Nursing medium sized hopes for Dark Phoenix

My review of Dark Phoenix will go up in two more days. For now, let’s check out Mike Devine’s hopes for the final film of the 20th Century Fox incarnation of the X-Men.

It’s trendy among comic book fans to hate the X-Men films.  Some have been poor, most have had structural flaws, but a few have been great fun.  Note that I’m saying great fun and not simply great.

None of them have been great, although X2 came very close.  Still, I keep my fingers crossed that the X-Men will end their days at Fox on a high note.  There have been some really fun moments in the X-Men films, even clunkers like X3.  The Kitty Pryde vs. Juggernaut fight sequence was flawless.  The two things a good comic book has are fun and quality.

Speaking of fun, I’ll point out that the lack of fun is why I’m indifferent towards the Christopher Nolan Batman movies.  They are perfectly acted, flawlessly directed and beautifully filmed.  But they just aren’t fun.  To me.  Another topic for another day.

But back to the X-Men.  I’ve written before about how I would have liked to have the fox X-Men rolled into the MCU.  This could have been done, with a minimal amount of finessing of details.   Or perhaps the same actors stepping into the roles as the MCU versions of the characters, with the Fox versions being in another reality.  I’m certain Kevin Feige could make either approach work.

The “current” comic book movie wave, depending on how you define it, dates back to either Blade 1999 or X-Men 2000.  Both of which were obviously built on the groundwork of Superman (1978) and Batman (1989).   The Blade trilogy has horror trappings that keep it from getting more credit than it deserves.  So the X-Men block probably gets a bit more than it deserves.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

The Blade trilogy wrapped up with a slightly weaker, but still entertaining third film and then disappeared.  No one remembers the Sticky Fingaz television series that tried to continue the movies,* so we’ll just set it aside.  The X-Men movies have been a quality roller coaster since the beginning, with the bad bits made even more intolerable when contrasted against the goodness that permeates the MCU.  The MCU is based around good storytelling.  From this, quality flows into all of the other aspects.  The acting, the directing, the special effects.

The MCU is better in every way compared to the X-Men films.  Only a Fox X-Men movie could take a solid actor like Oscar Isaac and make his portrayal of Apocalypse silly and cringeworthy.  Despite this, I liked the movie, but only because I mentally filed it under “popcorn movie.”

Had Isaac portrayed the same character in the MCU it would have been every bit as amazing as Josh Brolin’s Thanos.  Wrapping Isaac in prosthetics and standing him on platform boots didn’t give him the height/mass needed to portray Apocalypse correctly.  Computers (and artists) captured Brolin’s performance and beautifully translated it into Thanos, complete with eyes so realistic they register as authentic.  There’s no Uncanny Valley effect for Thanos.

Another example is how the X-Men films, even after a time travel reset, still have a broken continuity.  The MCU, by comparison, flawlessly pulled off a “time heist” movie.

But I still want Dark Phoenix, a movie about a city in Arizona during a power outage, to be a great movie.  But it probably can’t be for several reasons.

dark phoenix - jennifer lawrence

The first is Mystique, who was reset as a hero and was never played as well by Jennifer Lawrence as she was by Rebecca Romijn.  Mystique should be, at best, an anti-hero.  Not the field leader of the X-Men.  WTF, Fox?

Secondly, Professor Xavier and Magneto don’t look the right age for this movie.  Come to think of it, neither do the others.  But screw it.  “Popcorn movie.”

And that broken continuity will probably be present in Dark Phoenix.  Unavoidable.

The MCU owes its success, in part, to having been able to learn from the mistakes of the Fox X-Men films.  The concept of continuity, something Bryan Singer doesn’t quite understand, was left out of the X-Men films.  Characters appeared at entirely different points in the timeline at the wrong ages.  Emma Frost was in her 30s in the 1960’s (X-Men First Class), but also a teenager in whatever not-quite-defined time (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) is set**.  In the MCU, Howard Stark has been portrayed by different actors, each correctly placed in the timeline.

So I’m hoping for a medium quality level in Dark Phoenix.  We might get it.  It looks like maybe, just maybe, Cyclops will get to be Cyclops in at least one movie.  James Marsden was the best cast, but worst utilized of all of the X-Men actors.  Hopefully Tye Sheridan will get to do right by the character.

Wolverine doesn’t appear to be in this movie, so it can’t be a Wolverine-fest like many of the other X-Men films have been.  There is also vibe to the trailer that everyone involved wants this to be a good send-off movie.  Or maybe even a desperate attempt to stay attached to the franchise once its in the hands of the MCU.  This film will also feature Jessica Chastain, who generally doesn’t take roles in bad films.  Could be a good sign.

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With a Thanos-like snap of his fingers, Kevin Feige will probably wish away all that was in order to start fresh and build the X-Men properly inside of the MCU.

Or, he could have the young X-Men team (plus Xavier and Magneto and a few Brotherhood members) end up stranded in the MCU through some multiverse incident, forcing them to set up shop there.  Or my preference would be the older versions, but the MCU already has many older actors in the 40-50 age group.  But with Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. gone, this could leave a space for Halle Berry and James Marsden to fill.

This might also leave the door open to show what became of the Fox universe down the road in a stand-alone film.  Perhaps the Sentinels wiped out all of the mutants and society crumbled?

No matter how it shakes out, I want Dark Phoenix to be great, but I’ll be pleasantly surprised with good.

*No, really, this was a thing.

**1979, if the nuclear reactor fight with Deadpool was supposed to be at Three Mile Island.

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

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