‘Dark Phoenix’ review: Sophie Turner and Jessica Chastain’s characters remain underdeveloped in visually stunning latest ‘X-Men’ installment

‘Dark Phoenix’ review: Sophie Turner and Jessica Chastain’s characters remain underdeveloped in visually stunning latest ‘X-Men’ installment

This article contains some spoiler for ‘Dark Phoenix’.

Just like the rest of the ‘X-Men’ films, ‘Dark Phoenix’ had a star-studded cast, especially with the addition of ‘Game of Thrones’ actress Sophie Turner. However, neither the cast nor the fantastic visual and special effects could save ‘Dark Phoenix’ from subpar writing and weak character development. That said, a film like this isn’t easy to pull off, because 'Dark Phoenix' herself gives the audience many reasons to hate her. However some of the best films of our time have made us love characters we shouldn’t, but ‘Dark Phoenix’ didn’t necessarily have that effect.

‘Dark Phoenix’ starts off like so many other superhero films do, a child with “gifts” goes through the tragic loss of someone close to them. We begin in 1975, where a young redheaded girl named Jean Grey sits in the back of her parents' car unconsciously changing the radio station with her abilities.

As she tries to suppress her powers, she unintentionally causes a car accident that kills her parents. This was a heartbreaking scene that was actually beautifully done, however, the movie truly does go downhill from there. Jean is then introduced to the infamous Professor Charles Xavier (played James McAvoy), who breaks the devastating news to her. But with that, he tells her he can help her and takes her in as the newest student at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. 

We then jump forward to 1992 and Jean is now played by the one and only Sophie Turner, who has become one of the most valuable upperclassmen at the school.  These first few scenes with Turner are good, and we needed more of them.

We see a glimpse of her romantic relationship with Scott Summers aka Cyclops (played by Tye Sheridan) as well as the bonds she has formed with the rest of the X-Men crew, but it just wasn’t enough. At this point in the film, we know Jean is a sweet and intelligent young woman, but is that enough to make us care about her well being for the rest of the film?  No, it simply isn’t.  Hearing characters tell Jean how much they care about her doesn’t make us care about her. Show us, don’t tell us!

Charles, on the other hand, has gotten lost in the fame and notoriety that has been bestowed on him, and you can see how he slowly is putting his “family” in the line of fire over and over again to gain recognition. After a mission to space to save American astronauts goes wrong, Jean almost dies trying to fulfill demands that should have never been requested.

In fact, for all intents and purposes, Jean should have died and the fact that she is able to go back to school seemingly unscathed is worrisome. However Charles still has his blinders on, and in no way thinks about how putting Jean in the situation he did could backfire…but oh does it?

We then get introduced to Jessica Chastain’s character, a married woman enjoying a dinner party with friends. Before we get any real glimpse of who this woman is, a group of shapeshifting extraterrestrials violently take over their bodies. This group of innocents turned aliens are now the villains of the film.

As always, Chastain is brilliant, but her character is immensely underwritten and in many ways underutilized. Which is a shame, because, with an actress like Chastain, there is so much they could have done with this character and didn’t. Without giving anything away we will say this; about halfway through the film, Jean had done so much irreparable damage to those she loved and to the world itself, we were, in a way, rooting for her demise.

She was a hazard to those closest to her and the world around her, the idea that we should want her to be saved was unrealistic, especially because the writers didn’t do their due diligence in making us really connect to her character. All of this said, ‘Dark Phoenix’ is fast-paced, entertaining and visually enticing. If it has one thing going for it, it wasn’t boring by any means, it just wasn’t particularly magnificent like many had hoped it would be. It’s a shame because it truly was a missed opportunity, especially with such a fantastic cast.

'Dark Phoenix' will be released nationwide on June 7.

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