Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Dark Phoenix

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know how this works by now.  I watch a movie I own, and blog about it.  Just that simple.  Today, we're re-watching Dark PhoenixThis is originally in my notes at September 22, 2019.

And this is the way Fox's X-Men franchise comes to an end...just kind of limping across the finish line with Dark Phoenix.  The granddaddy of superhero franchises is no doubt about to get a major reboot, now that it's been returned to Marvel as part of Disney's buyout of 20th Century Fox.  It's just a shame that the end was so lacklustre. 

And this is the second time that Fox has messed up this story!  Their first attempt at tacking the Dark Phoenix Saga, one of the most beloved X-Men stories, was as the subplot of X-Men: The Last Stand back in 2006.  Everyone agreed that it was just kind of shoehorned in, and needed its own film to be developed properly.  So of course their second kick at the can would be much better.  Right?

Well, it had problems right out of the gate.  Firstly, it was the first film for Simon Kinberg.  Kinberg has had his hand in every X-Men film since The Last Stand.  For a while there, he was being touted as Fox's Kevin Feige...the guy in charge of all their Marvel properties, and working to make them one big, epic story.  He has since said in interviews after the fact that, this being his first time in the director's chair, he did feel a little overwhelmed by it all.  Which is probably why it feels like so many of the performances are on autopilot. 

And then there were the re-shoots.  Originally, Dark Phoenix was slated to come out Christmas 2018.  But then it got pushed back to spring of 2019, and again to the summer of 2019.  Again, as has now been widely reported, the villains were originally set to be Marvel's beloved shapeshifting villains, the Skrulls.  But then, Marvel stepped in, and said, "Hey, what's that?  You're making a film about a young woman with cosmic powers fighting Skrulls?  Guess what?  WE'RE MAKING THAT EXACT SAME MOVIE, so cut that shit out!"  So then the villains had to be changed to some obscure Marvel alien that I've already forgotten the name of and the massive X-Men vs. Skrull battle that was going to be the climax had to be re-shot. 

A rookie director compounded with tons of studio demands resulted in the poorest-reviewed and lowest-grossing X-Men film ever. 

Of course I bought it on Blu-Ray.  Got all the other X-Men films on Blu-Ray...can't have a gap in my collection.  And watching it again tonight, it really did reminded of the Fantastic Four films I recently re-watched for this here blog.  The whole thing just seems...low effort.  And when you're talking the Phoenix Saga, you really want things to be on a cosmic scale. 

It's got a great opening though.  With this "First Class films" taking place 10 years apart, its now the 1990s, and the X-Men have become a beloved superhero team.  Charles Xavier is loving it, as it looks like his goal of humans and mutants living in peace has finally come to pass.  But as he starts sending out the X-Men on riskier and riskier missions, some start wondering if Xavier's hubris is causing him to lose sight of his original goal.  It all comes to a head when the X-Men are sent into space to rescue a shuttle crew from their damaged shuttle.  They manage to pull it off, but Jean Grey is badly hurt...and we've seen some kind of fiery force consume her. 

Jean seems to be OK, but the incident sees her start growing in power.  Her increased power soon causes some of the mental barriers that Xavier set up in her to break down.  As we see in flashbacks, when Jean first discovered her powers, she inadvertently killed her mother.  Her grief-stricken father practically abandoned her on the steps of Xavier's School for the Gifted.  Xavier used his powers to repress these memories in Jean to spare her the grief. 

Jean goes home to confront her father, but he still wants nothing to do with her.  The X-Men arrive to bring Jean home, but an angry Jean lashes out, and accidentally kills Mystique.  Jean tries to seek refuge with Magneto, who has established Genosha, apparently, but Magneto wants nothing to do with her when the military comes to bring her in.  A grief-stricken Beast informs Magneto of what happened, and they band together to kill Jean and avenge Mystique.  Then the aliens come for Jean because they want the Phoenix Force to take over the galaxy. 

The X-Men fight Magento's forces to stop them from killing Jean, then they team up to fight the aliens and save Jean from them, and Jean sacrifices herself to stop the aliens.  Xavier finally admits he was wrong in suppressing Jean's memory, and decides to retire.  Beast becomes the new headmaster of the school, which is renamed the Jean Grey School for the Gifted.  The end. 

As I said, it just seems so low-effort...a rather perfunctory retelling of the tale.  I was reflecting on the beginning of this chapter of the X-Men franchise, First Class.  That ending shot is the closest we got to Magneto in a comic-accurate costume.  Now that Marvel has control once again, maybe we finally will see the X-Men in the "yellow spandex."  Yeah, this franchise has been full of hits and misses...it's too bad it ended on a miss.

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