"Dark Phoenix" Review

The X-Men series has always been rich with relevant storytelling material. When films or television tell hyper-realistic stories of socially ostracised groups being subjected to violence discrimination, the people who experience those traumas in their day-to-day life are not able to enjoy those works of fiction with the same level of escapism that other entertainment media has. The X-Men are systematically oppressed and degraded by the social majority, non-mutants, who are regarded as the normative standard and hold all the government power and the resources that go with it. However, the X-Men also have extraordinary powers and seem larger than life while still being deeply human in the emotional struggles they go through. They're relatable to socially ostracised viewers and they are always the heroes of the story. This is the core of why the X-Men is so beloved to a diverse group of viewers.

As we all know, this is the end of the X-Men film series that has been running for almost twenty years. We still have The New Mutants to look forward to, if the studio would just hurry up and release it already, but this is the swan song for these core characters in their current form. Instead of taking the predictable route of having the X-Men fight yet another outside threat, be it another powered force of the human race at large, they must deal with a more dangerous side of Jean Grey and her powers.

Being that this is the end for these characters that fans have grown to love over the last twenty years, it's a nice choice to keep the focus on them. The story is an intimate exploration of not only the bonds that they've forged with one another but of how childhood trauma not only lingers but festers into adulthood when it's not properly dealt with. People tend to have a more clear understanding of physical trauma when it's external such as bruises, cuts, scars, or other things of that nature. What people don't always understand is that traumatic experiences, both physical or mental, can alter your brain chemistry which can in turn lead to a multitude of other problems. Sophie Turner researched certain psychological disorders to prepare for this portrayal and develop her characterisation.

What's important to understand about mental illnesses is that they can manifest because of trauma. When you experience something traumatic in life, be it physical or emotional, or both, it can alter your brain chemistry. Your brain is so crucial in dictating who you are and how you are as a person. People who have accidents where they get hit in the head, as an example, are experiencing another method of inflicting trauma on the brain. As a result, those people might undergo significant changes in their personality depending on which part of the brain is damaged.

Dark Phoenix effectively digs deep into Jean's traumas, and how being forced to confront them effects herself and her loved ones. Sophie Turner's performance is fantastic, and the other stand-out are James McAvoy Michael Fassbender, and even Nicholas Hoult. Since Jean is the character that's central to the story, her sickness and the damage it causes are the main driving forces of the story. The way Jean's relationship with Charles is explored is beautifully moving and exemplifies the recurring theme of 'found family' that's been so prevalent throughout the X-Men series. Charles is unwavering in stressing to Jean that she is not nor has she ever been something broken or wrong. Considering how long the X-Men series has been a vehicle for stories about discrimination and bigotry it's only natural to expand this to cover mental health, as it is another issue that remains highly stigmatised and makes people feel alone and lesser.

The other villain of the film is Vuk, who serves as an interesting addition to the story. She acts as a dual angel/devil-on-the-shoulder figure to Jean, with the sale tipping far more so in the direction of devil. There are always outside forces which pose threats to the X-Men and in addition to the rich character content Vuk facilitates for Jean, the alien force she's leading are the reason for some truly incredible action in the third act. Other mash-up/superhero films have displayed a propensity for spreading everyone out so the bond between them is not showcased during the bigger action sequences. Properly intertwining the actions of the X-Men during a fight scene shows that they trust each other, have a close bond, and in all likelihood a long history of training and going on mission together. Overall, Dark Phoenix is a truly fresh addition to the X-Men franchise, and an emotionally moving conclusion to the films.

Dark Phoenix is playing in cinemas worldwide.

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