Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: X-Men: Dark Phoenix

I’ll get straight to the point here. X-Men: Dark Phoenix (or Dark Phoenix in North America) is a better superhero film than I expected (and at the same time I never expected a faithful adaptation of the classic comic book storyline the Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) and Simon Kinberg‘s feature film directorial debut turned out to be a surprisingly solid effort. I really enjoyed this.

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X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the 2nd attempt by 20th Century Fox to adapt the Dark Phoenix saga for the big screen and I can say it is a brave effort. While it never attempted to fully and faithfully adapt all the elements of the classic storyline (note: that would require hundreds of millions of dollars more budget, more production time and at least two whole films to produce), the new movie is absolutely a better adaptation than X-Men: The Last Stand (which is an even worse movie by today’s standards).

As far as the current X-Men Cinematic Universe (starting with 2011’s X-Men: First Class), Dark Phoenix is very character-driven even though it has a huge cast. There was tremendous pressure behind the scenes on the part of Sophie Turner to portray Jean Grey struggling with her added powers and the good news is that she delivered very nicely! This new movie is clearly focused on Jean Grey whose emotions, struggles and acts of power are magnificently pulled off by Turner each time the screenplay requires her to act.

Turner is clearly more comfortable with playing as Jean Grey and it seems she paid close attention to the Dark Phoenix comics. Unlike Famke Jansen’s Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand, Turner cinematic act is more believable, more emotional and even more terrifying. There were moments to feel sorry for Jean Grey as her life turns upside-down plus there were times that she would be better off going far away into the deep void of the galaxy so that nobody else would get harmed by her. If you pay very close attention to Turner’s act, you will feel varied emotions along the way.

Turner is not the only standout. Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Tye Sheridan each played their respective roles (Beast, Charles Xavier and Cyclops) with more heart, more drama and more intensity. Through Hoult and McAvoy, you will relate more with them as the film makes gentle connections back to X-Men: First Class (why the time was formed, who was supposed to remain or go away, etc.). The conflict between Beast and Xavier that happened later (combined with the revelations from the past) dramatically blurs away the boundary that separates good and evil. As for Tye Sheridan, I see a lot more of the literary Cyclops in him this time and thanks to the script, he exceeds James Marsden’s Cyclops by a hundred a miles. Sheridan and Turner also have better on-screen chemistry as Cyclops and Jean Grey.

James McAvoy’s Xavier deserves everyone’s attention. He not only looks and feels like his comic book counterpart, he also clearly displayed how much the character has matured. McAvoy also successfully captured the on-screen aura of authority Patrick Stewart had in the first X-Men movies.

Michael Fassbender’s Magneto appears rather late into the film but that does not make him any less significant. As before, Fassbender is intense with playing his character and, more importantly, he contributed nicely into the story. Jennifer Lawrence portrayal of Mystique is the shortest one yet but before leaving the film, she delivered some nice lines (with some reconnecting to X-Men: First Class) and acted nicely. Fans of Nightcrawler and Storm will be happy to know that their roles become more significant in the late stage of the film. Lastly, Jessica Chastain‘s addition as Vuk was a nice addition. While others put her down as one-dimensional, which is true, it does not detract from the film at all. Even with lacking variety of character, Vuk still makes a strong villainess and she really acts alien. Vuk would stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

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This is one of many great looking visual effects of the Cerebro scenes.

When it comes to storytelling, this movie did not try to make an in-depth adaptation of all the elements of the Dark Phoenix Saga of comics. Instead, the filmmakers adapted a few elements of the literary classic (and even a few selected elements from X-Men: The Last Stand), focused on the present day X-Men (story is set in 1992), looked back occasionally at X-Men: First Class and made the most with what they have.

The result is a cinematic story about the X-Men now publicly recognized as legitimate mutants (and youths) with Charles Xavier having fully established a direct link with the President of the United States. After the rescue mission in space involving the solar flare, a race of shape-shifting aliens arrive on Earth with a secret agenda of their own. As mentioned earlier, Simon Kinberg surprised me with his directing. The storytelling, even with the slowest moments played, never felt dragging to me at all. The pace, in my experience, was between medium to fast. As this movie was written by Kinberg, Dark Phoenix is clearly his vision for the X-Men Cinematic Universe and he stamped his mark on it despite the fact that reshoots and story revising had to be done. If you are looking for humor, you really won’t find much as the story’s tone is intensely dramatic.

You want fun? X-Men: Dark Phoenix delivered solidly! This movie has more than enough spectacular content (action scenes, stunts, visual effects, etc.) that any moviegoer can enjoy! Very clearly the filmmakers consciously worked hard to deliver entertaining stuff to bounce back from the heavy drama. There was a lot of physical damage caused by Phoenix in her conflict with her teammates which is a solid start of her causing trouble to others. Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Xavier, Beast and Magneto used their respective abilities VERY EXTENSIVELY combined with high-octane stunt coordination which results several minutes of on-screen fun leading into the finale! The spectacle of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which was extensively done with a blistering pace, easily exceeds what was showcased in First Class, Apocalypse and even that of Days of Future Past!

As for those blink-and-you-will-miss-it visual moments, there were times that images shown on the big screen reminded me of Jim Lee’s X-Men. I won’t point out where they are or when they will come out but anyone who extensively read the X-Men comic books drawn by Jim Lee (who co-founded Image Comics and now works as DC Comics’ co-Publisher) will spot the technical fan service.

Last but not least is the music provided by the great Hans Zimmer and this film marks his return to the superhero movie genre. While the music he and his team provided here is nowhere as energetic nor as intense as that of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the music is still steps above that of X-Men: Apocalypse, X-Men: The Last Stand and even the popular X2: X-Men United. The highlight of Zimmer’s music is the tune played during the moments when Jean Grey’s tremendous power as Dark Phoenix was realized in that day-time encounter with the X-Men. That particular music really emphasized the danger she poses to others.

There were some issues about the movie that might be problematic or annoying to moviegoers, particularly superhero movie fans. For one thing, Simon Kinberg re-used certain elements from X-Men: The Last Stand for this new movie and that includes Jean Grey having a childhood problem and Charles Xavier getting involved to solve it only to be blamed for it many years later. There were even a few lines from the 2006 movie repeated.

Also questionable was the lack of an explanation regarding Jean Grey’s Phoenix Power in this film and the one we saw in X-Men: Apocalypse. If what she unleashed in the final battle with Apocalypse was not the Phoenix force, then that’s a major blunder by the creators in relation to this movie. Perhaps an extended cut of X-Men: Dark Phoenix will solve that.

Lastly there was the use of shaky camera photography during some moments with the action sequences. While they were temporary, they prevented the film’s strong spectacle from achieving perfection.

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Overall, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a thrilling, heavily dramatic and very solid superhero movie worthy of being the conclusion of the X-Men Cinematic Universe that 20th Century Fox first launched in 2000. From this point on, there is no guarantee we will see McAvoy and the gang return as the cinematic X-Men now that 20th Century Fox is fully controlled by the Walt Disney Company through Marvel Studios. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is not perfect but it strongly resonates with me as I am a long-time X-Men comic book reader. While others out there would bash this movie for not having the common elements of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, X-Men: DP has its own flavor and the filmmakers utilized what they had established in the X-Men Cinematic Universe since 2011. The reported reshoots may have prevented Kinberg and team from fully realizing their original vision of the Dark Phoenix story but still they succeeded in making a better Dark Phoenix adaptation captured on film.

If Marvel Studios would launch the X-Men through the Marvel Cinematic Universe and attempt a new and more ambitious Dark Phoenix adaptation of their own, it will take much longer and will cost them more time and money to do so. That’s something we may not see in the next decade. All the more reason to enjoy X-Men: Dark Phoenix now.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is highly recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more X-Men insight, check out my retro comic book review of X-Men #1 of 1991, my retro movie review of 2000’s X-Men, my retro review of X2: X-Men United and my review of Logan.

 

 

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3 Reasons To Anticipate X-Men: Dark Phoenix In Cinemas

Previously I expressed concern as to why X-Men: Dark Phoenix (opening in the Philippines on June 5 and in the United States on June 7) could end up as a disappointment just as the Walt Disney Company finally took over 20th Century Fox (which led people into believing that integration of the X-Men Cinematic Universe into the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be done instantly).

For one thing, the new movie is the first film of Simon Kinberg as director and to date his credentials include screenwriting, producing and working as a 2nd unit director in the very poor 2015 Fantastic Four movie. Also this movie is the 2nd cinematic adaptation of the classic comic book storyline and the first one from 2006 was bad and there were a few visual elements that the two films shared.

Still there are good reasons to watch this movie whether you are an X-Men fan or not. By now, Avengers: Endgame has satisfied moviegoers which easily makes X-Men: Dark Phoenix the superhero film to anticipate.

Why should you care about this? Here are my reasons (and, yes, I will watch it).

1). This new adaptation is looking more faithful to the Dark Phoenix Saga storyline than how X-Men: The Last Stand ever did – While it is unwise to expect a 100% faithful adaptation of the literary classic, X-Men: Dark Phoenix’s trailer showed the mutants fly into space for a mission, Jean Grey did something desperate and then something happened that changes her. This scene is very similar to what was shown in the comic books decades ago and considering the fact that the cinematic Jean Grey (played by Sophie Turner) unleashed her phoenix power in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, things are making sense. I also liked the shots in the trailers showing Cyclops getting very concerned with Jean Grey which parallels the comic book story.

If there are enough storytelling elements that link this new movie with the literary classic and they get executed nicely, it could make a satisfying experience to moviegoers who are familiar with the classic storyline as well as those who are unfamiliar.

2) Simon Kinberg just might have pulled-off a Dances With Wolves. What do I mean? I mean to say that Kinberg may have prepared himself a lot and somehow managed to not just direct the film efficiently (reminder: this is his directorial debut) but probably outdid himself on executing the scenes strongly, getting strong performances from his actors, carefully crafting the spectacle while maintaining focus on storytelling. As seen in Hollywood history, directorial debuts are often weak efforts of career movie directors so naturally the odds are against Kinberg. Still, Kinberg may have made a very solid directorial debut in comparison to Kevin Costner’s own first directorial effort with Dances With Wolves which grossed over $400 million worldwide and won several Academy Awards including Best Picture and, yes, Best Director! Of course, I’m not a filmmaker myself nor do I have access in Hollywood productions but I did my film research a lot and my Hollywood mentor Rusty Lemorande enlightened me on the history of directorial debuts. Very soon we will find out the true results of Kinberg’s directorial debut.

Surely enough, the executives of 20th Century Fox had their own reasons to hire Kinberg as director despite his lack of movie directing experience.

3) This could be the end of the X-Men Cinematic Universe as we know it. Believe it or not, this film franchise that 20th Century Fox launched is almost twenty years old! Never mind the fact that 20th Century Fox was acquired at last by the Walt Disney Company. I have this strong feeling that the filmmakers did their best to make X-Men: Dark Phoenix a solid film on its own and, possibly, worthy of being the final film of the current cinematic universe. If you love the X-Men cast of Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, then you should watch them perform in this new movie because there is no guarantee that you will see them reprise their roles in future movies under the umbrella of the Walt Disney Company through Marvel Studios.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a few weeks away from opening in cinemas worldwide. Watch out for it as well as my review.

For your viewing enjoyment, here’s the movie poster.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Dark Phoenix (X-Men) Deliver The Fun In Cinemas This June?

The newest movie poster of Dark Phoenix (or X-Men: Dark Phoenix in some other countries) has been released and so has the second movie trailer which you can watch right here.

Previously scheduled for a November 2018 release, Dark Phoenix is all set to to fill up the movie screens – including IMAX – in cinemas around the world this June and fans of the X-Men movies developed by 20th Century Fox will finally be getting their fill of fun.

The new movie is the 2nd cinematic adaptation of the classic Dark Phoenix storyline of the X-Men comics. It has superstar Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops and Jessica Chastain as an alien shapeshifter. Given the fact that 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past erased X-Men: The Last Stand (the unfaithful Dark Phoenix adaptation) from canon, the 2019 X-Men film will be the DP cinematic story to see.

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Space travel confirmed for the newest cinematic adaptation of Dark Phoenix. There was space travel also in the comic books of the Dark Phoenix storyline.

Dark Phoenix is set in the year 1992 (9 years after X-Men: Apocalypse) and Charles Xavier’s team of mutants face their most formidable and powerful foe yet who happens to be one of their own…Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean gets hit by a mysterious cosmic force. As a result, she gains tremendous power but struggles to contain it. What makes things more difficult is her raging emotions.

At least from its premise, the movie has potential. I myself am an X-Men fan as well as a long-time comic book collector. The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of my favorite storylines of not just the X-Men but of all superhero comics in general. I could never forget the very powerful storytelling pulled off by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. The Dark Phoenix Saga in comics has always been very engaging to read on my part.

Within that storyline, the stakes were raised very high and each member of the team – Charles Xavier, Colossus Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and others – each had a nice contribution to the overall development of the team as it struggled with the moral complications related to Jean Grey’s struggle with Dark Phoenix not to mention her being responsible for the countless deaths of inhabitants of planets destroyed. Also included in the saga was the Hellfire Club

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Quicksilver moving towards a very powerful Jean Grey.

Naturally I cannot expect Simon Kinberg and his team to pull off a 100% faithful adaptation of the literary storyline. As such he and his creative team have a story of conflict and division that looks like will challenge each X-Men member personally as their team struggles with Jean Grey.

The newest movie trailer is an improvement over the previous one and now the cinematic plot looks clearer. I just hope that the marketing team at 20th Century Fox did not reveal potential surprises from the movie.

As much as I enjoyed the X-Men movies and comics, there are a few signs of concern that can potentially make Dark Phoenix a major disappointment.

The first sign is that this movie is Simon Kinberg’s directorial debut. Checking his record on IMDB.com, he worked as a screenwriter, producer and as Second Unit Director (notably on the pathetic 2015 Fantastic Four movie). I’m not putting Kinberg down but those credentials don’t convince me he could effectively direct a solid film. As I learned in film school from my Hollywood mentor almost 15 years ago, the film debut of a Hollywood director is often the worst film as he makes more films.

Many times in Hollywood, the director’s 2nd movie turned out not only a major improvement over his/her first film but also a critical and/or commercial hit. Look at the 2009 Star Trek movie which was J.J. Abrams‘ 2nd movie as director. That was a critical hit and it grossed $385,680,446 worldwide. Remember when Iron Man 3 made $1,214,811,252 in global ticket sales in 2013? That movie was Shane Black‘s 2nd directorial effort!

I can only hope that Kinberg can prove me wrong by making a really great and fun movie despite the tremendous odds stacked against him. It is very rare that a movie directed by a first-time director would become a hit. Maybe Kinberg can pull off a Dances With Wolves with Dark Phoenix.

The next sign is that key storytelling elements from the 2006 disappointment X-Men: The Last Stand seem to be resurfacing in the new movie according to the latest trailer released today. Those elements include Charles Xavier taking special responsibility of Jean Grey when she was a little girl. Jean Grey becoming unstable with her tremendous power which affects her relationship with the X-Men. Also if you look closely at the movie poster posted below, you will notice Jean Grey wearing (on the other half) a coat that resembles what the X-Men: Last Stand Jean Grey (then played by Famke Jansen) wore.

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The official movie poster from 20th Century Fox.

Still there is potential in the movie to deliver something new as far as storytelling is concerned. Key portions of the latest trailer show Cyclops showing greater concern for Jean Grey (which reminds me of what I read in The Dark Phoenix Saga) and he even pushes Charles Xavier to answer his questions. Xavier could only say “I don’t know what to do!”

It has been reported that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige reviewed the script of Dark Phoenix although it’s not necessarily a sure sign that the X-Men cinematic universe will end and somehow the X-Men will become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) within the movie.

Even though there are uncertainties, I intend to watch Dark Phoenix in the local cinemas this June. The uncertainties actually motivate me watch and find out the answers if there are any. Also I want to experience again the fun of watching Fassbender, McAvoy, Lawrence and Hoult reprising their roles. Sophie Turner meanwhile proved to be good as Jean Grey in X-Men: Apocalypse and I really want to see her portray the character struggling with the Phoenix. I am confident she can do a much better job than Famke Jansen.

Now if only the clock could move faster…


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.