As far as iconic comic book storylines go, The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne ranks as one of the greatest achievements in superhero comics. Exhilarating, complex and emotional, The Dark Phoenix Saga is a difficult adventure to adapt for the big screen. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) made a bold attempt at bringing that storyline to life, with ultimately mixed results that failed to satisfy the most ardent of X-fans. Kinberg (who co-wrote The Last Stand) takes another stab at The Dark Phoenix Saga in his directorial debut and, perhaps most crucially, the final instalment in the X-Men franchise.
During a space rescue mission, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is caught in the crossfire of a solar flare. Absorbing the solar flares lethal radiation, Jean undergoes a rebirth and the destructive Dark Phoenix alter-ego contained within her is awakened. With her telekinetic powers spiralling out of control, Jean attracts the attention of Vuk (Jessica Chastain), a shape-shifting alien who wishes to acquire Jean's powers for her own personal gain.
Although the largely loathed X-Men: The Last Stand was a far from perfect adaptation of The Dark Phoenix Saga, it still had occasional moments of heart and exciting action that salvaged it from being an absolute disaster. Dark Phoenix, on the other hand, is a pathetic embarrassment and a grossly disappointing end to the franchise. Kinberg's misguided screenplay is painfully pedestrian, and makes easy work of lobotomising Claremont & Byrne's classic saga. Dark Phoenix is sloppily paced, and the action is stale; a far cry from previous X-Men instalments. Sophie Turner delivers a staggeringly bland performance as Jean Grey; she possesses no emotional weight whatsoever and fails to capture the rich complexities and depth of Jean Grey's comic book incarnation. While her portrayal borders on insufferable at times, no one else really shines either. The usually fantastic Jessica Chastain phones in a lacklustre performance for a quick paycheck, and both McAvoy and Fassbender appear wholly disinterested in the project.
Due to extensive reshoots, Dark Phoenix was released a year later than originally intended. Having now seen the finished product, I couldn't help but get the impression that there was a significant chunk of the film missing, particularly during the rushed, anticlimactic third act. It is during the unengaging final conflict where the film completely falls apart. Characterisation (usually sharp and focused for the most part in previous instalments) is abandoned and Kinberg haphazardly rushes together an unsatisfying conclusion to a franchise that has thrived for close to two decades.
Dark Phoenix is a monumentally tedious viewing experience. It lacks the richness of the source material and the energetic flair of the previous instalments. It's a horribly lazy film, a depressing finale and a half-arsed attempt at adapting such an iconic storyline. At the very least, we can take solace in the fact that it's now over, and the X-Men will find new life once they are introduced into the MCU, where they will be salvaged from this absolute travesty.
Review by DRreviews from the Internet Movie Database.