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Dark Phoenix Early Reviews - Not the Worst X-Men, But Far From Great

Dark Phoenix Jean Grey poster

The first reviews for X-Men: Dark Phoenix are in. After nearly twenty years, Fox's X-Men movies are coming to an end with this month's Dark Phoenix. The film is the second adaptation of The Dark Phoenix Saga comic storyline after 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, and will serve as the conclusion to the prequel series that kicked off with X-Men: First Class in 2011. Dark Phoenix also marks the directorial debut for Simon Kinberg, who previously wrote the scripts for The Last Stand and First Class' sequels, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse.

Set in the early '90s, Dark Phoenix follows the X-Men as they head into outer space for a rescue mission. However, when things go wrong, it leads to Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) developing incredible abilities that transform her into an ultra-powerful, yet volatile being known as the (Dark) Phoenix. The movie has struggled to generate a whole lot of buzz ahead of its release, and is currently projected to have the worst box office opening for an X-Men film to date. Now, with just under two days to go before Dark Phoenix begins its theatrical run, its reviews are starting to roll in.

Related: Fox's X-Men Movies Are Better Than Marvel Fans Will Admit

You can read through spoiler-free excerpts from the early Dark Phoenix reviews below. For more, click on the corresponding links to check out the reviews in full.

Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

It's possible that Dark Phoenix is a more satisfactory adaptation of The Dark Phoenix Saga than The Last Stand was, and to the film's credit, it does introduce certain interesting ideas by going cosmic. But few, if any of these ideas are fully expanded. Overall, the movie relies too much on a foundation within the franchise that simply hasn't been established effectively enough. It may service longtime fans of the film series and the comic books (though it also may not), but it will likely leave casual fans scratching their heads.

Meagan Damore, CBR

In the end, Dark Phoenix is a step in the right direction for Fox's X-Men franchise. By embracing the found family aspect of the team, the film stands out from its predecessors in the best way possible. Because it leans into the friendship at the core of the X-Men, Dark Phoenix creates a genuine, earnest tone that is sure to please fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. This trickles down into just about every element of the film, from the performances to the action, and makes it a stronger film overall. However, the movie has noticeable flaws that will prevent it from achieving fan-favorite status like X2 and First Class.

William Bibbiani, The Wrap

It would be wonderful to report that “Dark Phoenix” was an impressive send-off to this long-running franchise (especially since the next film, “New Mutants,” isn’t coming out anytime soon). In a strange way, it might have been preferable if this was the most embarrassing film in the series, since at least then there’d be a reason to remember it. Instead it’s just a disappointingly average superhero flick, with a familiar story, disinterested actors, some cool action sequences, and a whole lot of missed opportunities.

Leah Greenblatt, EW

It’s true that X-Men have never exactly been the party clowns of the Marvel Universe; their hero status has always been conditional to fearful humans, and the chosen family of mutants they’ve landed in is less choice than necessity. Why should they have to banter for us, too? Still, for what is being called a final installment, [Dark Phoenix] tends to feel both anticlimactic and a little grim in the end.

Jean Grey in Space in X-Men Dark Phoenix

Lindsey Romain, Nerdist

So yes, the action is bad, Simon Kinberg’s direction is misjudged, the script is wooden, and the acting is barely passable. But the real sin of Dark Phoenix is just how little it tries to orient itself in Jean’s dilemma. The darkness in her - which trickles through her body with skin-raising lightning bolts - is barely defined. It makes her unreachable and destructive, but why? How does she feel? There’s one scene where Jean, crouched in a back alley after doing something bad, asks herself aloud, “Why did I do that?” That’s about as much insight we get into her character, who gets less to do than most of her male counterparts even though the film is literally named after her.

Angie Han, Mashable

Dark Phoenix's lack of imagination is all the more disappointing because it glimmers of promise early on. Its first act promises two interlocking character journeys with rich thematic potential: one of a woman realizing her rage at what has been done to her, and one of a man facing up to the mistakes he made with the best of intentions. And if the framing seems a bit on-the-nose ("You should think about changing the team name to X-Women," one female character huffs) - well, at least Dark Phoenix seems to be striving for emotional and cultural resonance.

Jim Vejvoda, IGN

Dark Phoenix is ultimately yet another fumbled take on the classic saga from the Marvel Comics, albeit one without the side plots of The Last Stand. Add to it a jarringly uneven latter half and some underdeveloped cosmic villains, and Dark Phoenix is fortunate to have not fully ended the X-Men’s current big screen run on a completely down note. While the MCU may prove better suited to give so many of these beloved mutant characters the rich dimension and care they deserve, the property itself deservedly needs a good long rest before the X-Men return to the screen.

Ian Freer, Empire

Yet Dark Phoenix posits an interesting set-up - how do you treat a dysfunctional and dangerous family member? - and Kinberg and his cast for the first half at least mine the idea for good drama, playing nuances the characters have never displayed before... Inevitably, the interesting dynamics give way to set-piece overload, [which] Kinberg marshals with efficiency rather than brio. Which could probably apply to the film as a whole.

Jennifer Lawrence and Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix

Overall, most critics seem to agree Dark Phoenix isn't the worst of Fox's X-Men films - but after misfires like The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Apocalypse, that isn't saying much. If anything, most reviewers appear to be disappointed by how middling Dark Phoenix is, from its set pieces to its treatment of the fascinating psychological aspects of Jean Grey's evolution into the movie's namesake. There are other issues raised here too, like the silliness of the X-Men's ages in the movie (recall that First Class' versions of Professor Xavier and Magneto are supposed to be thirty years older by the time Dark Phoenix picks up). Nevertheless, the biggest overarching complaint seems to be that Kinberg's second attempt at adapting The Dark Phoenix Saga gives rise to an unimaginative and otherwise unmemorable superhero adventure.

After 38 reviews, Dark Phoenix is sitting at 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. That's a lower number than any of Fox's previous X-Men films have on the site, but doesn't account for the average review rating. Regardless, the movie's gotten a pretty negative response out of the gate, and there's fair reason to suspect that general audiences won't enjoy it much more than critics. Fox is done with the mainline X-Men films either way; now that Disney's acquired the studio's movie and TV assets, it's only a matter of time before the franchise is rebooted for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And although Fox still has its New Mutants spinoff in the pipeline for 2020, it seems the First Class cast will finish their run on a weak note thanks to Dark Phoenix.

NEXT: The Complete X-Men Movie Timeline Explained

Source: Various [See the Above Links]

Key Release Dates
  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
  • New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020
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