Review – Sansa Stark Goes Ballistic (“X-Men: Dark Phoenix”)

When 2014’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past reset the timeline, so did all the events and stories that we saw in previous movies like X-Men: The Last Stand. So, that stuff never happened, okay? Instead, we get a whole new bunch of younger X-Men (and women) and their new goofy-looking comic book yellow & blue suits!

It’s been nine years since the X-Men (and women) stopped that nasty Apocalypse guy (remember him from the 2016 film?) from trying to take over the Earth. After a brief flash-back to witness little Jean Grey’s (Summer Fontana) childhood trauma, we kick-start everything in 1992, where the X-gang are engaged in a rescue operation in space to save the space shuttle. However, things go badly as some weird cosmic doohickey attacks the shuttle AND Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). But instead of killing her, it only makes her stronger, powerful, and infinity more dangerous.

Having a space anomaly imbuing Jean with a force that can take her over and release unimaginable power catches the interest of not only Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), but his fellow mutants/teachers: Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee). But look out, here come the villains! Shape-shifting space aliens (are there any other kind?) called the D’Bari arrive and want Jean as their new leader to rule the Earth, at least that’s the way their leader, Vuk (Jessica Chastain), explains it.

Problem is, poor Jean can’t control the rage inside her and seeks counsel from the reformed super-villain, Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who’s now living the quiet, peaceful life… much like Thanos did. Anyway, the evil part of Jean (uh… I mean, Dark Phoenix) goes bonkers and sides are drawn as to who is for Jean, and who is against her. The epic finale fight scene onboard a transport train is way cool and is the highlight of the film, where it’s Jean vs Vuk, mutants against aliens, and logic & decent writing is thrown out the speeding window!

Written and directed by Simon Kinberg, this movie is all hit ‘n’ miss. Kinberg, known for both genuinely good writing (Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: Days of Future Past) and for his WTH-were-you-thinking writing (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, XxX: State of the Union), has given us a perfect example of fan-fiction writing. From the odd set-up, to forced segues, to really hokey scenes and downright corny dialogue, this movie is like a 13-year-old wrote it for his on-line chat friends. It’s silly, fast-paced, makes no sense, dumbed-down, but I gotta admit, Kinberg knows how to write & shoot those action sequences!

All the battles, fights, and confrontations are beautifully staged and shot and, ya have to hand it to the actors, they don’t pull back from their acting. McAvoy, Hoult, Fassbender, and Lawrence all give it their best. Turner, on hiatus from Winterfell, does an adequate job here, even though she seems lost in playing the tortured and torn Jean. Now part of the Disney/MCU the question is, will the X-Men franchise continue, especially with this new alternate timeline? Time will tell! In the meantime, ignore the ridiculous plot and laughable dialogue and just enjoy all the action stuff.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

The threequel in the ever-popular (??) X-Men franchise, this movie is widely regarded by fanboys as the one of the worst sequels made. I, however, beg to differ. In the general scope of things, this movie brought about the incarnation of Jean Grey into her new persona of Phoenix, an all-powerful, lethal mutant.

We begin with a flash-back when mind-master, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and truly nasty metal-master Erik Lensherr, aka Magneto (Ian McKellan) try and convince a young telepathic Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) to join their side. Well, I don’t have to tell you what happens, as Jean eventually joins the X-Men, but (in part two) dies while saving the others in a rescue mission. Sad emoji. We fast-forward to today and we can see that mutants are still feared and hated, but one man thinks he has a cure.

Worthington Labs has developed, thanks to a mutant kid named Jimmy, an inoculation to “cure” any mutant of their abilities. While some mutants are interested, others are horrified by the announcement. Magneto establishes a Brotherhood of Mutants with those who oppose the cure, warning his followers that the cure will be forcefully used to exterminate the mutant race. While gathering NEW mutants like Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), Multiple Man (Eric Dane), and others, who should pop-up but thought-for-dead Jean Grey! However, she’s not quite herself anymore as she’s been transformed into a dangerous mutant called Phoenix. How dangerous? She not only kills Cyclops (James Marsden), but Professor Xavier as well! Yikes!!

Having Phoenix as a frenemy, Magneto decides to use her as his own personal weapon against mankind, as he and his mutant army march against Alcatraz Island and Worthington Labs to destroy Jimmy and the “cure”. After moving the entire Golden Gate Bridge (a very cool scene), we have the ultimate fight scene with the good guys (Wolverine, Beast, Kitty Pryde, Storm, etc) vs the bad guys. In the end, Phoenix (Jean) is killed… again… and Magneto is stripped of his mutant powers. That is, until the next movie.

Written by super-script writers Zak Penn & Simon Kinberg (many of the X-Men movies), and directed by now disgraced Brett Ratner, this movie packs a wallop in tone, story, and pace. Honestly, I can’t see what the problem is, although I’d probably get a severe tongue lashing by those who live & breathe this stuff. It’s fast, energetic, has a great story that’s told well, and the direction flows quickly with Ratner’s rat-a-tat pacing. Besides all the others, Janssen really shines here as the explosively unstable Jean Grey/Phoenix struggling to maintain her sanity. Some say it’s a bad script, but I disagree. Have you seen X-Men: Dark Phoenix?

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