Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Reel Snippet – Dark Phoenix

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Summary: In the 90s, the X-Men were riding high as celebrities, acting as positive examples of mutants for the general public. But on a mission to save a space shuttle from an oncoming cosmic storm, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) takes the full-force of the storm. She nearly dies, but then finds her powers dramatically enhanced and her emotions a little high. Unfortunately, it also demolishes psychic blocks that Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) had set up in her mind regarding the death of her parents, causing her to lash out and hurt a lot of people. Xavier and the X-Men are searching for her to help her while Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and his group want to hunt her down for revenge over someone’s death. But there’s a third group that wants to find her: a race of shapeshifting aliens called the D’bari led by Vuk (Jessica Chastain) have come to Earth to harness the cosmic power within her for their own desires. Only time will tell who wins, who loses, and who burns.

Review: Dark Phoenix… bugged me. It felt like a movie with a lot of ideas that crashed into each other without being developed or given enough room to breathe. We’ve got the whole issue of Jean being burdened with unimaginable power, the X-Men having celebratory status, and aliens secretly invading Earth, but the movie half-a**es all of these plots instead of whole-a**ing just one. It’s really depressing because, for the end of the Fox-produced X-Men movie franchise, it comes off as a limp, lifeless squib to send this era on its way out, punctuated by incredibly flat characterization, a dangerous lack of chemistry, and just an all-around unsatisfying and unpleasant feeling throughout it.

Let me tackle the first issue that I had with the film: the pointless, absolutely manufactured conflict between Charles and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). She’s angry at him for becoming a celebrity and spokesperson for mutantkind, implying that he’s a glory hound. Here’s the thing: groups like mutants, who some consider a threat to the world, need good publicity and people to represent them to the press and general public. I do not buy that Charles is doing this for attention nor do I sympathize with Mystique when she bluntly asks him when the last time he risked his life with the team. Dude… he’s in a wheelchair! What is he supposed to do in the heat of battle?! Also, it’s kinda funny how quick the government went from loving the X-Men to setting up mutant detention facilities. Maybe it’s realistic, but it sure didn’t feel organic.

Here’s another gripe that really got my goat: the X-Men are terrible at their job of protecting humanity. When they eventually get into a scuffle with Magneto, it seems like they kind of forget that they’re doing it in a crowded New York street full of civilians. I’m no training instructor, but I feel like good ol’ Chuck Xavier would have made it a point to tell Cyclops and Storm not to fire optic blasts willy nilly or call down blizzards in the middle of the people they’re trying to save. Maybe they could have done a better job if the filmmakers hadn’t decided to take Quicksilver (Evan Peters), one of the most popular characters in these new installments, out of commission halfway through the movie. Seriously, talk about two boneheaded decisions that came back to bite people.

Speaking of Quicksilver, no, the movie does not address the giant metal elephant in the room that he is Magneto’s son. We’ve had it teased for several movies now and at the finish line, we leave the thread dangling like a starving tapeworm. On a similar note, we get no hint whatsoever that Nightcrawler and Mystique are related, not even after [SPOILERS] Mystique gets killed off brutally and unceremoniously to show how high the stakes were. [SPOILERS OVER] It’s the missing interpersonal connections that really drag this movie down as that’s part of the X-Men franchise’s DNA. Even Scott and Jean’s relationship seems kind of flaccid, which is bad when it’s supposed to illustrate how much Jean has to lose.

On a slightly related note, I couldn’t help but noticed that all of the X-Men got called by their normal names… except Storm (Alexandra Shipp). They called Cyclops “Scott” (Tye Sheridan), Nightcrawler “Kurt” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Mystique “Raven”, and so on, but they never did the same for Storm. Her name isn’t that hard either. It’s Ororo. Were the actors charging by the syllable? Come on! It’s literally the first few words of “Row Row Row Your Boat” without the first “r!”

Going forward, my feminist senses were tingling something fierce while sitting through this film. Something about Jean’s turn to the dark side really irks me and part of it was that it seemed to be framed as “Jean’s emotions make her dangerous.” Like, careful of those women and their emotions or else their PMS will destroy the world. What Charles did to her was bad enough, you didn’t have to go with the whole “the cosmic force is making her emotions erratic” angle. It’s like the filmmakers were trying to absolve Jean of wrongdoing by making her actions the fault of her powers, but the end result gives Jean no agency until the end as she’s bounced around from place to place with people either using her or her powers going out of control. That’s not even getting into the aforementioned death and how close that feels to being a “women in refrigerators” scenario. Also, Mystique’s line of “Maybe the team should be called ‘X-Women’ because the girls always seem to save the men” is that rare combination of untrue, contrived, and condescending that seems to add fuel to anti-feminist arguments.

But of course, with movies like these, it all falls apart at the end. Brace yourselves.


Following an escape from a prisoner transport train, Jean and crew come face to face with the D’bari. Jean then proceeds to disintegrate all of them in a sequence that’s less cool or awesome and more “watching someone effortlessly play a video game with the cheat codes on.” Captain Marvel at least broke a sweat and took some hits when she was dishing out the beatdowns. Of course, everything changes when Vuk, who grabbed some of the Phoenix Force earlier, comes in and when Jean tries to dust her Infinity War style, she puts Cyclops in danger of being torn apart… for some reason. Vuk says that Jean can’t control this power, which seems like horse apples to me since she was controlling it pretty well a minute ago… so Jean just flies her up to the stratosphere and unleashes enough power to destroy them both… except not really because Jean’s narration implies that she still exists somehow. Rushed and sloppy doesn’t even begin to describe it.


So is there anything positive about this movie? Well… I’ve been keeping my ear to the ground and discovered that quite a few people relate to Jean’s situation in this movie. I’ve heard people with trauma, bipolar, borderline, and other issues identify with Jean and how her outbursts unintentionally hurt people around them. It doesn’t hurt that Sophie Turner delivers a knockout performance and sell all the pain Jean is going through. Maybe if the movie had doubled down on that aspect and helped us all understand Jean’s struggles the way that Love, Simon took us into the mind of a closeted gay teen so well, I might be kinder to it. We don’t need forced drama between characters or aliens with vaguely defined powers that can shrug off whole clips of bullets from automatic rifles but go down when someone stabs them with a knife. In the words of the great Ron Swanson (that I alluded to at the beginning), “Never half-a** two things, whole-a** one thing.”

On the whole, this isn’t the worst X-Men movie (that honor is firmly held by X-Men Origins: Wolverine), but it’s certainly the least — the least thought-out, the least rewarding, and all with the least effort put in. They didn’t have that epic X-Men theme that I always look forward to. And apparently I’m not the only one that thinks so as Simon Kinberg, the film’s writer/director/producer, takes full blame for the movie not connecting with audiences and apparently there were numerous issues behind the scenes that made the film collapse on itself. It also happens to be the first X-Men film to bomb at the box office… which really sucks. Although I admit to be head over heels for how the MCU does things, it gives me no pleasure to see what is essentially a competing franchise go out like this. It’s all so depressing and not just because the movie was shot mostly in the dark with a lot of unpleasant events. I love the X-Men and I want people to get the same joy and connection from them as I did in the 90s. Here’s hoping that whatever comes next, it’s better than this… dud.

Fun Tidbit: The X-Men films have been notorious for eschewing their comic costumes, but this film marks the first time (excluding the Deadpool movies) that one has appeared in a comics-accurate costume onscreen: Dazzler, the mutant singing at the nighttime party played by Halston Sage, appears in her classic silver disco getup that she’s become famous for.

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