❉ Does this Phoenix rise from the ashes or should you James McAvoid it?
Another month, another superhero film and it’s Marvel again with X-Men: Dark Phoenix (or perhaps that should be X-Women as one character quips). Tasked with concluding this particular chapter of the series and making his feature debut, director Simon Kinberg, who wrote some of the previous X-Men films, creates a solid, if slightly uninspired, supernatural action film borrowing one of the most popular storylines from the comics.
It’s 1992 and our heroes are launched into space on a rescue mission. As events unfold Jean Grey (Turner) is exposed to a cosmic force and her very particular set of skills are increased dramatically. As she struggles to contain these new powers there are devastating consequences for her (nobody hurts the pride of Miss Jean Grey) and the team as she attempts to uncover the truth about her mysterious past and her relationship with the man who raised her, Professor Charles Xavier (McAvoy).
Meanwhile, a race of aliens known as the D’Bari are hunting Jean to obtain the energy within her hoping to rebuild their shattered world. Arriving on earth they rudely interrupt Jessica Chastain’s dinner party, take over her body (leaving her looking spectacularly like a member of the Malfoy family from Harry Potter) and begin their pursuit. Whilst she looks suitably sinister, Chastain’s character is underdeveloped and ultimately disappointing.
The rest of the stellar ensemble cast are all given a fair amount of screen time and though Turner and McAvoy impress, Nicholas Hoult has by far the more interesting journey. His ironically named Beast brings vulnerability and warrants empathy as he works through his personal demons.
Kinberg produces some decent set-pieces including the space rescue and a frenetic sequence on a speeding train, but there are too many scenes of laboured dialogue where the pace dips. Combating this, the energy lifts when Magneto (Fassbender) joins the party. Now living in a commune with other mutants, we get to see his vengeful side in full flow as he deals with his own devastating circumstances.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a satisfying, yet standard, farewell to Marvel’s misfit mutants and leaves the doors of the School for Gifted Youngsters open and ready to usher in next year’s fresh batch of pupils with The New Mutants.
Oh, and don’t hang around for an extra scene during or after the credits because there isn’t one.
❉ ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ (12A) is in cinemas now. Director: Simon Kinberg. Starring: James McAvoy, Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Jessica Chastain and Tye Sheridan. 113m
❉ Ben Peyton is an actor, voiceover artist, husband and dad. Credits include Band Of Brothers, Holby City, Emmerdale and he was a regular in The Bill. You can find Ben on Twitter – @BenPeyton007 or at his website – www.benpeytonreviews.com.