What happens when one of the “X-Men” mutants goes bad?
The question actually can be posed several ways in the case of “Dark Phoenix,” which is intended to bring an end to that particular Marvel franchise, at least for the time being. The central character considers doing evil, but it’s also the “X-Men” series that goes bad in this case, with a chapter that really indicates it’s time for it to take a rest.
Jean Grey is the character in question, played again by Sophie Turner of “Game of Thrones” fame. Though she previously didn’t do so much that she ended up outperforming the X-Men – nor, for that matter, the X-Women – Jean is front and center here, after her role in saving a space shuttle results in her becoming the most powerful person in the whole group.
It also means a struggle for her in choosing between using her newly enhanced powers for right or wrong. Jennifer Lawrence returns as Raven, who tries to show Jean the light … while Jessica Chastain contributes her star power in an atypical appearance as a villain who would be only too happy to bring Jean over to her side.
Sure, there is loads of female empowerment in the literal sense here, but the movie (directed by series veteran Simon Kinberg) doesn’t really go anywhere despite its bounty of showdowns and staredowns. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are among others who turn up again, and while that does provide a certain link to some of the “X-Men” films that preceded this one, a notable number of them were getting impatient even before now.
“Dark Phoenix” does little if anything to relieve that. Turner acquits herself well enough in the title role, but the story treads territory that has been covered before without really freshening it, though certain figures apparently meet their Waterloo.
It’s a sure death knell when viewers have paid again to see something they feel they’ve already seen. It’s also a lesson in knowing when to quit while you’re ahead, but when there’s supposedly more money to be made, it can be hard for a studio to know when to put the brakes on unless the public tells it so.
By the time you’ve gotten this far into a franchise, you’d better give more or give up. And with “Dark Phoenix,” it’s appropriately closing time.