Review: Dark Phoenix

Evan Peters and Sophie Turner in “Dark Phoenix.”
Evan Peters and Sophie Turner in “Dark Phoenix.”

After X-Woman Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) survives a cataclysmic accident in space, her body incubates a godlike and uncontrollable power. Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) face off again, and Jean is hunted by a boring race of alien shapeshifters who want to take over the world, or blow it up, or something.

That “Dark Phoenix” is neither gratingly edgy (like “Batman v Superman”) nor dripping with bathos (like “Doctor Strange”) immediately places it above many Marvel and most DC movies. The first act is a pleasure, with lots of flashy melodrama but no actual cruelty. The action scenes of “Dark Phoenix” succeed, somehow, in juggling a dozen-odd characters, each with distinctive powers, and inventing clever ways to put Professor X’s telepathy, Nightcrawler’s teleportation and Quicksilver’s super-speed to use.

It’s well known that comic-book movies suffer from featuring villains more interesting than their heroes. Not here. The villainous D’Bari aliens look like tree bark, scowl a lot and say things like, “Soon, your world will be ours.” Anyone who remembers them a week after seeing the film is a certified eidetiker.

Despite much grimacing and thousand-yard-staring, this is basically an unserious film. The climax grows somewhat leaden as it insists the viewer actually care about Jean Grey’s inner torment and the D’Bari’s doomsday plan. “Dark Phoenix” unfortunately lacks the light touch of “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

This is not a great movie, or even an ambitious movie, but it is an entertaining movie. Nothing wrong with that.