Dark Phoenix.

Dark Pheonix 2

By Joanna Langfield

What a dismal piece of business this is! While Simon Kinberg’s chapter of the X-Men saga taps a lot of the familiar notes, this barely memorable slog feels obligatory, a weak step toward the new and hopefully more exciting future.

A few of the original cast show up but mostly, the story centers on Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, aka Phoenix. She’s the mutant wrestling with her conscience this time around, having been souped up after being hit by a mysterious force on a rescue mission. Phoenix is, she is told by the encroaching evil force that is Jessica Chastain, either the easily manipulated embodiment of all evil or the most powerful woman on earth. What might have been a weirdly juicy sociological spin waters down almost immediately, leaving us with the usual stuff we’ve seen before, even if Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven gets to yell something pithy about feminism.

The always wonderful James McAvoy does his best, but even he seems a bit overwhelmed by the very dark darkness of it all. By the time he and a most welcome Michael Fassbender join the younger crew in what should be a fast and furious finale, none of us really seem to care. Maybe in part that is because some of the bad guys don’t look like faces we’ve seen earlier in the movie, so the gimmick of aliens appearing as humans doesn’t pack much of the emotional punch it could. But also maybe its because the action is literally so dark, we can hardly see a lot of it, which might feel familiar to Games of Thrones fans, disappointed in the visually incomprehensible big battle of this season. When they named this one Dark Phoenix, I think they at least should have had something else in mind.