REVIEW: ‘Dark Phoenix’ and the importance of family
Dark Phoenix (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, wrapping up Fox’s X-Men series with a family-centric plot.
Jean is a young woman who has always been a little different.
She can read minds. She can move objects with her thoughts.
Such powers got her in trouble as a child, but as a teenager and young adult, she learned to control them, thanks to Professor Charles Xavier and his School for Gifted Youngsters, where she became a superhero alongside her other “different” friends.
Jean and her friends are mutants (humans with genetic superpowers) who travel the world to defeat the bad guys and rescue the innocent. Most people call them the “X-Men.”
The year is 1992, and their latest mission is to space, where the Space Shuttle is spinning out of control and NASA’s astronauts are facing near-certain death. Their goal: pull the astronauts out of the Shuttle and transport them back to Earth, unharmed.
The mission, though, doesn’t go as planned. The astronauts indeed are rescued, but Jean is slammed by a mysterious space force that knocks her unconscious.
At first she appears normal, but she soon realizes she’s stronger than ever—in fact, stronger than anyone else on the X-Men team. She’s also filled with rage and pain and a desire to destroy anything that gets in her path.
Jean tries to control her emotions, but too often, they overpower her. That’s especially the case when she digs into her past to discover where she came from. She also uncovers a major fact about her childhood that was kept secret.
Jean—now known as the Phoenix—is very angry.
Dark Phoenix (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, continuing the current X-Men series and giving moviegoers a second adaptation of the Phoenix story (X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006 also had a story about Jean Grey/Phoenix).
It stars Sophie Turner as Jean/Phoenix, James McAvoy as Professor X, Tye Sheridan as her romantic interest Scott Summers/Cyclops, and Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique.
It is being billed by 20th Century Fox as the “most intense and emotional X-Men movie ever made,” although that likely will change in the future since Disney now owns Fox. Yes, a reboot is likely.
The X-Men series never achieved the popularity and box office success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—even though these are Marvel characters—but that doesn’t mean Dark Phoenix isn’t enjoyable. In fact, thanks to an entertaining angle and solid message about the importance of family, it’s pretty good.
The film follows the story of Jean/Phoenix but also of the shape-changing D’Barie aliens, which look like humans and want Jean’s powers in order to populate Earth with their own race (This would result in the rest of us dying).
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Moderate/extreme. We watch a car crash in slow motion; some of the occupants are killed. In space, Jen fails to get out of the way of the cosmic force; her colleagues assume she is dead. Phoenix and the X-Men battle one another. One major character is impaled and dies (We briefly see the character’s bloodied torso). An alien tortures a human (apparently killing him). Phoenix destroys police cars and military helicopters. She crushes Dr. X’s wheelchair and makes him “walk” by cruelly using her powers. A group of citizens are placed in internment camps; we see them dragged away and placed in vehicles. The film, like all superhero movies, includes a final act with tons of fighting and explosions. One of the film’s most disturbing moments involves aliens being shot hundreds of times by machine guns but not dying (We see it multiple times).
Minimal. Jean and Scott kiss while alone.
Moderate. About eight coarse words: S–t (2), d–n (2), f-word (1), GD (1), JC (1) and misuse of “God” (1).
Other Positive Elements
Jean’s powers as the Phoenix result in her remembering painful emotions from the past, such as her parents apparently dying in a car crash when she was eight. But Jean then learns her father survived the crash and placed her for adoption with Professor X. Her dad didn’t know how to raise a superhero daughter
Jean then goes on journey to answer a major question: Who is her family? Raven/Mystique answers: It’s the X-Men: “I’m not giving up on your, Jean. This is what family does.” We also see Professor X reassure Jean’s biological father that Jean is unique and will be loved.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
Children who are adopted or who come from abandoned homes may be troubled by the plot. We see Jean’s biological father blame her for the car crash. We also watch her struggle with the feelings of being abandoned. The film has a happy ending, though.
We see the X-Men drink during an outdoor party.
The head of the alien race discusses a “spark” that gave the universe life.
Family is the foundation: Jean doesn’t remember her biological parents (her memory was erased), but she still grew up in a loving environment. The film underscores the importance of family and even provides a positive message about adoption.
Temptation is powerful: Jean is told she is powerful enough to control the universe—if she gives in to her wicked desires.
Different can be good: Jean and the other X-Men are different—“special” in the modern vernacular. But they learn different can be a good thing. Such a message is much-needed in a culture where peer pressure is the norm and people often follow the crowd.
Emotions can’t be trusted: Jean has trouble controlling her anger. In fact, she wants to stay away from friends so she won’t accidentally harm them.
There is always hope: The movie, not surprisingly, ends on a happy, forgiving note. Jean learns the X-Men truly cared for her.
The X-Men worldview is one where certain humans have special genes that give them powers—including the ability to reach minds, teleport, and move objects by thinking.
Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s, T-Mobile, Boulevard Brewing Company, Gilt, Box Lunch, BSN.
The family-centric angle.
The X-Men story arc is often convoluted—as is the case with the Phoenix story. This is the second film iteration of Phoenix (She went on a rampage and died in the 2006 movie X-Men: The Last Stand and then was brought back to life in the 2014 film X-Men: Days of Future Past).
1. Define family. Why is family important to a child’s upbringing?
2. Why did Jean have trouble forgiving? Why is forgiveness sometimes hard? What is the key to forgiving?
3. Can you always trust your emotions? Do emotions make you weak … or strong?
4. Describe a moment you faced peer pressure. What is the secret to following God when you’re facing temptation to follow others?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Dark Phoenix is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action including some gunplay, disturbing images, and brief strong language.