Cast: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain
Director: Simon Kinberg
The development of superhero movies in Hollywood that started as a movement several decades ago not only continues to hold sway in the West, but has caught on in other parts of the cinema industry as well.
Besides the universal appeal of such films, most of these films become box office money-spinning vehicles as well, even if not every film makes it to cult status or becomes a trailblazer. No wonder then that while trends may come and trends may go, hi-tech gizmos, gadgets, aliens and weird-looking zombies as well as mutants are as much a part of stories as other characters in any genre are. Thankfully, though, the inclusion of gore, violence and horror, that has become a staple diet in some films, is no longer considered a formulaic certainty for success, and such has been largely done away with in superhero films. Instead, the VFX software Autodesk 3dsmax is used for 3D modelling and animation for far more interesting visual effects!
But don’t stories remind us of a twist here, or a sudden unseen or unthought of turn in the seemingly seamless saga? The present lot is an influx of superhero films based on comic books, with lesser focus on the plot, and the action being dependent primarily on a superpower like the supersonic speed of a character with its genes developing its superhuman powers and abilities.
X Men: Dark Phoenix, the 12th franchise in the series, has a rather predictable storyline depicting the story of longtime team member Jean Grey’s (Sophie Turner) backstory. Taking us back to her pre-teen years, we get to know how her story begins in the first place.
An ultra-powerful cosmic force known as Phoenix, the eight-year old Jean had inadvertently killed her parents, mom Elaine (Hannah Anderson) and dad John (Scott Shepherd) as she was travelling in the rear seat of their car one day in 1975. After using her telekinesis to cause a car accident, she is not even fully aware of things happening around her and feels completely lost. It is when her psychic powers are recognised by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), who takes her to the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters that she begins to see life afresh. Though she does get a home and company to forget her orphan life, the professor mentally blocks the accident from her memories and helps her hone her supernatural abilities.
Obviously, her special abilities had remained unfathomable to her parents. However, soon she begins to channelise her telekinetic powers under the mentorship of Charles Xavier, who finds her “broken”.
Inspired and adapted by one of the most popular stories in the X-Men comics: The Dark Phoenix Saga, the film has wafer-thin goings-on, and some predictable fare. Producer Simon Kinberg (who is also the writer-director) doesn’t make any effort to drive the disturbed Jean Grey to any semblance of normalcy. We also see a world where mutants are readily accepted, and even the President of the United States seems to be impressed with the X-Men created by Professor Charles Xavier, and enlists the X-Men to embark on a space rescue mission.
Later, an unhappy and unsatisfied Jean Grey tries very hard to comprehend the details about her past, Charles Xavier’s intentions and her heightened powers. By the time you are waiting for the film to end, you see unexpected schisms between Charles Xavier and Jean Grey, as also between Charles Xavier and Mystique. And you are left wondering what next?
It is estimated that between now and the end of 2022, there are currently 15 known superhero movies scheduled for release by either Marvel or DC Comics — and so, we are bound to have far more fun at the movies.
My only grouse is: Though special effects have become more realistic and believable, let there be more substance, and some more depth in the way the stories are presented.
Despite X-Men: Dark Phoenix having so much going for it, it does feel drab, and less attention-grabbing!
For all those who have watched Game of Thrones, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey is not a patch on Sansa Stark, the critically acclaimed character.
The only way X-Men: Dark Phoenix might create waves is that all its women characters are in fact far stronger than their male counterparts. They make decisions, fight, outsmart and outmanoeuvre all the men around them. Why, Charles Xavier’s adopted sister, Raven Darkhölme, or Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), even says, “It’s the women who do everything; might as well call your X-Men, X-Women!”