Review: Dark Phoenix

The flaw in the X-Men saga that outsiders can’t quite get past is the mutant pretense that is its whole reason for being. Though the idea of mutants being social outcasts despite their super powers and tendency to use them for good is a powerful one, the kind of poetic license exerted in describing those powers becomes strictly arbitrary after you sample a few characters. It’s as if the creators simply make up an ability that fits whatever story they wanted to tell, and after a while you have so many super powers that there seems little point in extrapolating on them.

But it is a saga, and in this supposed final chapter (though there are rumors there’s at least one more) the viewer is bombarded not only with more super powers than you can throw a chunk of kryptonite at, but complex interrelationships between protagonists of equal narrative weight and references to past (and future) events in the saga that are left unexplained for those of us who may not have seen them (or may have simply forgotten).

With Wolverine MIA and all the original X-Men replaced by their younger incarnations (the story is set in the early 90s), the protagonist is the iconic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), whose telekinetic and telepathic abilities make her the ultimate X-person, so to speak, in that she can pretty much make anything possible. She’s thus sent out into space to rescue a group of stranded astronauts and while doing so is blasted with a particularly potent dose of radiation that heightens her powers immeasurably. Unable to control these new powers, partly because her mental state is shaky in the first place (childhood trauma that’s taken for granted), the other X-Men, including their leader, Dr. Xavier (James McAvoy), grow to fear and mistrust her, thus deepening her paranoia. As it turns out, she is being manipulated by an exterrestrial group of evildoers led by a shapeshifter played with icy nonchalance by Jessica Chastain. Their plan is to use Grey’s powers for their own ends, which necessitate the end of the earth.

Needless to say, the action scenes are thrilling without really getting us anywhere in terms of plot development, since everything is dialed up to 11 from the start. Those who have been following the saga raptly from the start may find it all cathartic, but the rest of us will regret having missed (or, again, forgotten) an earlier chapter that might have made sense of it all. Or maybe we don’t care in the first place.

Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Toho Cinemas Shibuya (050-6868-5002), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024), Shinjuku Wald 9 (03-5369-4955), Shinjuku Picadilly (050-6861-3011).

Dark Phoenix home page in Japanese.

photo (c) 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film

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