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Movie Review

X-Men 'Dark Phoenix' will give you déjà vu

The latest instalment in the X-Men franchise is enjoyable, but don't expect too much from it

07 June 2019 - 16:35 By Zola Zingithwa
Sophie Turner as the universe's most powerful mutant, Jean Grey, in 'Dark Phoenix'.
Sophie Turner as the universe's most powerful mutant, Jean Grey, in 'Dark Phoenix'.
Image: 20th Century Fox

Based on the trailer alone, Dark Phoenix seemed like it was just going to be a rehash of what we've seen from other films in the X-Men franchise. 

And that's pretty much the case.

The film is set in a world in which the X-Men are heroes. As Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) notes: they are taking on more and more dangerous missions all in the name of saving the world or, better put, saving humans not mutants.

As the team jet off to outer space to rescue some astronauts, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is hit by the blast from a cosmic entity. But instead of being killed, she gains super powers that are off the charts.

Her struggle to control these powers puts the lives of those she loves in danger. At the same time, she discovers some terrible truths about her past that present a major psychological challenge for her.

WATCH | The trailer for 'Dark Phoenix'

Thus Dark Phoenix is the origin story of how Grey became the most powerful mutant in the universe, as well as her battle to choose between using her abilities for good or evil. If that sounds very much like the plot to another movie, you're correct. You could describe X-Men: The Last Stand in much the same way.

In fact both films were written by Simon Kinberg, so it's rather confusing that he didn't notice the strong similarity between the two. Perhaps as Dark Phoenix was his directorial debut, Kinberg thought he could improve on Last Stand director Brett Ratner’s much criticised-interpretation of the story.

However, in the end, the film is just another CGI-filled superhero movie that doesn't say much about the world we currently live in. And that's really disappointing because, if there's one thing that has always been intriguing about the X-Men franchise, it's been its ability to depict humanity's drawbacks as the weaknesses that cause much of the evil we know of in the world. Yes, even in The Last Stand.

Yet Dark Phoenix falls into the all too familiar superhero trap of blaming an unknowable outside force - in this case a group of aliens lead by a being called Vuk - as the true villain. The film then presents the love for your own kind as the antidote to that evil, thereby demanding that you protect your own kind kind at all costs - even if it means sacrificing yourself in the process.

That being said, Jessica Chastain does a grand job of playing Vuk in light of her character's fairly underdeveloped story line; she also proves that not all action sequences need you to break a sweat to be effective.

And actually some of the action sequences were pretty cool to watch; they'll keep you interested in the film, even if you lose interest in the motives of the characters.

So while the film is enjoyable enough, don't expect too much. After all, it's a movie churned out of Hollywood's assembly-line blockbuster machinery.