Does X-Men: Dark Phoenix rise or fall from the ashes?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The X-Men have been on the big screen across 12 films in 19 years, introducing audiences to mutants with extraordinary powers.
The comic book series will conclude with the release of Dark Phoenix, and the first reviews are in.
Does it rise from the ashes, or crash before it flies away?
Variety's Owen Gleiberman says that the X-Men franchise wraps up with "a functionally plotted sequel that attains a note of ominous majesty".
He praises the performance of Sophie Turner, who plays Jean Grey (Phoenix), for giving the character "a glinting sensual fire, a fusion of triumph and dismay and sheer violence". He likens her performance to "watching Vivien Leigh play a vengefully irradiated badass".
Gleiberman says that Dark Phoenix "took me by surprise". He calls the writer and director Simon Kinberg "a more sensual and intuitive filmmaker".
He writes: "He doesn’t pad out a generic story with the rollicking eye candy of mutant effects. He uses effects to tell the story."
He calls these effects "a mid-’90s fanciful cheesiness", but adds that he "dug them" and the visual motif for that reason.
Gleiberman concludes: "[James] McAvoy (Professor X/Charles Xavier), with his gleam of cunning, plays to both sides of our sympathies, and so does Turner, who gets us to embrace Jean as a superhero, in part, because she’s a destroyer.
"The pleasure of “Dark Phoenix” is watching her emerge from the wreckage."
However, the Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin gives the film a one-star review, with the tagline: "X-Hausting, X-Cruciating, and little reason to exist".
He says it is a film that behaves like TV, and it "makes the heart deflate like a punctured bouncy castle". He argues that Dark Phoenix is an "especially hapless case" of this, saying it "feels like the latest episode of a show you stopped following years ago".
Collin concludes: "As time wears on in the real world, too, it’s hard not to wonder where the wit and glamour of 2011’s X-Men: First Class disappeared to, and why this franchise decided to trade uproariously period-specific ensemble capers for lugubrious soap-operatics.
"Under any circumstances this would have been X-Hausting. But with this cast, it’s been X-Cruciating to behold."
Dark Phoenix is the 12th movie in the X-Men franchise - and the final film in the main series. It started back in 2000 with the release of X-Men, followed by the sequels X2 (2003) and X-Men: Last Stand (2006).
X-Men First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) explored the origins of the mutants, following the earlier lives of Charles Xavier/Professor X, Erik Lensherr/Magneto, Mystique and many others.
The franchise has also spawned spin-offs, including X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine, Deadpool, and Logan. The New Mutants will conclude the franchise in 2020.
The first reviews for Dark Phoenix are coming in, and at the time of writing, it was given a 17 per cent rotten rating on film review aggregation website, Rotten Tomatoes. It is the lowest rating an X-Men film has received.
The critics consensus reads: "Dark Phoenix ends an era of the X-Men franchise by taking a second stab at adapting a classic comics arc - with deeply disappointing results."
It is also expected to underperform at the box office. Dark Phoenix is set to have the lowest US box office opening of the series to date, according to Digital Spy.