for his debut directing gig.
So, does the risk pay off?
Part of the reason may be because there is nobody to root for. By attempting to give the heroes depth, they end up making everyone unlikable.
Charles (James McAvoy) has become an arrogant boob, risking his student's lives to save humans for the sake of good publicity.
Erik (Michael Fassbender) has exiled himself to a government-free island to live a "simpler life" in a kind of hipster mutant commune.
Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Hank (Nicholas Hoult) argue over whether they're too old to still go to this "school" for the gifted.
Scott (Tye Sheridan) seems to literally spend the entire movie shouting "Jean!" over and over again.
And then there's Jean herself (Sophie Turner), who comes into contact with a... well... a something, while on a mission in space to save some astronauts, and it unleashes a power inside her that is... well... a bad thing?
Or a good thing? It isn't entirely clear, to be honest. It is probably bad, though.
Especially once "Smith" (Jessica Chastain) arrives, a mysterious do-badder who wants to do-bad with Jean's new powers for... well... reasons.
What are those reasons? Your guess is as good as ours, to be honest, and we've seen the film, which you'd think would give us the upper hand on understanding her motives, but nope. Completely lost.
Hiring one of the best actresses in the game, and then giving her nothing to do but stare blankly and speak in an emotionless monotone was certainly a brave choice, and Chastain does her best to imbue her character (which is, in reality, a mix of several famous X-Men characters, but also, somehow, a brand new one) with personality, but she is lost at sea, given nothing to do but be vaguely creepy.
Also, for a superhero movie, there is startlingly little action.
Kinberg has described Dark Phoenix as a "psychological thriller", and you feel in the right hands that definitely could have been the case, but once you've seen this movie, you realise that Kinberg's were definitely not the right hands.
Things do eventually pick up for a prolonged third act sequence onboard a train, which is choreographed to within an inch of its life, and seems to be channeling World War Z's zombie swarms as much as an superhero movie, which is a good thing - a little adrenaline injection to jolt the audience awake.
By then it is too little, too late, and you'll be thankful that Disney now have the rights to these characters.
After this, the only way is up.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is released in Irish cinemas on Wednesday 5 June.
Clip via 20th Century Fox