Over nearly two decades and 11 movies (if you include the Deadpool sequels), the X-Men cinematic saga has had its highs (Logan, X2) and lows (Apocalypse, The Last Stand). Unfortunately the 12thinstalment – rumoured to be the last to feature this line-up of actors – falls into the latter category, bogged down by a humourless script and dull plot that struggles to fill the movie’s two hour running time.
Borrowing one of the best-loved X-Men comic plots, the story focuses on the telepathic and telekinetic Jean Grey (Turner). Along with Raven/Mystique (Lawrence), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), she’s on hand to dash about and save the world whenever Professor Xavier (McAvoy), who has a hotline to the US President, requests it.
Unfortunately, their latest mission – to save astronauts spinning around in a space shuttle after encountering what appears to be a solar flare – goes a bit wrong, and while the astronauts and other X-men are fine, Jean absorbs all the burning space stuff. It soon becomes apparent that she’s gained more than just a healthy glow from being that close, and before you know it she’s more strong than she’s ever been and has what looks like fire running through her veins.
It’s probably not the best time to make her angry but Professor X, who has become a bit of an egotistical jerk since the previous movie, Apocalypse, does it anyway. So now Jean is a fiery, angry power he can’t control – the Dark Phoenix of the title – and, to make matters worse, there are some aliens popping up earth, led by Jessica Chastain’s blond fashionista, who want Jean’s power for themselves.
Unfortunately all of this plays out with the pizzazz of a bowl of soggy cereal. All the actors – and with Fassbender, Turner, McAvoy et al on board, there are some pretty heavy-hitters – give it their best but the build up to Jean going all vengeful is predictable (including a ‘surprise’ death that really isn’t) and the last half is just a lot of CGI chucked at the screen to give our heroes something to punch.
A subplot about Xavier getting too big for his boots is resolved too easily (though at least Lawrence gets a snarky line about it always being the women who rescue the men, so perhaps the ‘X-Men’ moniker is a bit redundant) but the biggest problem apart from the general lack of excitement is the glaring lack of fun about it all.
You’ll yearn for Wolverine’s deadpan delivery (and for Wolverine himself, whose electric presence would have jollied things up a bit) and pray that at least Magneto gets something wry to say (he doesn’t), but most of all you’ll just long for this lacklustre instalment to come to a quick end.
Is X-Men: Dark Phoenix suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is a 12A certificate in the UK so is aimed at older children and adults.
There are numerous fight scenes featuring mutants and aliens, but while characters are injured in these scenes, there is little blood shown.
One major character dies, and their wound is visible. The death of the character may upset some viewers.
In the early scenes, there is an explosion in space and Jean absorbs the fire and smoke, but it is not frightening.
The most upsetting scene is a realistic car crash at the beginning of the movie.
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