Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V14
MTRCB rating: PG
Jean is eight, in a car with her parents. She can’t control her telekinetic powers. She flips their car in the highway, instantly killing her mother. Professor X (James McAvoy) who runs a school for X-Men or mutants, takes her in. Fast forward. Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is with a team of X-Men led by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). They save all the human astronauts in a ship spinning out of control. As Jean steadies the ship, a big ball of fire explodes, and Jean absorbs all the light and force. She survives, to the disbelief of her fellow X-Men who now call her Phoenix (like the bird that dies and is born again). The explosion turns Phoenix to an all-powerful mind-control mutant, and once again, Jean cannot master her power. And there’s a band of aliens that are out to get that power to save their race, led by Vuk (Jessica Chastain). Jean has to decide: keep the power and wield it. But for whom and for what?
“The women,” Mystique says, “are always saving the men around here, you might want to think about changing the name to X-Women.” Leave that to Jennifer Lawrence to inject women power in the script. That’s probably the only quotable from the movie, because the rest is hackneyed. Since Stan Lee, the creator of many much-adored superheroes of the Marvel universe died, we’ve said goodbye to the original cast of his creations as franchise mergers and acquisitions happen. It was adieu to the original Avengers cast, and now with Dark Phoenix, we say farewell to the X-Men: First Class of McAvoy, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, and Jennifer Lawrence. Now when superheroes say goodbye, we expect a bang and a heartbreak. And we expect them, new and old, to save the universe, because that’s what they’re meant to do. In this movie, our superheroes do less saving, more dealing with their inner conflicts and lots of close-ups of conflicted characters. The original cast moves us, but Sophie Turner, fresh from Game of Thrones, needs to shed off a bit of the android look. As with the action scenes, the rendering of special effects and editing make them hard to follow, and equally hard to notice the music.
Power threatens to suck in Professor X. To make the X-Men accepted by society, he embraces acclaim and puts his team in danger. He rewires Jean’s brain to bury her bitter memories and harness her telekinesis—a big ethical issue in science. His conflicts are subtle, and his faith in mutants and his desire to save the world from evil make the gray areas disappear. The most difficult choice is with Jean Grey. She too has power, more than she can wield and want. She chooses to use it to save her friends and family, and that kills her (technically no, because she’s the Phoenix). Professor X eventually recognizes his grievous fault, and there’s a coming home to peace and reconciliation, even between Magneto and Professor X who, before their retirement, stood at opposing poles of power. These are all good themes, best discerned by young adults but not children, especially because there is death of a parent involved, the death is cause by a child, and another parent resigns from his responsibility. The value of watching Dark Phoenix is in the opportunity to weigh these lessons against the laws of justice and concern for others that are inscribed in the human heart, laws that give us a sense of rightness about them.—MOE
Director: Simon Kinberg Lead Cast: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence Screenwriter: Simon Kinberg Producers: Todd Hallowell, Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner Editor: Lee Smith Musical Director: Hans Zimmer Cinematographer: Mauro Fiore Genre: Sci/Fi, Adventure Distributor: Warner Bros. Location: Canada, USA Running Time: 1 hr 53 min