"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Dark Phoenix

Man, I guess they’re considered kinda antiquated now, society has moved on, but I still love the X-MEN movies. Here is the only super hero series to span the entire post-BLADE era until now. Their first movie was eight years before IRON MAN started the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Put another way, it was only three years after BATMAN & ROBIN seemed like it might’ve ended Hollywood’s affair with comic book movies.

You super heroes now a days don’t know how easy you have it. The X-Men come from a time when the filmmakers felt they had to give them black leather outfits and make a disparaging joke about yellow spandex if they wanted audiences to take them seriously. And I’m pretty sure they were right. But seven movies and five spin-offs later (not including next year’s NEW MUTANTS) they’ve fought the government, giant robots and an ancient god-like tyrant, solved the Cuban Missile crisis, traveled through time, died and come back to life, gone to space, and yes, even wore yellow uniforms. From “maybe we better call them by their first names” to nobody batting an eye at a six-member space mission team with 50% blue representation. That’s progress.

Through much of that the movies retained members of a brilliant ensemble centered on the obvious but perfect (famous bald man Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier) and the counter-intuitive but ingenious (Australian stage actor Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Shakespearian Ian McKellan as Magneto). Though this final chapter is the new timeline younger cast of FIRST CLASS, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and APOCALYPSE, it ends storylines begun 19 year ago.

But mainly it redoes one already used in the unpopular X-MEN 3: THE LAST STAND, which combined a version of the famous “The Dark Phoenix Saga” comics story (January-October 1980) with a couple other concepts. I still like that movie, and believe it’s ahead of its time in its unabashed use of extra comic-booky and super-powered characters. I believe it was also the first movie with a post credits sequence that steers the plot of upcoming sequels, by unkilling Professor X. (MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and DAREDEVIL don’t count because they didn’t get sequels.) But X3 outraged comics purists and disappointed others, including apparently its screenwriter Simon Kinberg (xXx: STATE OF THE UNION), who makes his directorial debut here with another take on the story of super psychic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, Game of Thrones), this time still a student, not faculty, when she starts to exhibit new powers she can’t control that endanger her friends and uncover upsetting secrets about her childhood and treatment by Dr. Xavier (James McAvoy, THE POOL).

I was into it for a while. After writing X-movies for Brett Ratner, Matthew Vaughn and Bryan Singer (two times) he’s given his X-movie its own feel. It’s the first to really focus on one character other than Wolverine – she even narrates a little, and we follow her from a very upsetting childhood tragedy to the first time she met Professor X, who gives her a pretty convincing recruitment speech. And then the best part of the movie is a super-heroing sequence where some space shuttle astronauts get stranded so the president calls Professor X and he sends a team of X-Men on the X-Jet. A fucking space rescue!

They go into action and all their powers come into play: Jean’s telekinesis, Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee, THE ROAD)’s ink cloud teleportation, Storm (Alexandra Shipp, ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL)’s weather control, Quicksilver (Evan Peters, NEVER BACK DOWN 1-2)’s super-speed, Cyclops (Tye Sheridan, THE TREE OF LIFE)’s laser eye beams and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, mother!)’s, uh, piloting. And commanding. She doesn’t find any uses for her shapeshifting in this one.

I mean it’s cool that she gets to be the team leader, and I get that they’re trying to show that she’s more than a mutant power. But as played by Rebecca Romijn in X 1-3, Mystique is my favorite X-Men character. So devious and wicked, a stunning visual with her blue skin and orange hair and eyes, perpetrator of two excellent prison escapes, complete fucker-overer of the system (impersonating a senator and affecting legislation!) and loud and proud mutant, walking around naked, blue and scaly, not giving a fuck. One of the greats.

Lawrence is an actress I love, and to cast her as this character in the new timeline, even to make her more hero than anti-hero, seemed full of potential. She could be explored in more depth, maybe even get her own spin-off doing black ops master of disguise mutant secret agent missions. Unfortunately it seemed like Lawrence didn’t want to wear the makeup much and they didn’t want their Oscar winner to be too wicked and the character never really got to be half as cool as she was when she was a secondary villain. It’s a total bummer that she only uses her powers once in this movie, and it’s to turn into her blond lady form when she gets home from the mission, as if she’s ashamed of her blueness. They done Mystique wrong in this one.

On the other hand, Magneto (Michael Fassbender, THE COUNSELOR) gets to do something new and great after the disappointment of being a mind-controlled henchman for much of the last one. Jean finds him on basically a mutant reservation, a small island given to him by the government where he seems to lead a small community. I don’t know but I bet the others are like him, people who fucked up and are trying to start their lives over without violence. But he gets into trouble when Jean comes there because there was this whole incident where she got upset and flipped over a bunch of cop cars. You know how teens are.

One of the things I’ve loved about these movies since the beginning is that there’s always been a sense of Magneto being at least kind of right. He shouldn’t be trying to turn everyone on earth into a mutant and shit like that, but he seems to understand the threat toward mutants more than Professor X sometimes. In part 3 I leaned toward siding with Magneto more than Xavier on the mutant cure issue, especially when it turned out Xavier was willing to use the cure weaponized in darts. It didn’t seem like you were supposed to feel that way, but still, the possibility of interpreting it that way was appealing to me. And then McAvoy’s young Xavier in FIRST CLASS took it even further. He’s kind of a dick, and it bothered me that he would be so judgmental of Magneto for going after fucking Nazis that tortured his parents.

So it’s cool that in this one they take it all the way and have Magneto be a full-on good guy for the whole movie, and have it be explicit that Xavier has fucked up with the way he handled Jean since the beginning. He even admits it. I loved Magneto deciding it’s time to fight and getting his helmet out. He had it boxed up in the attic or some shit. It’s like John Wick digging up his guns. And then when Jean starts bending it into his head! There are some exciting moments in this.

Storm was also just a drone in the last one, and here she’s a supporting character, but gets to shoot a bunch of lightning and shit. This version of Nightcrawler is great, a gawky blue monster with a wiggly devil tail. Always a delight. Beast (Nicholas “Witness Me” Hoult, CLASH OF THE TITANS) is a more significant character, apparently in love with Mystique (I forgot about that if it was mentioned before) and he and Xavier have a really good argument scene. Well before the MCU did it, the X-MEN movies were playing with this deep bench of characters. Including villains.

Which is a problem here, come to think of it. With Magneto and company being nice, that leaves a hole on the antagonist side. There are some creepy aliens that come out of the shadows in the woods and take over some human bodies, starting out with some poor lady played by Jessica Chastain (MAMA), who is good as a creepy human impostor leading the charge to capture Jean’s Phoenix powers. But it doesn’t really go anywhere – they’re just attack drones, they don’t have personality or interesting philosophical differences like we’re accustomed to in an X-Men picture.

As Jean loses control the movie slips away from her perspective and it becomes more transparent that this simplifies the comics story in kinda the same way X3 did but without the other in my opinion more interesting story about the mutant “cure,” or a character as emotionally compelling as Wolverine in the middle of it. Also, Turner is fine, but we had more time to get to know Famke Janssen in the role so I was much more invested in what she was going through, whether or not it was a more accurate adaptation. Not having read the comics story I’m left wondering if whatever it is that makes it such a touchstone for people is the stuff that they couldn’t figure out how to get into the movie, or whether this “I’m getting so powerful that it’s turning me evil” thing has just been so imitated over the years that it doesn’t feel fresh anymore.

DARK PHOENIX takes place primarily in 1992, but has no interest in the period references that FIRST CLASS, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and APOCALYPSE had a little fun with (like when Nightcrawler was wearing a Thriller jacket). That’s too bad, because “Nothin But a G Thang” over the opening credits would’ve been cool. Also, Quicksilver could’ve graduated to a Discman. And worn Hammer pants.

Note: Apparently the tiny X-Men cameo in DEADPOOL 2 takes place in the ’90s, giving Quicksilver a Nirvana t-shirt and Storm an acid washed jean jacket. I can’t imagine they would’ve shot that separately, so either I missed it in DARK PHOENIX or it got cut. There were apparently many reshoots to avoid similarities with CAPTAIN MARVEL, but I doubt that had to do with period fashion and pop culture references!

Speaking of music, they somehow got Hans Zimmer (BROKEN ARROW) to do the score for this one, a major reason this feels different from the rest of the series. His eerie, driving synths definitely create a strong mood, but it kind of bothered me that they didn’t at least one time bust out Michael Kamen’s X-MEN theme. That would’ve got my heart pumping after Professor X said “Help is on the way!” during the space rescue, or toward the end when the movie really picks up again in a scene where all the mutants are freed from captivity on a train and fight the aliens together.

That would’ve been extra cool because it would’ve sort of been like declaring Magneto an official X-Man. I suppose as it is without the theme we can interpret this either as Magneto becoming an X-Man or the X-Men joining Magneto. I loved the moment when Magneto told Beast to go help Storm. We’ve seen them have uneasy alliances all throughout the series, but here we see them as a team. It feels completely natural.

I wish more of the movie had highs like that. There’s kind of a sweet epilogue, and it’s interesting how they work in a double meaning about the change of management, spinning the repossession of their series by the MCU as “a new beginning.” History tells us that Marvel will come up with a cool and unexpected way to reintroduce these characters, and morals tell us that we shouldn’t hold the original filmmakers in too high of regard, since two of the directors are alleged rapists. (I better be specific: Singer and Ratner. Not the other ones!) Nevertheless, I’m thankful for this series. Of course it paved the way for the modern Marvel movies, both by making it feasible to even turn Marvel characters into movies and by evolving the cinematic portrayal of this kind of material. And it has two fairly miraculous spin-offs in LOGAN and DEADPOOL.

But more than that I think it stands alone for having asked the most interesting questions in an ongoing super hero series. When Nolan’s Batmans and the Russos’ Captain Americas reference contemporary politics and issues, it often seems more like attempts at realism or at seeming profound than at actually prompting you to think about it. But most of the X-MEN movies ask you to take a position. The first one is so serious about its themes that it has the balls to open during the Holocaust, and somehow it works! Throughout the series the mutant experience evokes the civil rights movement, internment camps, racial profiling (particularly in a post 9-11/Patriot Act sense), coming out to parents, gay conversion therapy, bigoted legislation. This is the world that the mutants are facing, this is what some of them choose to do about it, this is why they disagree, or where they can work together. What would you do?

DARK PHOENIX isn’t the strongest portrayal of that world or those characters, but it’s enough to remind me why I’ll miss it.

SPOILER QUESTION: Why is the school named after mass-murderer Jean instead of martyr Mystique? Was it to punish Mystique for wasting that “X-Women” line by using it right after a mission where Nightcrawler and Quicksilver did the most work?

P.S. My contemporaneous reviews of (almost) all the X-MEN pictures:

X-MEN (2000)
X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003)
X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006)
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)
THE WOLVERINE (2013)
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
DEADPOOL (2016)
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)
LOGAN (2017)
xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE (2017)
DEADPOOL 2 (2018) (I must’ve been busy and never finished a review of this. Though it lacked the freshness of the first one I remember enjoying the kid from HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, Zazie Beats, the action scenes, and Brolin seeming to come from a different, more serious movie.)

also I revisited THE ORIGINAL X-MEN TRILOGY a couple years ago and really enjoyed how they play now that they’re retro

P.P.S. There were so many announced X-MEN movies that never got made: David O. Russell’s EMMA FROST, David S. Goyer’s X-MEN ORIGINS: MAGNETO, GAMBIT starring Channing Tatum. I wish they had seen Disney coming and went crazy and greenlit all that shit before it was too late.

P.P.P.S. Hey, what happened to Psylocke?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 at 10:10 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

45 Responses to “Dark Phoenix”

  1. Thank you for the review. It’s nice to read one that isn’t paragraphs of ‘Thank God this horrible series is over and we can get new ones from Marvel!!’ I’m not a fan of the feeling that the series was always horrible and we only tolerated it until IRON MAN or whatever came along. Then it got amplified when Singer’s and Ratner’s behavior caught up with them.

    Regardless I will miss this series. It continued to be different even as the genre became commonplace. Whatever Marvel does with it, will probably be more like everything else on the market.

  2. Yeah, seriously, what’s up with everybody suddenly acting like we all hated that series from the beginning?

  3. Hey, Free Dummy

    June 11th, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Thank God this horrible series is… -oh.

    Seriously, I appreciate that these movies moved the needle to get us to now, but it has been a crazy series of peaks and valleys. The first one was exciting because (leather uniforms aside) it was the first time a comic movie seemed to have confidence in its source material. First Class felt like just the reboot the franchise needed… then they immediately gave it back to Singer who undid most of the good from that movie. Logan and Deadpool were both wild card ballsy moves that shook up what a comic book movie could be, but in between those they made an X-movie that I don’t remember anything about except that they went to a mall at one point and the redid the Quicksilver thing again. All told, I was pretty lukewarm on the franchise as a whole, but I’m not really clamoring to see the MCU X-Men, either.

  4. While I don’t think these are as good as the MCU in general, the extreme backlash towards them in the last few years has always puzzled me. Especially since I remember most people really liking the first 2 a lot.

    I love LOGAN and the two DEADPOOLs. For some reason the core movies got a bit off track, but I always enjoyed them. APOCALYPSE I really thought had some cool action scenes, and was shocked it went over so poorly with the world.

    I remember being disappointed with 3, but not hating it. I never read the DARK PHOENIX saga, but do remember that being held in very high regard the whole time I was way into comics (around 1987 to around 1993). I think this one was better than three…but I honestly can’t say for sure. Time changes perspective on things in weird ways.

    I remember not liking DAYS OF FUTURE PAST much at all. Something about that one was 100% been there, done that… Also didn’t help that that summer, much like this one, seemed to have a superhero movie coming out every week. This years batch seems to be much better than 2014s!

    Oh, while I enjoyed DARK PHOENIX, it seemed somewhat phoned in as well. Sort of a lackluster note to end it all on. I would like some of the cast to drift over to their MCU counterparts further confusing the continuity…I think that would be really cool.

    Speaking of that, as I walked out there was a group of people debating the continuity of these lol! Good luck!

  5. I’ll never understand the affection for X3, one of my least favorite movies ever. It fumbles everything from scene-to-scene character motivation, to editing, to basic geography- it’s as close to fully incompetent as I can recall seeing from a major motion picture.

    Vern- there’s a lot in the comic version of the story that makes it work better than the film adaptations have, but I think the biggest problem is that it’s really hard to set up the scope and the sense of betrayal, desperation, and tragedy that the story is really dependent on in order to be effective. If we don’t really *care* about Cyclops and Jean’s relationship, why should we care when it’s being threatened? The X-Men need to feel like a family for the emotional stakes to be real to the audience, but IMO in these movies they never feel like anything other than co-workers. It takes what should be a soap opera with laser eyes and just blands it down as far as the dial will go.

    Plus in the original ending, the X-Men all get their asses kicked by bird aliens on the Moon and then Jean blows herself up with a space Howitzer, so you’re definitely missing the subtle nuances there.

  6. Wow.

    There’s no way I’m going to see this in the theaters, because a) every single moment of “Apocalypse” was awful, which poisoned the well for me, b) the other reviews have been horrible, c) I have no desire to see another retelling of the Dark Phoenix saga by Kinsberg, and d) I mostly think the new cast of young kids, especially Sophie Turner, have no charisma and/or are not great actors. But it is nice to be reminded that the X-Men series used to mean something, especially X2 (arguably the best superhero movie ever at the time, with only Superman: The Movie as competition. Now it seems dated as all heck but I will always love the opening Nightcrawler White House attack. Superman is still a forever classic BTW). I will choose to honor the X-Series by not seeing this, and remembering it the way it used to be.

    As for what makes the Dark Phoenix Saga interesting: for me the power comes from having a character you truly care about become a villain, and not in a way where you can forgive and forget — Jean annihilates an entire planet while in her Dark Phoenix persona, and when she is lucid again she admits — in a pretty brave piece of writing by Claremont, I think — that even though she feels guilty about it, she also can’t deny that she enjoyed it. It should be heartbreaking because you care about this character and you feel the pain of seeing them go beyond redemption. For that to work in movie form you really do have to build Jean up first, preferably over a series of movies, and make us love her by showing us how she is good, and noble, and cool, and clever, and smart; a good friend to the team and a soul-mate to Cyclops. Not only did they not lay enough groundwork in “Apocalypse” for that before diving into this story, but also, good luck communicating ANY of that with Sophie Turner as Jean. (Did I mention I’m not a fan?)

    Oh well, eventually Marvel will do it right.

  7. I haven’t seen this yet, but I keep reading the same complaint that Jean Grey was barely in the previous movie so it’s hard to care about her as the protagonist. I’m confused.

    I guess maybe in the era of shared universes and endless franchises, people have forgotten that, ya know, it’s actually pretty common to introduce and establish a protagonist, to get to know and like them and watch their journey over the span of just one film. Why, it’s even possible to have a protagonist who doesn’t go in to be in a bunch of sequels about themself, and we can still think it’s a great character even if they were only ever in one movie.

    So my question is: is the problem really that we didn’t have 5 movies to get to know the new Jean Grey? Or is it just that this particular movie doesn’t do a good job of establishing her character?

  8. Dan Prestwich – By that same token, would Return of the Jedi be as good if it were a standalone movie and not the conclusion to two other movies’ storylines?

  9. Dan- that’s true, but a single story with a single beginning and end point isn’t the kind of story that’s being told or adapted here. They’re just different things, and the X-Men movies (with the exception of the character of Wolverine) have largely failed to take advantage of the character development that can be done over the course of a series like this. I mean, just look at the regular MCU movies as comparison- if Marvel had grated Captain America like they’ve treated the Jean Grey character, would anyone have ever even *started* to give a shit about him?

  10. Kaplan,

    I mean, it would have to be a different movie, but yeah, sure. A NEW HOPE is way fucking better than JEDI and it didn’t need 2 previous movies to get to know the characters.

    Kurgan,

    I haven’t seen DARK PHOENIX, but I have to imagine that it would be very possible to write the movie in such a way that you care about Jean Grey. I mean, you get to know and like a whole ensemble of characters in the first X-MEN movie, and it’s only an hour and 45 minutes. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it (and it’s not that great of a movie), but I have to imagine that not everyone gets a lot of screentime, yet I don’t recall getting to the end of it and thinking “gee, I sure would have cared about that ending more if I had seen 3 previous movies about Wolverine first.”

    Side question: anyone know why they didn’t call this movie X-MEn: DARK PHOENIX? It almost feels like they knew they had a turkey on their hands, and since it was ending anyway they wanted to dump it as unceremoniously as possible.

  11. I mean, sure, I definitely agree it’s possible to make the audience care about a character in just a single movie, so the fact that they haven’t managed it yet over *five* movies is pretty embarrassing for them.

  12. Okay, so I think we’re sorta saying the same thing. The problem isn’t that Jean Grey wasn’t in more movies, it’s that (it sounds like) this particular film doesn’t do a good job of making her an interesting characters.

  13. IMO it should be like, to use a really recent example, the JOHN WICK movies. I’ll keep it vague since this isn’t that thread, but a character betrays John in part 3 and it stung (for me in the audience at least) in a way that it wouldn’t have if the same thing had happened in the first movie instead. And the character who does it was definitely plenty interesting in the first one too, you get to like them, yknow? But if that betrayal had happened in the first movie, it would have just been another part of the story- oh, turns out we couldn’t trust that character! Oh well, happens all the time in this kind of movie. But when it happens in the *third movie*, it hurts! It makes the audience feel the betrayal just like John would, or the X-Men would.

    That’s what makes the original Dark Phoenix comic story so great and what, IMO, the movies have failed to capture- that sense of betrayal from someone the characters and, more importantly, the audience really liked and trusted. I think that’s a twist that has to be really carefully managed from the start.

  14. None of this is to say I don’t appreciate this series, by the way. I think it’s the epitome of the way Hollywood used to adapt superhero movies, and that’s both a good and bad thing. I remember leaving the theater after the first one being *so* pumped about it. I felt like you could never do a better X-Men movie (and I kind of think maybe they haven’t yet). X2 is a great sequel, but again a very classic Hollywood-type sequel- I appreciate it but I don’t really love it.

    3 is one of my least favorite movies ever, but I hate it in that compulsive way kind where I’ve also seen it more than 1 or 2 combined. It is a disaster that feeds me.

    The soft reboot series has been fine but largely coasts on the strength of the actors but also largely fails on the weaknesses of some of the other actors. I have no strong nostalgia for them.

  15. I still really like the first two X-MENs, hate with a fiery passion the third one, got a total kick out of FIRST CLASS and then got totally lost in the labyrinthine timeline/multi-verses as if I was an elderly person who had never seen a movie before and lost interest. I saw DAYS OF FUTURE PAST & APOCALYPSE but barely remember them and never cared too much to like or hate them. I’ll probably see this at some point, but then again, maybe not.

  16. I’m glad that others have noticed that the internet hive mind has turned on the X-Men movies. I’ve seen so many people say good riddance to the series that I thought to myself, “Wait, was I supposed to hate these movies all along?”

    In Marvel’s 20 plus films, I still don’t think they matched some of the highs of this wildly uneven series. No Marvel movie has had the same emotional effect as Logan. As Vern points out, Marvel’s films never really explore the same ethical grey areas. He’ll, I’d argue that in a decade of movies, Marvel still has been unable to come up with an action set piece that tops the assault on the White House in X 2.

  17. I think a lot of the backlash has to do with the allegations against Singer and Ratner. By all accounts they’re both garbage people and the franchise never had a clean break from them. There was a clear reboot point in First Class, but then one movie later they gave the keys back to Singer and he immediately unrebooted it.

    I remember a few years ago when a bunch of stuff came out about Singer just a few weeks before one of his last X-movies. I naively thought it was going to tank the movie, but it ended up doing pretty well and the story got dropped like that. I wonder if all the antipathy isn’t people feeling crappy about letting that slide and retroactively pretending they didn’t go see lots of these movies in the cinema. And maybe a smidge of frustration that Singer went on to get hired and fired from a crappy Freddy Mercury biopic that still went on to be beloved by normies and honored at the friggin’ Oscars.

  18. If someone can no longer stomach the X-Men films because Ratner and Singer are scumbags, then I get that. And I’m sure that underpins some of the backlash. What I really hate is when people say things like, “Gawd! I can’t wait until Marvel takes over and does this right.” There has become some sort of agreement that all superhero movies should look like Marvel’s. And I just can’t get behind that. It’s weird to think that X-Men has been the only real rival to the Marvel juggernaut, but I’m glad there was some sort of alternative. These are the same people cheering the fact that Disney is marching around Hollywood gobbling up every major film property in sight.

  19. The most memorable thing about the entire franchise for me came during APOCALYPSE when they killed “disaster porn” as a concept. It’s over. Hollywood will never be able to top cgi money shots depicting the destruction of the Aschwitz death camps. It was so wildly tasteless and ill-advised and pandering. It was also the end of an era and an artifact from a previous generation of filmmaking. Just as much as the black leather suits feel anathema to modern comic adaptation sensibilities, the crass destruction of landmarks is also over and Apocalypse was the last salvo.

  20. Same thing happened with Spider-Man. Amazing Spider-Man comes out and suddenly everyone hated the Sam Raimi movies all along. I was there. I remember the love for 1 and 2. And just as easily they dropped Garfield and fans were happy to abandon the so-called true spidey adaptation.

  21. It’s like these nerd movie series are judged by the quality of their last film.

  22. (I liked SPIDER-MAN 3: THE FORBIDDEN CHAIR DANCE though)

  23. This was shockingly decent! I’m of the opinion that most of the X-movies are either not very good (X1,X3, Apocalypse) or overrated (X2, DOFP), so I actually thought DARK PHOENIX was one of the better X-Movies. I liked how simple and small the movie felt. Jean is overwhelmed by power, the X-Men & Frenemies have to bring her in/take her down. It doesn’t have the usual Singer-bloat. I also didn’t miss the X-Theme at all and liked Zimmer’s moody score.

    Sansa carries the movie pretty well and the rest of the cast is surpringly engaged. All the doom and gloom surrounding the movie made me forget that Fassbender and McAvoy always try their best and most of the young cast is pretty talented. It’s a shame the X-Men: Apocalypse kids never got to be in a great X-Movie that really caught on.

    Now… there are definitely inconsistencies and dumb things that doesn’t make sense (the aliens, a fight where every character struggles to cross a street and Storm is overwhelmed by a guy with living dreadlocks), but I thought the train sequence that immediately follows the weird street crossing sequence made up for all that shit. It’s incredibly violent and surprisingly well executed. Suddenly the aliens are complete lunatics who run into heavy gunfire and have to be dispatched VERY brutally by X-People. Fassbender really shines during this sequence.

    All the lesser, lazier Marvel Studios movies seem to get reviews that a mostly positive to great, so I think this one should have *at least* gotten mostly OK reviews. The way it’s getting completely shat on makes me think a lot of reviewers got caught up in the ‘reshoots/fox sale’ narrative.

  24. Has there ever been a movie that has had major reshoots that has turned out to be a good movie? That’s a legit question. I’m not trying to be a dick. I just don’t have the vast movie knowledge that a lot of you guys have and I was curious.

  25. So anyone got any theories on how Jean Grey goes from where she’s at at the end of this film to hanging out in Xavier’s office in 2023 at the end of Days of Future Past? Even more importantly, how does Xavier get his office back?

    Well, I have heard academia can get very vicious …

  26. A couple more things–

    -They’ve barely done anything with Cyclops in any of these movies, but this is probably the best version of Cyclops we’ve seen. His unwavering support of Jean was nice and at one point he kind of stands up to Prof X! Baby steps…

    -Credit to Sansa and Fassbender for going ALL-IN on hand gesture acting. I liked how they were trying to out-intense each other during the chopper scene.

  27. grimgrinningchris

    June 12th, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Heeeeey… Vern called out the “Thriller jacket as period and character appropriate stand in for the actual comic costume while still being very reminiscent of it” thing that I think I may have been the first to point out here.

    That said, I was so bummed at how much I disliked Apocalypse after having really enjoyed First Class and DoFP… and it’s made me decide to wait for streaming for this one.

  28. Maggie: Pretty much every movie by Doug Liman, especially THE BOURNE IDENTITY. Seriously, it seems like that honky has no idea how to put a movie together on the first try, but somehow always comes out on top. (Admittedly not every of his movies is great, but out of those that I saw, I don’t remember anything worse than “Oh, that was not bad”.)

  29. The problem with this most recent tetralogy of X-MEN stories is that it revolved around undoing everything that preceded it. FIRST CLASS established a new continuity which allowed potential sequels to split from Singer’s established canon. Then Singer makes another course correction with DAYS, bridging his older films and this new continuity. Then the end of APOCALYPSE destroys that bridge, said ending being revised by DARK PHOENIX.

    You know what other film series all this fudging reminds me of? HIGHLANDER.

  30. caruso_stalker217

    June 12th, 2019 at 8:51 am

    MaggieMayPie:

    I guess a recent example would be….ROGUE ONE? But I think that’s a real love it/hate it situation.

    Reshoots certainly improved aspects of that film. For example, Diego Luna’s first (and best) scene wasn’t in the original version. Somehow the introductory defining scene of his character just….wasn’t in the film.

  31. BACK TO THE FUTURE famously shot for six weeks with Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly before recasting and starting over. Maybe that counts.

    Also, the second and third Lord of the Rings movies required very extensive reshoots. I don’t think reshoots in themselves are a bad thing, or even uncommon. I’ve read that smart production schedules will bake time in for reshoots as a matter of course.

    In those examples, the same creative teams remained. I wonder how often it is that a project gets taken away from a director and *then* reshot that the movie turns out good. Cases like the aforementioned Rogue One, where Tony Gilroy (quietly) took over from Gareth Edwards, or Solo: A Star Wars Story, where Ron Howard (loudly) took over from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

  32. “I don’t think reshoots in themselves are a bad thing, or even uncommon. I’ve read that smart production schedules will bake time in for reshoots as a matter of course.”

    Fact: Every studio movie has reshoots and they are already scheduled before they start shooting the main part and part of the budget from the beginning. Most of the time it’s just little things. A scene or two doesn’t work as it should, the test audience loved a supporting character so they add a few more scenes with him. Sometimes it’s a bit more, but nothing too tragic. (The DVD of the first MEN IN BLACK has an interesting extra about how they, if I remember right, reshot 3 scenes with new dialogue to change a huge part of the plot.) Just some minor tweaks.

    It’s really just those “We have to redo a huge part of the movie and push the release date” reshoots, that are troublesome and most of all newsworthy. Of course these days way too many websites report on the normal, already scheduled reshoots and nerds think the movie is in trouble.

  33. Yeah, CJ’s description is pretty much how I’ve always understood reshoots to work too. It’s “just in case” time for most movies in order to be able to fix or add stuff if needed. Since making a movie is a big complicated production, you’re usually not gonna get everything you wind up needing the first time around.

  34. Confession time…. I’ve never seen one of the X-Men movies, with the only exception being the spinoff DEADPOOL.

    The first few just kinda slipped me by and then I felt too behind to play catch up, but honestly, another confession, the X-Men just aren’t all that appealing to me.

    Here’s what it comes down to, the whole idea of superhero as persecuted minority, yeah it’s clever, yeah I can see why it would resonate if you are a persecuted minority, but for me what I look for from the Superhero genre is that wish fulfillment fantasy, you WANT to be Superman, you WANT to be Batman*, you WANT to be Spider-Man, but being an X-Men is supposed to be a terrible burden that you wouldn’t necessarily want, at least not as readily as you’d want to be Batman.

    Even something like WATCHMEN, which is a far darker take on superheros than most, still acknowledges the glamour of it all.

    That’s just my personal view, I certainly want to at least watch LOGAN and I’m interested to see what the MCU will do with them.

    *There is of course a little bit of nuance when it comes to Batman and his emotional trauma, but there’s still that fantasy element of being rich, a badass fighter and having tons of fancy gadgets.

  35. grimgrinningchris

    June 12th, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    CJ-

    Swingers and Go! are both pretty fucking great.

    Swingers has suffered as the slang in it has become so tired after the swing revival it helped usher in and a million frat guys telling each other how money they are… so that can be a little cringey now- but beyond that it still really works and that stuff really was fresh at the time.

  36. I really like GO. I’ve probably seen it six or seven times most of the way through just because I keep catching it on cable and end up watching it for a long time. For some reason, I very easily recall a bunch of lines from the Jay Mohr / Scott Wolf part. For some reason I can remember these but not other actual important things like phone numbers. Like “It really didn’t go as bad as it could have.” “A girl is dead, Zack!” “I didn’t say it went perfectly.” and “Wait. You want us to sell Amway?” “It’s Confederated Products. It’s a different company! It’s a different quality of product!” and “Smell the veggie burgers. Can you smell them?” “I’m not delusional!” “Then grab her fucking arms!” and “Girl in ditch? Our problem. Girl out of ditch? Her problem.”

  37. I don’t want to be a superhero. Too much work.

  38. I just rewatched GO a few weeks ago and despite its heavy 90sness, it’s still a lot of fun. I never saw SWINGERS, but since that swing revival never happened in Germany, it’s most likely a bit more watchable from my POV.

    If I would be a superhero (with real superpowers and not just fancy gadgets), I would probably be more the Hancock (first half of the movie) kind. Maybe more helpful and a bit nicer, but if I had for example superspeed, I would so use it for shoplifting! (Don’t worry, just a Blu-Ray or two from a big electronic chain, once in a while.)

  39. Btw, since we are talking (= “it was mentioned once”) here about DEADPOOL 2, has anybody here seen the ONCE UPON A DEADPOOL version? We will most likely never find out of this was a real test for a PG-13 Deadpool or just Ryan Reynolds trying to troll Disney hating nerds and the studio just rolled with it, but I was surprised how much it felt like a legitimate(-ish) director’s cut at times. Some scenes were tweaked, they acknowledged some of the biggest flaws (in typical 4th wall breaking fashion), the new wraparound segments have some really funny stuff and all in all they put some effort into something, that should be viewed as nothing more than a bonus feature for maximum enjoyment. Of course now some of the action scenes and sight gags are pretty unwatchable, because they were shot for a hard R, but if you have the opportunity to watch it without spending too much money (Amazon Prime had it as a 99c rental a while ago and currently it’s on German Pay TV), you should check it out.

  40. With the comics I was always a fan of the X-Men over the Avengers plus I was a huge fan of the animated series. However I’ve always thought the X-Men films were average at best, dotted with the odd cool moment but mostly just a load of missed opportunities. And I’ve really disliked the X-Men films post First Class*… Days of Future Past was terrible, and Apocalypse laughably bad.

    *The only exceptions are Logan and both Deadpool films. I recognise that you don’t get to Logan without the previous X-Men films and No, I don’t just like them because they are R-Rated.

  41. Did anyone else notice how they kind of gave Magneto an Iron Man look on the poster for this one? If I was clever enough, I would make the perfect joke here, but I am not…

  42. Stacy Livitsanis

    June 17th, 2019 at 9:16 am

    The X-Men films are the only superhero series I’ve ever cared about at all. Never been into Marvel or DC (except Man of Steel). Even the X-Men movies that weren’t good were still intriguing enough in some curious way to be worth watching. But over a week since seeing Dark Phoenix at the cinema I haven’t thought about it at all. Nothing about it has lingered. I’ll give it another shot at home in a few months to see if anything more can be salvaged. But it felt like the kind of movie that would result once the Body Snatchers have taken over. It felt like a movie but was weirdly soulless in a way that none of the previous ones have been.

    Am I the only person in the world who goddamn loves X-Men Apocalypse? Sure feels that way. But love it I do. Critics and audiences persist in calling it horrible, and that doesn’t remotely align with the awesomely fun movie that I saw and have seen four times so far and enjoyed it just as much each time.

    I love the completely incoherent continuity of the X-Men movies. It makes the universe more interesting, as it means that you don’t really know what’s going to happen with each new movie, and sometimes you end up with blistering awesomeness like Logan. Could there ever be a Marvel movie like Logan? Will there ever be another X-Men movie like Logan once the Disney-owned X-Men reboots? Not a chance. Happy to be proven wrong, but c’mon, not gonna happen.

    As for reshoots, it’s a normal part of movie-making. No big deal. Doesn’t mean anything’s necessarily fucked about a film. It’s just what happens sometimes. If you think Superman II is a good movie (I don’t), that’s an older example of a superhero film taken away from the original director that had lots of reshoots was and turned into something tonally different (but not really that different).

  43. It’s true, reshoots are done all the time and are helpful for getting movies right. But also when there’s a movie like this that feels, as you said, “weirdly soulless,” and also it was reported that they changed the entire third act, you have to wonder if they fucked it up by changing whatever the original plan was, or if they were just so painted into a corner there was no way to fix it.

    One movie that we should remember when it comes to reshoots is PAYBACK. It was taken away from the director because of a disagreement in tone, and the entire last act is totally different. Like, Kris Kristofferson is a major character in the theatrical release and does not appear in the director’s cut. But both versions are very good and I kinda prefer the sell out one.

  44. Not to brag but I’ve been calling this franchise ill conceived and poorly developed for over a decade. You can even see it in some of my older posts. Guess everybody who used to call me crazy for those opinions finally caught up.

    When X-MEN came out it was to me the biggest disappointment since PHANTOM MENACE. I was worried about it since production was rushed but then everyone and their momma was bursting about it’s greateness. I walked out thinking “that was it?” so I never saw X2 at the cinema.

    When I finally saw X2 on video I realized that it had everything I loved about the comics thematically and superior action. It actually FELT like an X-Men story. I was surprised and left with a lot of optimism for the 3rd.

    After the production drama on THE LAST STAND I went to see it late in it’s run after SUPERMAN RETURNS. SUPERMAN LIFTS left a greater impression on me. X3 was even more of a bummer than the first and I still can’t fathom how anybody finds anything redeemable in it.

    So I skipped the first 2 Wolverines and it sounded like I missed nothing. When everyone was wanking over FIRST CLASS I felt I was out of touch. The little I saw of it bored me to tears and I have never watched the entire thing. I actually really liked DOFP. I thought “man they’re finally steering this ship in the right direction” and then….

    Didn’t even bother with APOCALYPSE and I won’t bother with this one either. Nevertheless 4 of these movies are objectively solid (the 2 I already mentioned and LOGAN & DEADPOOL) so I do agree this sentiment of “Fox never did this IP justice Marvel will save the day!” does seem kinda bogus. But the interner hive mind is reactionary that way. Which is why I seldom acknowledge it.

  45. Lowered expectations strike again, as I saw Dark Phoenix on a plane and…really liked it! I mean, I get why people don’t like it – it’s the followup to Apocalypse, one of the worst-received movies in the franchise, and it’s sort of a remake of X3, the other most-hated movie in the franchise. As a final chapter, it obviously can’t hold a candle to the greatest-hits package/victory lap of Avengers Endgame. Plus the trailers gave away the entire movie. No wonder it bombed.

    But there’s so much to like here – Lawrence is more awake and engaged than she’s been since First Class. Magneto is still the shit even though he shows up over an hour in. Asshole Charles is an intriguing twist on the character. All of the new kids (Shipp, McPhee, and especially Turner) are miles better than they were in Apocalypse. The action, while small-scale, is fun and rewindable. The fights are shot and staged intimately like a martial-arts movie with super powers; lots of quick attacks and counter-attacks – it’s a welcome change of pace from the bomastic green-screen void-space destruction porn of the last one. This movie is the For Your Eyes Only of the series – small and restrained but better for it. (Plus it’s like 45 minutes shorter than Apocalypse and breezes by). And that Hans Zimmer score is pretty incredible.

    One big complaint: Anyone remember when Jean Grey ALREADY turned into The Phoenix at the end of the last one when she zapped Apocalypse? I mean, I know this series isn’t big on continuity but it seems weird to make a whole new movie solely to apologize for X3 and say “we’ll give her the powers from space this time like you nerds wanted, alright?” but then they make her already have the powers yet again. Not to mention the whole Charles subplot here of everyone getting mad at him for “gaslighting” her or whatever seems to be less of a story organic to this movie, and more of a conflation of the “he put locks on her brain to limit her power” subplot established in X3. Weren’t her parents afraid of her in that one and Charles sensed she was the most powerful mutant ever? In this one she….flips over a car and I can’t buy that the dad would immediately abandon her, or that she’s the most dangerous or even the most troubled student in Charles’ academy. His biggest crime seems to be protecting the feelings of a little girl to make her feel better about accidentally killing her mom, but the movie acts like he’s Frankenstein creating a monster since that’s what happened last time.

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