Despite Sophie Turner’s mesmerizing physical transformation into the Phoenix, the origin story of Jean Grey’s alias failed to deliver all my expectations of arguably one of the most powerful X-Men. There were several reasons for this. The lack of a sufficient script was one. Having little to no famous Marvel-esque cinematic showdowns is another. And giving us a highly confusing (but not at all surprising) explanation to what I think is Jean’s backstory is another. But one of the most frustrating aspects of “Dark Phoenix” is the underdevelopment of the lead antagonist, the misplacement of Magneto and Jennifer Lawrence’s lack of dedication to her character.
Jessica Chastain, known as the alien shapeshifter, Vux, appears on Earth with a mission to look for Jean, whose cosmic power that transformed her into the Phoenix subsequently destroyed the alien planet. And though their showdown is the climax to the plot of the movie, Chastain’s character and her minions are seemingly brushed off. When they first make their appearance, Chastain is introduced as a human wife hosting a dinner party who hears her dog barking incessantly in the yard. Against her husband’s wishes, Chastain checks on her labrador, and it is there under the protection of copious tree branches that Chastain comes face to face with the alien who would take her body as a host.
Later on in the movie, Vux tells Jean that the cosmic force she absorbed has lived as an all-powerful being that annihilated everything in its path until it came into contact with her during the X-Men rescue mission. However, this eventually proves problematic as Vux physically removes the Phoenix from Jean in a later scene. So, doesn’t this imply that Vux could have very well taken the cosmic force before it helped destroy her planet? Why is she after the Phoenix specifically anyway? What made director Simon Kinberg push this plotline to the side when it seemed to be so crucial to the Phoenix storyline? How did they get to earth? Who sent them? Is Vux their leader? How did they survive the destruction of their planet?
Why am I still left with so many questions six hours after watching the movie?
Following my previous series of questions – that might have a better storyline than the actual movie itself – I bring you to my next issue with “Dark Phoenix,” the utilization of Magneto’s character. For some unknown reason he’s taken up home in an isolated space of land awarded to him by the government. Much like Charles Xavier (this is where I knew it was weird), Magneto harbors alienated mutants – something that was never explained. After some events I cannot tell due to risk of spoiling the movie, Magneto eventually leads the war against Jean. Something that should not have been considered as Magneto is the top villain in the X-Men franchise and would have rather destroyed the earth in a nuclear explosion (yeah, this exact thing happened in First Class) than save a member from the group of his enemies. So how did we get here? Who made this decision? Why was Magneto even in a movie where it was the X-Men against the Dark Phoenix? Is Michael Fassbender that much of an on-screen heartthrob that Kinberg absolutely needed him on film?
Wait, never mind. Don’t answer that last question, it’s a rhetorical one. Of course Michael Fassbender is a heartthrob…. still doesn’t mean he should have been in the movie.
And last but not least comes the end of Jennifer Lawrence’s highly anticipated fuse. During her grand total of 20-minutes on-screen, her last portrayal of Mystique is lost on the audience. She is cold and dismissive. Her rebellious nature against Charles when he chooses to put the lives of his X-Men in danger is meant to be explosive and at the very least heart-wrenching, as she’s the oldest and wisest, is lost on the audience. She is monotone, boring and as she tries to hold him accountable for his actions, we bear witness to her bitter representation of human-form, Mystique. There is no emotional rollercoaster, no outburst. In fact, I don’t believe her facial expression changed once, not even a smile. And though it could be argued that her acting is minute in comparison, when you place her lackluster dedication in the middle of a storyline with a real shaky plot, climax and conclusion it just adds to the dissatisfaction that Dark Phoenix brings.
However, for every negative there is a positive. Like being able to stare at Sophie Turner’s eyes for two hours or watching her naturally red hair literally set fire. It is, without a doubt, that the previous Star sister is hypnotizing and for each moment she spent off-screen, I held with bated breath for her to return. To watch as the open scars in her face light up before her power erupted, I was reminded of the potential of the Phoenix.
What this movie lacked in nearly all ways, it made up for by casting Sophie Turner as the notorious mutant. Though the origin story did not deliver the way I wanted it to, Sophie Turner’s acting shone a light at the end of the tunnel and reminded me of all the reasons as to why the Phoenix intrigued me so much to begin with. Sophie Turner as Jean Grey is strong, powerful and was allowed to find her way independently. Turner did not only bring the character to life, she became her.
All hail the Queen in the North.