Dark Phoenix more closely follows the events of the comics storyline written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, picking up eight years after the events of X-Men: Apocalypse with the X-Men now well established as a heroic force for good. Anyway, whatever. Jean is now possessed by this space gunk, which causes her to lose control of her emotions and wreck havoc on anyone who stands in her way - something that winds up dividing the X-Men into "pro-Jean" and "we should just kill Jean" factions. While in space, a force engulfs Jean Grey, making her the most powerful being in the universe.
Jean Grey flees, and the other mutants become divided. And it shows in the gravitas that she exhibits on screen as Jean struggles to seek answers to hard questions pertaining to her past, something that Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) kept from her all these years.
Writer-director Simon Kinberg has used words like "traumatic" in interviews to describe his film's tone and themes, and this latest in 19 years' worth of occasionally good "X-Men" pictures. Charles Xavier is living in a proverbial "be careful what you wish for" scenario as the X-Men are now hailed as heroes and mutants are less feared and hated than ever before - until Jean turns to the dark side and publicly vents her rage at Xavier.
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They also need to contend with the mysterious character played by Jessica Chastain, who serves as the devil on Jean's shoulder, urging her to destroy her colleagues and embrace her destiny as the most powerful creature on the planet. Meanwhile, aliens led by Vuk (Jessica Chastain) want to use Jean for her new power.
It's now the second attempt at adapting the X-Men comics' Dark Phoenix Saga to the big screen. Now she doesn't merely pose a threat to her X-Men family, but the world at large.
The lesser "X-Men" movies, and there have been many, have a way of dragging its best players down to a lower level of skill.
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There's a cheesiness that Kinberg brings to his imagery that recalls the original X-Men movies, with all of their faults and strengths. As such, her return as Mystique in the new addition to the X-Men franchise was apparently reliant on specific terms. Sure the character grows throughout the film, but it's shocking to realize that someone who cares so much about helping people is still so manipulative and self-absorbed after everything he and his team have been through.
Set against screaming Banshees and claw-happy Wolverines, Jean always seemed like the reluctant warrior, a mutant who only used her powers (mind reading, telekinesis) because she had to. The point of a phoenix, dark or otherwise, is that it rises from the flames. Unfortunately, no one in the cast really shines here because they're not given much meaty material to work with. But it's told so tepidly-and with such obvious studio tampering-that it feels like Hooked on Phoenix; more invested in hitting the mark than in reveling in its own weirdness. Even in the cruddiest X-Men movies, there's usually at least one or two fun sequences where the mutants show off their powers.
The last installment to Fox's X-Men film franchise opens in theaters June 7.
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