‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ review: Not as bad as most people claim

A funereal swan song for the X-Men series

If you follow entertainment news, you’ll probably have heard that X-Men: Dark Phoenix tanked on its opening weekend, with both critics and audiences panning it.

Here’s a dissenting opinion, coming from someone who’s had a bad feeling about the movie for months: The movie is actually not as terrible as reviews have made it out to be, or that I expected.

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Some of the action scenes were pretty good, in particular Magneto straining to hold a helicopter and helping the soldiers to escape while Jean Grey tries to destroy it, and all the mutants banding together to fight against the aliens on the train.

I’ve heard complaints that Sophie Turner doesn’t have the pizazz to pull off Jean Grey, but I thought she wasn’t bad actually. She looked pretty badass at the end when she was using her powers to protect her friends.

I also quite liked Jessica Chastain as the villain, though I’m not in favour of her overly blonde look. But it does make her look suitably otherworldly. I wish she was in a better-received superhero movie though, because her talents deserve more.

Jessica Chastain as the alien Vuk in X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Jessica Chastain as the alien Vuk in X-Men: Dark Phoenix

My favourite thing about the X-Men series is Erik and Charles’ frenemy bromance. So the ending scene with Erik and Charles in Paris as friends playing chess was satisfying.

I like Dark Phoenix better than X-Men: Apocalypse. I can’t remember much about the storyline of Apocalypse, but I distinctly remember disliking it. Or at least, I remember it with dislike.

The score caught my attention, and I finally knew why when I saw the credits — Hans Zimmer composed it. He’s composed several of my favourite scores, such as the ones for Inception and Pirates of the Caribbean, and even composed beautiful scores for movies I wouldn’t remember otherwise (Interstellar, Rush, The Da Vinci Code). I’m still amazed he hasn’t won more Oscars. (His only Oscar so far is for The Lion King.) Variety’s review says that Dark Phoenix “attains a note of ominous majesty”, which is a great way to describe the score.

Do I think that Dark Phoenix should have had an opening weekend of over US$100 million, like most superhero movies do nowadays? No. But US$32.8 million is really sad for a movie whose budget was supposedly US$200 million, and it doesn’t deserve the amount of hate it’s getting. A US$50 million opening wouldn’t have helped it earn back its money, but its losses would be less.

Though to be frank, the X-Men movies have never been on the level of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The best performer in the series is X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014, and even so, its box office of US$747 million is less than that of Guardians of the Galaxy, the weird out-of-left-field MCU movie which opened the same year and grossed US$773 million.

Here’s to seeing how Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and his team improves its lot in the distant future. (Fun fact: Kevin Feige started off as X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner’s assistant, and he was able to give input on the early X-Men movies, so you can bet he’s ecstatic that both X-Men and Fastastic Four are under his roof now.)