The worst, the most devastating thing that can be said about 'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' is that it responds completely to the very low expectations that the long-distance follower of the cinematographic 'X-Men' must have at this point. It took a handful of forgettable movies (the two initials), some frightening ones ('X-Men: The Final Decision', the first of Wolverine, the last two of Singer), a funny dislate (the second of Wolverine) ... and two extraordinary contributions that almost do not count in the calculation, to find their achievements in the antipodes of the franchise and its juicy contributions to the style and continuity of it have been therefore, ignored: we're talking about 'X-Men: First Generation' and 'Logan'.
So, we arrived at this final 'Dark Phoenix' (with script and direction by Simon Kinberg, screenwriter of many of the previous deliveries) with the worst expectations: the best that can be said of 'Days of the Future Past' is that in its craziest moments it looked like a carnival from Tenerife, but that is also set aside in a momentary climax for the series as dull and gray as this one, comparable to 'X-Men 3' and that climax of infamous memory. In fact, the comparison is not arbitrary: both adapt the same story of the comics... and both miss the most suggestive details of the original.
'Dark Phoenix' tells an habitual story within the comics of the darkest and most cosmic superheroes, and some of the most reflective mutant universe in particular: access to uncontrollable powers that opens the path of omnipotence, which combined with human problems gives as result a real powder magazine of ambition and energy badly channeled and out of control. This topic is something we've been talking about for years now; the excesses of power, from classical mythology; and our modern gods, the superheroes, it has been brought up again and again. Without going any further, the recent conclusion of the saga of the Infinity Stones of the MCU has reflected on it.
The comparison with the MCU may sound somewhat unfair, since 'Dark Phoenix' neither can nor wants to aspire to that scale or ambition. But there are aspects of the Marvel movies that 'Dark Phoenix' might have taken note of, but it prefers to remain anchored in the showy little style of the first installments of the series, brimming with explanatory dialogues and characters that are too conventional or underdeveloped. Its treatment of the villains - to whom it barely pays attention to: Chastain has almost no name - the discrete sequences of action and the secondary ones are as sadly misused as Night Riders or Mercury - these things are good proof of this.
Everything to tell the story of Jean Gray (Sophie Turner, correct but somewhat absent, a problem that extends to much of the cast), which in an apparently routine space mission that absorbs an unknown cosmic entity that multiplies her powers. When she begins to lose control of these and discovers that Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has been lying to her about her parents, she decides to flee the mansion. The remaining X-Men will have to ally with Magneto to stop her.
It is easy to understand the problems of 'Dark Phoenix' if the original saga of Claremont and Byrne in which it is inspired is known. There, the relationship between the ineffable and almighty cosmic entity and Jean Gray is much more than a mere increase in powers or a psychotic outbreak. In comics the transformation of Jean Gray comes from the hand of a villain, Mastermind (which partially inspires Jessica Chastain's character), and Phoenix demonstrates his power by completely sweeping an alien civilization.
There is a side mention of that last issue in the film, but it is a Phoenix existence prior to its merger with Jean Gray. All the manifestations that we see of the flaming entity in the film are mere fireworks and are channeled into an erratic behavior for Jean Gray that here is justified in a way - through his relationship with Xavier - that, frankly, did not require aliens. That is, Dark Phoenix is here an almost cosmetic issue and very badly exploited.
All this does not prevent that there are certain findings in the film. Unexpectedly, the relationship between Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Charles Xavier has some complexity and points in directions that the film could have certainly looked at. Xavier's corner personality and his moral chiaroscuro are not thoroughly explored, unfortunately, but he has many more readings than Jean Gray's. And there are moments in the action sequences (such as the Mercury bullet-time or the excellent initial sequence in space) that treasure some inventiveness, but are lost in a sea of gray fights and with excess of CGI.
The future of the characters is now uncertain, but the worst thing about 'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' is that it has an air of liquidation and turning the page. The feeling that some actors are there because of a contractual obligation is somewhat depressing, but the truth is that even a medium-sized film like this points to issues and characters that can be exploited in the future.