Look, everyone gets it. The X-Men are not (yet) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the run of X-Men films over the last two decades has had its share of ups (Logan, X-Men: First Class) and downs (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: The Last Stand). But with the merger of Disney and 20th Century Fox complete and the X-Men moving to Marvel Studios, Dark Phoenix should have been the final sendoff for the franchise and specifically the current iteration of actors and characters that have inhabited the roles since First Class. But writer and director Simon Kinberg somehow fails to understand this despite having been involved with three previous X-Men films. Instead of a natural and cathartic close to a very long and complicated timeline, Dark Phoenix is a cheap, shallow, and wholly forgettable entry into the series.
The film struggles across the board making it very difficult to find anything to praise that doesn’t come across as backhanded. And for every one moment of praise, Kinberg serves up four to five times as many moments that can be heavily criticized. If I write that Fassbender and McAvoy do their damndest to bring legitimate acting and weight to the film, I must also write that even those two came across as lesser forms of their previous selves and that everyone other performance ranged from stiff to laughable. This is to no fault of the cast. We have seen them turn in strong performances in other films and even other entries in this franchise. But the dialogue and direction they are given in Dark Phoenix left them no chance. If I write that some of the effects looked cool then I also have to write that sometimes the film felt as though it was on a made-for-TV budget. If I write that some of the subplots around the human flaws of these superheroes almost worked, I have to then write about how most of the interactions between the characters are stilted and entire plot points — even characters — are unexplained or severely underdeveloped.
Whether Dark Phoenix is the worst X-Men film to date will certainly be the subject of many upcoming debates. But it is undoubtedly a top contender and the fact that Kinberg has been involved in three of the four worst films in the series should be enough to keep him away from any and all future comic book properties. It is truly sad that a franchise as well known as X-Men has been sent off, at least temporarily, on such an abysmal final note.