Dark Phoenix is the final installment to the Fox’s X-Men Saga. With Disney acquiring Fox, the popular X-men movies and not-so-popular Fantastic Four movies are finally returning back ‘home’ to Marvel. However, Fox’s farewell to the almost 20-year-old franchise was undoubtedly disastrous and comic book fans are having a hard time accepting it.
Adapted from the famous ‘The Dark Phoenix Saga’ storyline, the movie tells the story of how Jean Grey/Phoenix bonds with a supernatural entity and gets her powers amplified. The 2016 movie The Last Stand also followed the same storyline (and literally the same comic book event), making the whole X-men timeline messed up all over again. But since we are talking about a movie franchise that doesn’t care much about timelines or continuity, this soft reboot is acceptable. But, what is not acceptable is how the movie’s subplots are direct knockoffs of past superhero movies; with ‘The Last Stand’ being the most obvious one.
Set in the 1990s, Dark Phoenix begins with the X-men trying to save a bunch of astronauts from a solar flare. During this “space mission”, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) absorb the unknown power, awakening the Phoenix Force. From there, the story takes similar twists and turns as that of its predecessor. From Jean becoming a quasi-antagonist who loses all control over her powers, to the love interest between her and Cyclops, Dark Phoenix had nothing new to offer its fans. These similarities are not accidental too, as it turns out that the director-writer of the movie, Simon Kinberg was also the co-writer for The Last Stand.
The only impressive thing about the new version is that it provided some space for the character arcs of Raven/Mystique and Hank/Beast. But in the process, it completely side-stepped everyone’s favorite mutants- Quicksilver and Nightcrawler.
Second is the uncanny resemblances Dark Phoenix shares with the recent Captain Marvel movie. The similarities in subplots raised eyebrows even long before the movie was released. Though there were major reshoots, script changes and delayed release dates, the creators failed miserably in keeping these similarities hidden from the moviegoers. In both movies, the female lead acquires their powers by absorbing a powerful unknown alien entity. Both female superheroes had to fight shape-shifting alien races that disguised themselves as humans. Even though Marvel’s first solo woman superhero movie received many harsh critiques, the diaspora-based subplot given to the shape-shifting alien race, or Skulls, was a solid plot point. With no back story to hold them up, Dark Phoenix’s shape-shifters felt weak in their motive and were struggling to move the plot forward.
The movie tried its best to make it look decent, but it end-up too disappointing to handle. The worse part is that there won’t be a sequel like Days of Future Past to clean up the damage. So, fans who want a proper goodbye to the mutants are left with no choice but to accept that Dark Pheonix had everything, yet somehow messed it all up. Or better, go watch Logan again. After all, it is chronologically the last X-men movie and a far satisfying conclusion to the 20-year long Xmen saga.