Dark Phoenix reviews roundup: Critics pan 'underwhelming' X-Men film starring Sophie Turner

Critics are mostly unanimous in their unfavourable reviews of the CGI, action sequences and character development, with praise reserved for James McAvoy's performance as Professor X

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 05 June 2019 09:00
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X-Men: Dark Phoenix - Trailer 3

The first wave of reviews for X-Men: Dark Phoenix has arrived, with the majority being largely negative.

Sophie Turner stars as Jean Grey, aka Phoenix, in the final instalment of the prequel series for the X-Men franchise – alongside Michael Fassbender (Magneto), James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Nicholas Hoult (Beast) and Tye Sheridan (Cyclops).

Jessica Chastain also appears as an enigmatic shape shifter who becomes interested in Grey and in her newly-obtained powers.

In a two-star review for The Independent, Geoffrey McNab wrote that the film has “no emotional depth whatsoever”.

“The filmmakers are far more concerned with serving up spectacle than in exploring their inner feelings,” he said. “That makes the storytelling increasingly monotonous.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw also gave the film two stars, writing that it “offers glimpses of intrigue before regressing into a dull CGI-fest”.

“The most interesting aspect of this film is McAvoy’s Xavier,” Bradshaw’s review says. “He is more opaque, more worldly, more secretive – and drinking more heavily. For the first time, we realise that he is not the idealist that we might have imagined. Raven is increasingly angry at Xavier’s recklessness and egotism, risking his pupils’ lives for his own glory – maybe as a result of being too close to the Washington political establishment.”

Variety’s review was slightly more positive, with more praise for James McAvoy’s performance that is “driven by a compelling ambiguity”.

“His Professor X is vain, controlling, and PR-hungry, not to mention a grand deceiver — all the things Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven accuses him of being,” the reviewer comments. “Yet what he says in his own defence is true as well: He’s desperate to protect the status of the X-Men, to not let them slip into being stigmatized, once more, by the world at large. What happened to Jean as a child was cruel, but maybe it was necessary. McAvoy, 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.”

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Digital Spy’s Ian Sandwell said: “In hindsight, Dark Phoenix's delay from November 2018 hasn't helped. With it repositioned as the 'culmination' of the X-Men series, it suffers in comparison to Avengers: Endgame and one key third-act beat is a carbon copy of a Captain Marvel moment.

”It leaves the movie in a tricky position of being a well-made but overly familiar entry in a crowded superhero field. Combine that with the mixed build-up to Dark Phoenix's release, and the movie just doesn't do enough, unfortunately.“

The Hollywood Reporter also compared the film unfavourably to the Avengers franchise, writing: ”Compared to the conclusions of other major franchises – the most recent being Avengers: Endgame – this one seems distinctly minor-league.

“The men who have anchored most of the X-Men outings are just spinning their wheels here, and while Jean's central dilemma is certainly dramatic enough, and is most closely entwined with the actions of two other women, what should have registered as genuinely powerful instead plays out in a pretty low-key way. In no way does this feel like a fulsome, satisfying destination to a journey that started two decades ago and logged about 30 hours in the telling.“

”There's no memorable soundtrack, no thrilling action sequences, not even a detectable sense of humour,” wrote Mashables Angie Han. “Dark Phoenix isn't especially ugly or upsetting, but it's no pleasure to sit through, either. It's just there, robotically going through the motions of recounting a story, without stopping to consider why it's bothering in the first place.“

Entertainment Weekly said: ”It’s true that X-Men have never exactly been the party clowns of the Marvel Universe; their hero status has always been conditional to fearful humans, and the chosen family of mutants they’ve landed in is less choice than necessity. Why should they have to banter for us, too? Still, for what is being called a final instalment, it all tends to feel both anticlimactic and a little grim in the end.“

“Better than Last Stand or Apocalypse but never hitting the heights of X2, Dark Phoenix thrives when its heroes are front and centre. If this is the end, it’s a solid rather than spectacular goodbye," said Empire's Ian Freer.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be released on 5 June in the UK and 7 June in the US.

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