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Back in 2000 the first X-Men movie hit the screens and it is credited with helping to start the revolution in comic book based movies that eventually led to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and everything else that came with it. Now, 19 years later, the twelfth film in the franchise is here to close out the primary storyline and...well, let's just say things don't appear to have ended on a high note.
The reviews for Dark Phoenix, an X-Men movie that doesn't actually include X-Men in the title for reasons that are probably telling, are here, and while they're not universally bad, because that's pretty unlikely even in extreme cases, they are pretty uniform in their opinions. CinemaBlend's own Eric Eisenberg is one of those that just found Dark Phoenix to be a waste of time He gave the film 1.5 stars saying...
It’s a movie rife with bland performances, dull storytelling, and bizarrely misguided choices, and while there is the occasional cool action beat and mutant team-up to enjoy, it’s jaw-dropping in its incompetence overall.
Needless to say, Eric doesn't pull any punches. This is the second time in the aforementioned dozen movies that the popular Dark Phoenix Saga from Marvel Comics has been adapted into film, and it's remarkable that Eric feels it was actually done better the first time around, in the much maligned X-Men: The Last Stand.
Not every reviewer thinks that Dark Phoenix is actually the worst film of the franchise, but that's hardly a compliment. The Wrap takes the opinion that Dark Phoenix is technically better than The Last Stand, and even a couple of the other terrible X-Men movies, but that's far from an endorsement...
In a strange way, it might have been preferable if this was the most embarrassing film in the series, since at least then there’d be a reason to remember it. Instead it’s just a disappointingly average superhero flick, with a familiar story, disinterested actors, some cool action sequences, and a whole lot of missed opportunities.
While Dark Phoenix's lack of substance is certainly disappointing, especially to those fans that have been on this ride from the beginning. It's not exactly surprising. The film was originally going to be released in November of last year, but then saw a pair of separate delays that pushed the movie back to this point.
The release schedule two-step is a common dance that happens a lot but rarely so late in a film's production. It's usually a sign of an unexpected increase in post-production work, and from what we know that's exactly what happened here. At the end of the day, if a movie is seen as strong by the studio, that movie gets pushed out the door one way or another. Delays are seen as a lack of confidence.
Of course, with those delays are supposed to come additional work to fix any perceived problems. If that was the goal, it does not appear there was a great deal of success.
Even a stellar cast can't save this one. You'd think a movie with names like Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult, along with addition of Jessica Chastain, one of the best actors in the world today, would be enough to elevate even terrible material to something at least watchable. However, the Tribune News Service would disagree...
What's truly amazing about Dark Phoenix is watching the charismatic, award-winning, star-packed cast flail about in this poorly written nonsense cartoon.
Even most of the negative reviews seem to largely exist in the "I'm not mad, just disappointed" field. There's a feeling that Dark Phoenix had all the elements to make a good movie here, but that those pieces simply weren't put together in a successful way. Mashable saw the possibility for something great, which made the movie's ultimate failure to deliver on that promise that much more frustrating...
Dark Phoenix's lack of imagination is all the more disappointing because it glimmers of promise early on. Its first act promises two interlocking character journeys with rich thematic potential: one of a woman realizing her rage at what has been done to her, and one of a man facing up to the mistakes he made with the best of intentions.
Of course, few movies are actually completely hated, and there are some who give Dark Phoenix a passing grade. Many of them, like Digital Spy, only barely give the movie that pass, admitting that the film has problems, but feeling on balance that Dark Phoenix does slightly more right than it does wrong...
The problem is that as well-made as it is, you'll probably be giving it a similarly back-handed compliment, leaving the cinema thinking, 'Well, that was fine.' It just doesn't bring enough new to the table to overcome the muted build-up.
However, that's not to say that Dark Phoenix is completely without its cheerleaders. Flickering Myth gives the film a glowing review, feeling that it does a great job with a surprisingly deep character study for a superhero movie...
A well-engineered and expertly performed story that brings to an end a franchise that arguably doesn't get enough credit for helping to transform iconic characters from the page to the screen.
While there is officially one more X-universe movie set to come out, with the even more delayed The New Mutants now set for next year, it's clear that Dark Phoenix will be the end of the road for these characters in this particular universe. We're expecting to see them again in the MCU now that Disney owns Fox, but when that will happen is far from clear. How well Dark Phoenix is received by fans may have something to say on that topic.
There are some great X-Men movies in the franchise, and there are some bad ones as well. It's certainly disappointing to see such a storied and important franchise go out on a low note, but it doesn't change the importance of the X-Men overall, and we can still watch and enjoy the great entries in the series. In fact, in this case, it sounds like that might not be a bad idea.
Dark Phoenix hits theaters on Friday.