‘Dark Phoenix,’ the last in X-Men Franchise

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This is the X-Men’s last stand. Oh, wait, that title has already been taken. According to Marvel Studios, this is the last of a dozen movies in the two-decade-old X-Men franchise. As Disney has now acquired Marvel, expect a complete reboot or something very similar, with an entirely new cast of characters, as soon as year-end.

It’s the X-Men’s darker shades of Grey, again. If you remember in “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), Jean Grey throws a tantrum and then throws the entire Golden Gate Bridge at her fellow X-Men. Now, in “Dark Phoenix” (“X-Men: Dark Phoenix” as titled outside the U.S.), Jean (Sophie Turner) again wreaks havoc against her friends and foes, but at least this time we learn her backstory and better understand who hurt her feelings.

Fans of this outrageously successful franchise may be disappointed to see it all end. They will miss favorite characters, young and old, as this latest series was a prequel to the earlier series of films featuring an entirely different set of actors. Action figures, video games and other merchandise sales possibly exceeded the huge box office receipts.

The premise celebrates victims who are harassed or bullied because they are different. Instead of degrading their peculiarity, Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) teaches them to use it to their greatest advantage. In sales, it’s called, “If you can’t fix it, feature it.” Power can be used for good or evil. For every ying, there’s a yang. In this case, Charles’ longtime friend, Magneto (Michael Fassbender), often leads the disenchanted to the lowest common denominator and most primitive instincts to fight.

This chapter was written, directed and produced by Simon Kinberg, who wrote in three prior episodes. The story begins in 1975 when eight-year-old Jean is taken into the care of Prof. Xavier. She explains, “I can’t stay here, it’s too nice and I break things.” But, she learns to make friends and fit in. We advance to 1992 when the Endeavor spacecraft has trouble in space and needs to be rescued by none other than the X-Men.

This heroic event is a positive step for these oppressed mutants, but at what cost? Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) protests, “We are risking more of ourselves each time and we women are taking the most risks. Maybe we should be called X-Women.” In outer space, a cosmic force attacks Jean and she begins to develop incredible powers.

Jean eventually learns that Vuk (Jessica Chastain), a cold-hearted space traveler, is the source of this power, “Your destiny is to develop into the greatest force in the galaxy.” The powers will corrupt Jean’s soul and turn her into a sociopathic killing machine bent on punishment. As they say, gifts are a blessing and a curse.

Although it’s Charles in charge, the mutants question their leader’s intentions and are ready to stage a mutiny against the man who took them in. When Jean leaves to be with Magneto, Charles apologizes and Magneto scolds, “You’re always sorry, Charles, and there’s always a speech, but nobody cares!” Actually, most of us do.

Magneto then scolds Jean, “You didn’t come looking for answers, you came looking for permission.” Soon, Jean is annihilating her fellow mutants and ultimately Raven loses her Mystique. Although they want to win Jean back, some have given up. Yet, who knew all Jean needed to do was click heels together and say, “There’s no place like home.”

“Dark Phoenix” is 113 minutes and rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, including gunplay, disturbing images and language. For those that didn’t like “X-Men: The Last Stand,” you won’t like this one either. But fans should enjoy this finale, which could have been more spectacular, but maybe we’re jaded by two decades of dazzling spectacular.

Some might have difficulty keeping track of which superpower is best, if at all, under which conditions. Maybe it’s kind of like rock, paper, scissors? Then again, maybe that’s not the point of the series. It’s like when Jean asks Prof Xavier, “They say you can fix me.” Seeing something very special, he responds, “You are not broken.”

Ron’s Rating: C-
Leigh’s Rating: B+

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