I might not be up with every superhero series but I grew up on the X-Men cartoons as a kid and ever since that pitch-perfect Bryan Singer adaptation in 2000, you’re generally not gonna be able to keep me from the theater no matter how bad the reviews are.
The films have sleek design, some of the best ensembles filmdom has ever seen, malleable characters that remain compelling through multiple iterations, and the fight scenes that work like superhero chess. More than that, it’s the thrill of seeing a childhood series (that sadly doesn’t hold up in any way, shape, or form) realized by highly respected people—both in front of and behind the camera—who took the material as seriously as serious subject matter. For a superhero movie in 2000, that’s something else.
So, the critics thought “X-Men 3: The Last Stand” was a mess but I’ve seen it 3 or 4 times at least and loved it: Ellen Page as Shadowcat, Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut, Dania Ramirez as Callisto, what more could you ask? These are carefully considered casting choices on top of the costuming and special effects dedicated to each character. While the ensemble’s a bit overstuffed and I have no freaking clue if it’s true to the comics, the stakes are raised and the characters that matter like Halle Berry’s Storm or Shawn Ashmore’s Iceman (didn’t see his growth coming) separate themselves with better rounded story angles.
Similarly, I’ve never gotten the classification about “Apocalypse” as a failure. I get that there is absolutely nothing that makes sense about a villain who declares “No more wars” and then launches “every weapon into the air” but not every superhero film is about the badassery or the logic about the villain. Like a 1950s epic, “X-Men Apocalypse” has great location work, Olivia Munn, more Quick Sliver running uber-fast, and re-cements the Rose-Xavier chemistry.
Unfortunately, there’s just so little to recommend with “Dark Phoenix” it might be time to get off the X-Men train. The X-Men series has had forgettable villains but they’ve never had villains that never registered at all. More importantly, did Jessica Chastain’s character produce any memorable fight scenes? That’s the hallmark of the series. Instead we just had our multi-powered heroes just fighting off nameless aliens like silly putty power rangers.
For reasons I can’t figure out for the life of me, the film aims for a dreary introspective tone more in line with a CW melodrama than what literally every X-Men film before it has been. Raven is upset with Charles, Hank now has feelings for Raven (pretty much forgotten over the past two movies), Hank hates Charles now, it feels like a lame soap opera, who cares?
Let’s hope an X-Men film can’t get worse than this.