I have been reading comics for most of my life, and seen damn near every tv show and movie based on them. I firmly believe there never comes a point when you don’t have something to learn, but I’ll take the risk of calling myself an expert in this one, narrow area. Here’s one rule I’ve come up with over time that I stand by, seeing proven time and again: when you have a story you’re adapting, and make random changes from the source material that don’t really serve any good purpose, the story suffers. That said, it’s time to talk about X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
To their credit, the inciting incident is actually fairly close: the Space Shuttle (remember those?) is in serious danger, and the X-Men take off to help. They manage to shoehorn in almost everyone using their powers, however unlikely, to rescue the astronauts, and then something weird happens to Jean. To that point, fairly true to the comics. From here on, things take a different (and not necessarily better) path.
Charles Xavier has made his share of mistakes, usually out of ego and/or sincere belief that he knows best. Well, that becomes part of what happens as they add some new and different and weird family drama with the Greys. Among the additions to the story: an after-party for the first big mission with a cameo by an X-Man we haven’t seen before, dissension in the ranks, a clash that kills a character, and some weird spins on a few other X-Men mythos tales.
They introduce a new character who plays a big part in things that wasn’t part of the story in the comics. I’m not sure what the point is, aside from maybe taking some of the blame for the chaos off Jean’s shoulders. They manage to both add weird stuff and echo the last time they did this story in a movie. They drag in another group of mutants to add more tension and make more fight scenes, and someone switches sides in the conflict.
The saga of the Phoenix has never been a happy one in the X-books. This isn’t a happy, joyful movie. I think the first movie that they did of this story was a lot worse, for whatever that’s worth. We get a few X-Men acting very out of character, a lot of fighting, and a few basic mistakes (brass isn’t magnetic, for one thing). Quicksilver gets sidelined early, doesn’t get a cool scene like he has every other time he’s appeared, and is apparently the only speedster out there without accelerated healing.
The rumor is this is the last of the X-Men movies, at least until they get rebooted over at Marvel Studios. There might be a nod to that in this, as the patches worn by an anti-mutant strike team read “MCU.” What this might mean for the delayed several times New Mutants, I’m not sure. I do think the many, many, characters associated with the X-Men would do better with the quality we’ve seen from Marvel Studios, rather than what we’ve seen out of 20th Century Fox.
What I liked: The beginning of the movie stays close to the original story. They do the best compromise they can between the comics and the continuity of the previous movies. There are several good performances. The cameo at the party was an entertaining nod to a character who has never made it to live action before.
What I didn’t: The added character seemed like an odd choice, maybe standing in for several of the original elements they cut for the movie. The big death seemed sudden and almost pointless. I didn’t like how out of character several of them were acting, or Quicksilver sitting most of this one out. There was a major fight in New York City with a lot of civilians in danger and no one seemed to care.
It wasn’t the disaster I’ve heard several people talking about, but it wasn’t their best. I’ll give it a solid 2.5 out of 5, right up the middle. If the rumored takeover and reboot happens, I’m hoping things get better for Marvel’s mutants.