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Is It Goodbye?

Saturday, June 08, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Simon Kinberg
Cast: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence and others
Rating: * * 1/2

Every Marvel superhero franchise keep threatening to end the series, but never really do. After two decades and a dozen films, the X-Men films are losing steam, and really need a breather.

The latest, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, directed by Simon Kinberg, lines up a galaxy of stars, and gives them little to do. Coming as it does, after a glut of superior superhero films, it just looks like it gave up trying to be more exciting or thrilling than the others.

The X-Men, for those who don’t know or care, are mutants, sheltered in a vast campus by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). They are called into action when impossible missions come up, and their success has saved them from anti-mutant lobbies. Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), with her mind-reading abilities, also grew up there, and is happy with her romance with Scott/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), till a mission to save a bunch of stranded astronauts throws her into a kind of solar flare that multiplies her powers. A group of shape-shifting aliens, led by Vuk (Jessica Chastain) want that power.

Jean, unable to control the anger that unleashes her destructive powers, accidentally kills one of the X-Men, and goes to ask the retired-in-disgrace Magneto (Michael Fassbender) for help. Meanwhile, Professor X, already shamed by Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Raven) for his megalomanical ways, also wants to find Jean and save her from herself.

The plot, hokey and stale, is sought to be refreshed with the special effects and action—and a strange climax set on an extra-long train—but remains flat and uninvolving. For all the effort that goes into the making, ideally, a superhero film should be fun to watch, and audiences should be able to root for someone. Dark Phoenix is just a slog, and one that itself too seriously. No wonder, even the actors look like they’d rather be done with it! The one sensible line calls out the sexism in naming the mutants X-Men, when most of the heavy duty work is done by women!

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