Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” —John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton
Sophie Turner — Jean Grey / The Phoenix
Jennifer Lawrence — Raven / Mystique
James McAvoy — Professor Charles Xavier
Jessica Chastain — an alien shapeshifter who manipulates the Phoenix
Michael Fassbender — Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto
Nicholas Hoult — Hank McCoy / Beast
Evan Peters — Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver
Alexandra Shipp — Ororo Munroe / Storm
Tye Sheridan — Scott Summers / Cyclops
Kodi Smit-McPhee — Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler
Evan Jonigkeit — Mortimer Toynbee / Toad
Andrew Stehlin — Red Lotus
Kota Eberhardt — Selene
See all »
20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Bad Hat Harry Productions
See all »
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
“Every hero has a dark side”
After the events of “Age of Apocalypse” the X-Men are finally recognized as heroes. So much so in fact, that when a new Space Shuttle mission goes horribly wrong, the President of the United States calls on Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his young team of mutants for help.
There, on the edge of space, the X-Men encounter a solar storm unlike any ever seen before, and in the process of rescuing the astronauts the ‘force’ is infused into the very being of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). The strange energy gives her a seemingly new lease on life and so they begin to call Jean, Phoenix. However, the power quickly makes her lose her sanity and imperils the lives of everyone around her.
A shape shifting alien race named the D’bari, led by an enigmatic white haired female (Jessica Chastain), has been tracking the ‘energy’ through space with the intention to either destroy it, or harness it for their own purposes. Their malevolence is made clear as they leave a trail of dead, and crushed bodies in their wake.
Can Xavier’s X-Men find Jean before she harms anyone and thereby causing the world to fear and hunt mutants once more? Why are the D’bari so fixated on capturing the ‘Phoenix force’ at all costs? Will Jean retain enough of her reason to save her friends from herself?
The potential conclusion to the X-Men ‘first class’ storyline unfolds much like the panels from a comic book; quickly told and with lots of action and therein lies the film’s core strength. On the flip side, its weakness is the narrative and the one dimensional characters who are limited to reacting to the moment and reciting one-liners that alternatingly elicit audience cheers and the occasional groans. The alien D’bari are barely given a backstory, which is a shame considering they were one of the more interesting elements that could have benefited the film. Rated PG-13, this final entry from Fox Studios before its Disney acquisition has its share of questionable material.
Violence—Heavy. Bloodshed is kept to a minimum but people and aliens are both injured and die in a variety of graphic ways including; being shot, telekinetically and physically crushed to death, tortured through the force of an alien’s mental power alone, run over by a train, explosions, concussive blasts, strangled, necks broken, ripped by claws, impaled through the neck and body and finally disintegrated. The heinous actions are not limited to aliens as the film’s heroes, Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and even the devout Catholic Kurt /Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are shown mercilessly cutting loose on their enemies.
An early flashback shows how Jean, when she was 8-years old, inadvertently caused the family car to crash killing her parents with blood shown trickling down her mother’s unresponsive face. This scene can be particularly distressing to younger children. Later a team member is impaled and the scene lingers to show blood from the fatal wound. The violent content and circumstances should be enough to dissuade parents with children from attending.
Language—Moderate. The Lord’s name is taken in vain 3x’s (G*d, G*dd**n, Jes** Chr***), sh** 2x’s and the f-word was shouted defiantly by Scott/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) once.
Sex/Nudity—Mild. Jean is wearing a tight fitting top while being examined by Beast and is shown briefly kissing Scott.
Alcohol/Drug Use—Minor. Professor Xavier is shown drinking at his desk while Beast berates him. Later, an old man is drinking at a bar, only it is really Jean projecting an illusion into the minds of those around her since she is still a minor.
Political messaging in the movie is given several moments, the first of which was the ‘superiority’ of women, as when Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) claims they should change the name of the X-Men, since the ladies are doing all the saving. Evolutionary theory is the backbone of the X-Men’s ‘mutant’ existence, but it is also promulgated subtly within character’s word choices as in when one says they are ‘evolving’ instead of just growing in how they think. Lastly, God’s existence is mocked when the alien explains that the ‘cosmic force’ that is inside Jean, is in fact the “spark that gave life to the universe.”
The Word of God has a lot to say on several topics expressed in “Dark Phoenix” such as on sacrificial love, honoring parents, and our sinful nature.
Sacrificial love— Professor Xavier doesn’t hesitate to put his students in peril in order to save others. Sadly, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) doesn’t understand when she scolds him about, “Risking our lives to save theirs!” When Jesus was asked which two Commandments were the most important he cited love for God first, but followed up,
“The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” —Mark 12:31
Honoring Parents— Professor Xavier loves his students as though they were his own children, and many, in turn, look up to him as their surrogate father. This includes Hank/Beast, Scott/Cyclops, Ororo/Storm and his foster sister, Raven/Mystique. Unfortunately, each one defies the Professor to the extent that he even begins to doubts himself. The Holy Scripture could not be clearer on this.
“Honor your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on the earth.” —Ephesians 6:2
Sinful Nature— Interestingly, Jean seeks out Magneto to learn how he had managed to cease hurting people. He admits that vengeance never made him feel better, so he stopped seeking it. And yet, when the authorities had killed his wife and daughter in the previous movie he reverted back to form in order to hurt those that had hurt him. How human it is to believe that through our own will we can become ‘better’ only to realize it is temporary. The apostle Paul wrote of his personal struggle with a sinful nature, which all of us can relate to.
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” —Romans 7:15-20
Director Simon Kinberg manages to deliver an entertaining, if somber, B-movie as evidenced by some of the characters dialog, as well as the sneaking suspicion that he missed filming several pages worth of script. Why does Jean have to become evil? Has she become possessed by an entity as her behavior suggests? Why does she threaten the lives of all her close friends, her family yet cooperate with aliens she doesn’t know? And lastly, didn’t Jean already become the Phoenix during the previous film’s climax as she battled Apocalypse?
“Dark Phoenix” is a film whose appeal will primarily be for an audience already invested in these characters from the previous films and, frankly, those who enjoy superhero films. Coming on the heels of “Avenger’s Endgame” only serves to highlight the better storytelling of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) by comparison. Ultimately, the hopelessness Charles Xavier experiences cannot help but be shared by some in the viewing audience. Inappropriate for younger audiences.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.