The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers
Jean Grey meets Charles Xavier as a young child after a car crash where she believed both of her parents have died. It flashes forward to the film's main timeline where Jean is now a teenager, joining the seasoned team on missions. In Dark Phoenix, the X-Men are celebrated because of Xavier's publicity efforts and his agreement to use his students to help the US government once in a while.
On a mission to rescue some astronauts caught in a solar flare, an unknown force possesses Jean that amps up her existing powers and gives her new ones as well. Her burst of power enables her to fight against Xavier and she uncovers the truth about her past. Angry that Charles lied to her, she goes back to her childhood home and finds out the truth about the car crash that she thought claimed her parents' lives.
The X-Men attempt to bring her home, but with Jean unable to control her emotions and her new strength, she does irreparable damage. Jean then goes to Magneto for help, where military forces come and find her. She flees and runs into a group of aliens who tell her about the power she now possesses.
Because of what Jean has done, Xavier and Magneto's team are on Jean's tail. A showdown ensues and the X-Men are captured by the military. The mutants then must band together to get out of their predicament.
The Short, Honest Plot
It's X-Men's attempt at a female-led superhero movie, but not even a physically strong lead—Sansa Stark!—or a shocking death could keep things interesting.
The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them
Sophie Turner as Jean Grey/Phoenix
Sophie Turner was last seen playing another pop culture heroine, Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones. She was also previously in the film Time Freak with Asa Butterfield and Barely Lethal with Samuel L. Jackson. She also made an appearance on the recent Jonas Brothers documentary, Chasing Happiness. (She's Joe Jonas' wife!).
Jessica Chastain as Vuk
Jessica Chastain is usually seen in more dramatic films and biopics that eventually get nominated for Oscars, like Molly's Game, The Martian, and Interstellar among other films. She's also no stranger to big franchise fantasy films, having starred in The Huntsman: Winter's War. She'll next be seen in It: Chapter 2 with fellow Dark Phoenix co-star, James McAvoy.
James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier
James McAvoy has played a number of iconic characters like Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles Of Narnia but he's usually known as Professor Xavier these days, appearing in the X-Men films like X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse.
Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast
Nicholas Hoult got his big break starring in About A Boy when he was only 12 years old. Since then, he's been consistently acting in both TV and movies. Aside from the X-Men franchise, he's known for his work in the teen TV series Skins, and movies like Warm Bodies and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique
Jennifer Lawrence has previously played badass heroines like Katniss from The Hunger Games trilogy. She's also won an Oscar for her work in Silver Linings Playbook while being nominated for her work in Winter's Bone, American Hustle, and Joy. She was recently in last year's Red Sparrow and the 2017 horror film, Mother!
Did You Know?
1. Dark Phoenix is Jessica Chastain's first Marvel film. She was previously asked to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as Maya Hansen in Iron Man 3 and Hope Van Dyne in Ant-Man.
2. It's Sophie Turner's first big-budget film as the lead, and to prepare, she studied mental illnesses to help with her characterization.
3. James McAvoy shaved his head for this film. He also did it for X-Men: Apocalypse and two other films, Split and Glass.
4. Jennifer Lawrence wasn't supposed to return for this film, but she didn't want her character to be recast in case Mystique was needed for the plot. Another character that wasn't supposed to return was Michael Fassbender's Magneto.
5. This is the second X-Men film where Sophie Turner plays Jean Grey. In past films, the adult version of her character was played by Famke Janssen.
What I Think:
It's only June and Dark Phoenix is already the sixth superhero movie that's come out this year, and this may be superhero fatigue talking, but this movie is not good at all. First of all, the writing wasn't great. At some point, Jennifer Lawrence's character says, "You might want to think about changing the name to X-Women" (and very seriously, too).
The direction also felt flat that even when very serious, very sad, very franchise-changing things are happening on-screen, you just don't connect with them. I mean, one of the leads dies and while it sets off Magneto's personal arc, it doesn't shatter your very soul as an audience member, unlike when the MCU does it. In fact, it almost doesn't feel real. Even when you see the character's dead body being carried and buried in the ground, you'll think this just can't be how the character is written out.
The bad guys are also one-note, which is par for the course for superhero films, sure, but it's a lot worse for this movie. Why even bother getting Jessica Chastain when all you need her to do is play a robotic, inhuman Groot-like alien who wants to take over the planet?
Barely anything happens in this film. As for running time, it's just under two hours long which isn't too bad, but it feels longer. The fight scenes are very long, but none of them are particularly interesting or epic.
The worst thing about this film is that it actually features pretty strong performances. Sophie Turner did well as the young Jean Grey who is rightfully angry about her life and unsure about her powers. She showed her chops as a decent dramatic actress in this film. Even Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult, in the face of poor material, tried to do right by their iconic characters.
Overall, it's like X-Men knew it's a far third in terms of superhero franchises and just stopped trying with this movie. Maybe if or when these characters are rebooted for the MCU, we'll fall in love with them all over again.
I'd Recommend It To:
Completionists. If you've seen all the other X-Men films, you might as well watch this one. If you're just looking for something to watch at the cinemas, just pick something—anything—else.