Apparently critics hated it and it lost a ton of money. Andrew Anglin said it’s because the star actress is fat and ugly, which I don’t think is fair or even true. She’s okay-looking. Not stunning, but not at all ugly. Certainly not ugly enough to tank an entire movie by herself, though I’m sure she’s an idiot Hollywood liberal who assumes she makes less money than men.
I saw Dark Phoenix on a weekday a week after it came out, because I hate crowds at the theater and I just assumed that opening week would be packed. And I had a voucher for a free ticket. To my surprise, there was maybe half a dozen people in the whole theater.
I really appreciated how they didn’t bother with continuity with the previous films while still existing in the same universe. This allowed them to avoid the baggage of making a continuous story but also without having to re-explain everything, and thus they could build a really good story from the source material without the extra propping needed for a stand alone film or reboot. I didn’t understand all of what was going on, but I didn’t need to. The sets were the same from the original films, even though clearly the characters went in different directions.
I found this work-around extremely brilliant, and I’m sure it’s half the reasons critics and audiences hated it.
Comic book franchises don’t exist within a perfect canon. Like Greek mythology, there are reboots and re-tellings and re-imaginings of the same characters for different times. I most especially how they reused Mystique/Raven, making her a good character but with the same basic motivations as her villain character in the original movies. (I haven’t read the comic books, so I’m only vaguely familiar with the source material from Wikipedia.)
Thus Dark Phoenix had a lot of the themes of relationships and ethics that made the first films so good. Themes about sacrifice, surrogate families, loving someone despite their dangers, the ethics of how to use your gifts, the ethics of advice, authority and intervention, the ethics of autonomy, the ethics of public image. The scene where Raven approaches Jean, quietly telling her that she loves her because she’s her family, knowing that Jean will likely kill her, and it’s so quiet that you can barely hear because of how loud Jean’s inner world is, was especially touching, and it couldn’t have happened if the movie tried to make perfect continuity with the expository interpretation of the decades-long franchise from 2000.
But the X-Men film franchise is twenty years old and has none of the original actors. The superhero genre, despite whatever success Marvel Studios is still having, is dying. You can only tell these stories the same way over and over.
I didn’t see the last several X-men films, for that very reason. You can only recreate the magic so many times. I’m not even sure which ones I saw. Looking at Wikipedia, I saw the one where he went to Japan, but I remember almost nothing about it. And I saw the one with the time machine, which again I don’t really remember. If those sound stupid, that’s because they were.
I saw Dark Phoenix because I heard something about the purist fans being upset that the third film ruined the phoenix storyline from the comic books. And because I had a free voucher.
Critics also hated Bad Teacher. At this point I just assume that if they hate a movie it’s probably pretty good.
The only superhero franchise I care about is Batman, because the villains are usually villains of ideology. But even then, I’ve seen almost nothing after the Christopher Nolan movies. I might see the upcoming Joker movie, but I think I heard something about how it’s really about refugees or global warming. Last year I read Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, which was terrible no matter how many ways I tried to convince myself otherwise, and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which might have actually been better than Watchmen. And I watched nearly all of the first two seasons of the 1960s show before I decided I was wasting my life.
While on the topic (wildly divergent from the original blog post theme), everyone misunderstood the 2008 The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s Joker was a two-dimensional prop, and he was that way by design. The movie was actually about Aaron Eckhardt’s Two-Face. It was about Nietzchean themes of looking into the abyss and succumbing to it, and the Joker merely pushed Two-Face in a certain direction. The story was about how we react to the loss of loved ones and the failure of those who were supposed to be good, and that’s not something relevant to the Joker, because we don’t know anything about his character. No one picked up on that, because we live in Babylon with air conditioning.
Anyway, if you don’t have to pay $11, Dark Phoenix is a great film. Very human themes about the ethics of care. I’ve always said that the true test in any fantasy-type story is that if you remove the special context, does it still hold up as a good story? The Harry Potter books were a C at best. The Gotham City Sirens comic book series was a B+. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was an A+++. I’d give Dark Phoenix an A-.