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Big Budget Films That Flopped at the Box Office

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Some movies succeed at the box office while others crash and burn. It’s a real tragedy when studios lose millions of dollars after a major film flops. Highly anticipated films like Justice League and Dark Phoenix tanked at the box office and failed to wow audiences.

Plenty of movies have flopped and the reasons range from terrible scripts to controversial casting decisions. Check out the biggest box office movie flops of all time.        

Justice League (2017)

The chaotic plot, underdeveloped script and poorly executed CGI were Justice League’s kryptonite (besides the box office of course). Moviegoers also thought the film’s tone was inconsistent and boring. However, there was some good feedback: People enjoyed Gal Gadot and Ezra Miller’s performances.

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Justice League is one of the most expensive films ever made, costing $300 million to produce and another $150 million to market. It’s also DC’s lowest grossing film. After underperforming at the box office, Justice League lost the studio somewhere between $51 million and $102 million. A sequel was planned for June 2019, but that didn’t happen. 

Production Budget: $300 millionGross: $658 million

Rush Hour 3 (2007)

The Rush Hour franchise follows two cop buddies, portrayed by Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. While the first two installments were fan favorites, Rush Hour 3 gave audiences a sense of déjà vu. Moviegoers grew tired of the same fistfights and life-threatening situations that were already featured in the first two films. Rush Hour 3’s estimated loss was $71 million.

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Although Rush Hour 3 wasn’t what fans expected, they still have hope for Rush Hour 4 . In April 2019, Chan and Tucker sparked buzz on social media after posting a photo where the two are each holding up a hand with four fingers.

Is it real or are the two just trolling everyone? We’ll have to wait to find out.

Production Budget: $140 millionGross: $258 million

Ghostbusters (2016)

The Ghostbusters reboot ran into trouble before hitting the box office. When the public and social media users found out that Ghostbusters featured an all-female cast, controversy arose. Many people who opposed the film made misogynistic and anti-feminist comments because the cast was all women. The film received major backlash, including low ratings on its IMDb page.

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In May 2016, the Ghostbusters trailer became the most disliked film trailer on YouTube. Hold on; there’s more. After the film’s release, Twitter users attacked cast member Leslie Jones with racist and sexist remarks, forcing her to quit the platform for a while.

Ghostbusters’ director, Paul Feig, believes the public’s resentment of the cast negatively impacted the reboot. The studio lost $78 million.

Production Budget: $144 millionGross: $229.1 million

Power Rangers (2017)

Many fans who grew up watching Power Rangers on TV on Saturday mornings were excited for this film’s release. However, the film didn’t perform as well as expected, losing the studio $78 million. At the theaters, there were barely any youngsters in sight.

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The filmmaker, Dean Israelite, believes Power Rangers failed because of its PG-13 rating. He suspects that parents would’ve been more comfortable bringing their children to watch Power Rangers if it was rated PG. Although Power Rangers didn’t do well at the box office, it broke boundaries by becoming the first superhero film to feature LGBTQ and autistic teenagers. Some fans were glad to be represented in the movie.

Production Budget: $100 millionGross: $142.3 million

Tomorrowland (2015)

A-list actor George Clooney and Britt Robertson starred in Tomorrowland , which follows a science-loving teenager and a former boy-genius inventor. The two uncover a mysterious place located in time, space and their collective memories. Sounds original, right?

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Well, Tomorrowland’s new concept was the problem. Believe it or not, unique movies struggle at the box office because moviegoers are more likely to spend money on sequels and reboots. Many critics added fuel to the fire by slamming the film’s writing and tone, leading moviegoers to watch anything but Tomorrowland . The film’s misfortune was between $8 million and $159 million.

Production Budget: $180 million – $190 millionGross: $209.2 million

How Do You Know (2010)

There are many great romance movies. How Do You Know is not one of them. Some of Hollywood’s most popular actors starred in How Do You Know , including Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson. But the star-studded cast couldn’t save the movie. The studio, Columbia Pictures, lost between $87 million and $121 million.

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In the film, an ex-softball player, Lisa, reevaluates her life and gets stuck in a love triangle. Audiences thought How Do You Know was a predictable and unoriginal story. Critics also say How Do You Know starts off terribly and just gets worse. There was no chemistry between the characters. The story also just keeps going in circles.

Production Budget: $100 millionGross: $48.7 million

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

What if dinosaurs never became extinct? The Good Dinosaur follows a young and easily frightened Apatosaurus who goes on an adventure with a human through a tough and mysterious land. The adorable story was set in an alternate history. The film’s estimated loss was $90 million.

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The Good Dinosaur’s production budget ballooned after a script rewrite and a delayed release. However, all that work didn’t pay off for Pixar. The film’s story and animation were beautiful, but The Good Dinosaur was too ordinary and not “Pixar-level imaginative.” Although The Good Dinosaur bombed at the box office, it did top home video sales charts.

Production Budget: $175 million – $200 millionGross: $332.2 million

Pan received many negative reviews, with critics bashing the film’s formulaic plot and overuse of CGI. Warner Brothers spent $150 million on the film’s production budget and used between $100 and $125 million on marketing. However, the studio lost between $91 million and $159 million.

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Why did Pan fail? The film was in hot water since casting. Warner Brothers received public backlash after casting Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, a Native American character. Thousands of people signed a petition protesting the casting choice of a white actress for a Native American role. The film also suffered because it didn’t have enough big stars and drifted too far from the classic Peter Pan story.

Production Budget: $150 millionGross: $128.4 million

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne, Jupiter Ascending failed at the box office. The studio, Warner Brothers, suffered a loss of $92 million to $127 million. People thought the screenplay was incoherent, boring and confusing. Some moviegoers were frustrated because the movie introduced too many supporting characters.

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When the main character, Jupiter Jones, met all of her new family members throughout the film, people quickly lost interest. Critics also slammed the film for relying heavily on special effects. However, there was a small group that actually appreciated the film: a niche of female science fiction fans.

Production Budget: $175 millionGross: $184 million

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Superstars like Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin and Hugh Jackman voiced characters in Rise of the Guardians , but the studio still lost a whopping $95 million. Moviegoers complained about Baldwin’s Russian accent for Santa Claus, calling it too rough for the character.

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Rise of the Guardians also struggled because of its release date. The studio, DreamWorks Animation, typically doesn’t release movies close to Thanksgiving. But the studio did for Rise of the Guardians , losing to films like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 , Skyfall and Lincoln . Although Rise of the Guardians failed at the box office, it was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

Production Budget: $145 millionGross: $306.9 million

The Mummy (2017)

Universal Pictures spent a whopping $345 million on The Mummy’s production and advertising. The Mummy received a whole lot of negative reviews, leading to a loss of $97 million. Critics slammed the film’s narrative, tone and acting. What else went wrong?

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Moviegoers reported that the film’s plot was chaotic and hard to follow. Some critics blame the movie’s failure on Tom Cruise, who took control of the production. Cruise guided the script’s rewrite and the film’s editing. Critics believe Cruise’s vision may have clashed with director Alex Kurtman’s.

Production Budget: $195 millionGross: $410 million

Gigli (2003)

When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck (Bennifer) dated in 2003, they also starred in a film together. Their film, Gigli , was a major disappointment. It’s considered one of the worst films of all time, losing the studio an estimate of $98 million.

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Gigli’s failure might have been caused by a lack of chemistry between Affleck and Lopez. Because Lopez’s character, Ricki, was a lesbian at the beginning of the film, fans didn’t understand how she fell in love with Affleck’s character, Larry. The chemistry was so bad, Affleck and Lopez won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple.

Production Budget: $75.6 millionGross: $7.3 million

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Many reviewers complained that Around the World in 80 Days was nothing like the book it was based on. Fans expected adventure and action, but the film mainly just featured weird celebrity cameos. During the fight scenes, the camera zoomed on the character’s facial expressions rather than capturing the actual fight. How much did the studio lose? $98 million.

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Critics praised Jackie Chan’s performance in the film, but Arnold Schwarzenegger got heat for his acting. Schwarzenegger portrayed the Middle Eastern character, Prince Hapi. His acting was so bad that Schwarzenegger earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor.

Production Budget: $110 millionGross: $72.2 million

R.I.P.D. (2013)

It’s hard for a movie to live up to a book. According to critics, that was definitely the case for R.I.P.D. Critics described R.I.P.D. as dim-witted and formulaic. They called it another buddy cop movie and a bad copy of Men In Black . R.I.P.D.’s studio lost between $98 million and $124 million.

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If you thought R.I.P.D. sucked, you’re not the only one. Even Jeff Bridges, who portrayed veteran lawman Roy Pulsifer in the film, was disappointed. Bridges says , “And when I saw it, I was a little underwhelmed. For my mind, the studio made some, uh, choices that I wouldn’t have made.”

Production Budget: $130 million – $154 millionGross: $78.3 million

xXx: State of the Union (2005)

xXx: State of the Union is the sequel to xXx (2002). Vin Diesel starred in the first film, but dropped out of the sequel because he disliked the script. Diesel made a good move because xXx: State of the Union bombed at the box office. The film’s production company, Revolution Studios, was in the hole by $100 million.

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Some big names starred in the sequel, including Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe and Samuel L. Jackson. But they couldn’t help xXx: State of the Union succeed. Reviewers criticized the poor acting, illogical story and overuse of CGI-based visual effects. People thought putting Ice Cube in an action movie was a mistake because he struggled to fight and run in the film.

Production Budget: $113.1 millionGross: $71 million

Cats (2019)

Audiences and critics are hissing at Cats . Over the holidays, the film crashed and burned at the box office, grossing only $38.3 million against production costs of $100 million. Experts estimate the loss is at least $70 million. Ouch!

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The studio hoped the casting of Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson and Idris Elba would draw in audiences, but they just weren’t “feline” the film. Before hitting theaters, the film’s trailer caused an uproar on social media because the CGI and human cats creeped people out.

Production Budget: $100 millionGross: $38.3 million

Dark Phoenix (2019)

The latest installment of the X-Men franchise, Dark Phoenix , was one of the most anticipated movies of summer 2019. However, the film tanked at the box office, having the worst opening weekend in the franchise’s history. The film was in the red by $100 million to $200 million.

review film x men dark phoenix

Fans say Dark Phoenix was underwhelming and boring. Some viewers said that the cast looked like they’d rather be anywhere than in the film. Reviewers also complained that the film lacked character development and a plot. But not everything was bad. People appreciated Hans Zimmer’s score.

Production Budget: $200 millionGross: $209 million

The Lone Ranger (2013)

Although The Lone Ranger featured international star Johnny Depp, the film still flopped at the box office (especially overseas). Before hitting theaters, the movie experienced many problems. The Lone Ranger struggled with budget issues, causing the film to stop production temporarily. Its estimated loss was between $102 million and $204 million.

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The Lone Ranger also faced racial controversy after casting a white man (Depp) in a Native American role. Audiences were disappointed in the film’s use of stereotypes, including the Native American character, Tonto, communicating with animals and speaking in incomplete sentences. They also weren’t happy with Tonto’s costume, which featured white face paint and a dead crow hat.

Production Budget: $225 million – $250 millionGross: $260.5 million

47 Ronin (2013)

Variety magazine called 47 Ronin one of “Hollywood’s biggest box office bombs of 2013.” And they weren’t wrong. The film got its butt kicked by other films that were released at the same time, including The Wolf of Wall Street , American Hustle and Her . 47 Ronin’s production company lost between $104 million and $161 million.

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Some critics say 47 Ronin lost momentum after taking too long to reshoot and edit. 47 Ronin was originally supposed to hit the box office in November 2012. But the good news is: Viewers applauded 47 Ronin’s action sequences and visuals. So maybe the reshooting and editing was a little worth it?

Production Budget: $175 million – $225 millionGross: $151.8 million

Evan Almighty (2007)

Evan Almighty is considered one of the worst sequels of all time. Its loss? $106 million. Reviewers criticized Evan Almighty’s overuse of special effects. They also thought that the movie was dry and lacked humor. Although the film’s star, Steve Carell, is a successful comedian, viewers didn’t find his performance funny. Carell’s jokes just didn’t land in this film.

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While Evan Almighty was a disappointment, Bruce Almighty received more love from audiences. Bruce Almighty’s lead, Jim Carrey, is well known for his idiosyncratic characters and jokes. He was praised for declining to reprise his role, which was definitely a good idea because Carrey avoided the almighty disaster.

Production Budget: $175 millionGross: $173.4 million

Battlefield Earth (2000)

People disliked almost everything about Battlefield Earth , including the acting, cinematography, story, special effects and visual direction. Battlefield Earth excessively used skewed camera angles. The film was also visually ugly with its dismal color palate. Warner Brothers was in the hole by $107 million.

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Battlefield Earth won eight Golden Raspberry Awards, which was the most Razzie Awards a film received until 2012. It’s no surprise that Battlefield Earth is considered one of the worst movies ever made.

Production Budget: $73 million – $103 millionGross: $29.7 million

Mars Needs Moms (2011)

Mars Needs Moms failed because it lacked imagination and heart, losing the Walt Disney Pictures an estimate of $111 million to $160 million. Moviegoers complained that there was no character development. The main character, Milo, was a brat and his mom was unconscious during the majority of the film. As a result, no one got to know the characters (or even care about them).

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Critics also believed that kids struggled to watch Mars Needs Moms because it used motion-capture technology. Some found it creepy and scary for kids. Do kids really want to see a film about a mom getting kidnapped?

Production Budget: $150 millionGross: $39 million

Treasure Planet (2002)

Treasure Planet led to a loss of $118 million. Many critics thought the visuals in Treasure Planet were beautiful, but the characters lacked creative development. Audiences struggled to connect with the main character, Jim. They found Jim flat, weak and predictable. His character didn’t charm moviegoers.

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People also disliked the character of John Silver. Was he a villain, hero or both? Audiences also had a hard time connecting with Silver. Although critics ripped Treasure Planet apart, it received a nomination for the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Production Budget: $140 millionGross: $109.6 million

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

There are many movies based on King Arthur, but this is the only film that made the biggest box office movie flops list. King Arthur was supposed to be the first in a six-film franchise, but Warner Brothers canceled the sequels after the movie flopped at the box office. It was a one-and-done film, losing between $118 million and $157 million.

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Reviewers criticized King Arthur’s poor pacing and planning. Critics also noted that the viewers found the movie boring. There’s a lack of successful blockbusters based on King Arthur, suggesting that people aren’t interested in the subject.

Production Budget: $175 millionGross: $148.7 million

Stealth (2005)

Stealth is about three top fighter pilots working on an automated stealth aircraft project. The film is considered one of the worst failures in cinematic history, losing $123 million. People thought the movie performed poorly because it was dull. The action scenes weren’t even exciting.

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Film critic Roger Ebert called the film “an offense against taste, intelligence and the noise pollution code — a dumbed-down Top Gun crossed with the HAL 9000 plot from 2001.” Stealth was also predictable. People knew that one of the main characters was going to die and saw a love story coming.

Production Budget: $135 millionGross: $76.9 million

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle In Time featured some big names, including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling. It was also the movie adaption of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved book of the same name, but the movie didn’t dazzle viewers. Fans of the book were very disappointed.

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Critics disliked the film’s confusing plot holes and overuse of CGI. Transitions between scenes were choppy and awkward. Viewers also struggled to understand the story’s villain, IT. Why is IT’s home planet so creepy? How and why does IT travel? A Wrinkle In Time’s production company was in the red by $131 million.

Production Budget: $125 millionGross: $133.4 million

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Final Fantasy was based on a video game series. The movie used the most advanced processing capabilities available for animation, driving the film’s budget to $137 million. Popular stars like Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi and Ving Rhames worked on the film, but it still couldn’t turn a profit, losing $133 million.

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Hardcore Final Fantasy fans found many things missing in the film. Where were the magical materia and chocobos? Instead, the film gave audiences a confusing story. Who are the bad guys? Why do the ghosts engage with humans? Final Fantasy performed so badly that some critics blame it for shutting down its production company, Square Pictures.

Production Budget: $137 millionGross: $85.1 million

Titan A.E. (2000)

Titan A.E. roped in some big stars, like Matt Damon, Nathan Lane and Drew Barrymore, but still couldn’t manage to break even. Its studio was in the red by $145 million. Before hitting theaters, Titan A.E. faced many problems. After 18 months of production, the film changed directors. Titan A.E. also had to drop its use of 2D animation in the middle of production when 3D animation became popular.

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After two weeks at the box office, the film lost 60% of its audience. Titan A.E failed to compete with Disney’s Fantasia , Shaft and Boys and Girls . Although the movie flopped at the box office, it landed eight nominations for awards, including an Annie Award and Golden Reel Award.

Production Budget: $75 million – $90 millionGross: $36.8 million

John Carter (2012)

John Carter led to a loss of $133 million to $218 million. Critics had nothing but bad things to say about John Carter . Some reviews slammed the film’s uneven pacing, confusing plot and terrible character development. Where were the characters’ backstories? Why was Dominic West’s character obsessed with Barsoom? Why was Mark Strong’s character manipulative? We may never know why.

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Moviegoers also struggled to understand the complicated plot. The story was too much to get through. The strange terminology and confusing concepts were hard to grasp. John Carter performed so poorly at the box office that Disney had no choice but to pull the plug on the sequel.

Production Budget: $263.7 millionGross: $284.1 million

Cutthroat Island (1995)

Cutthroat Island was cursed since the beginning. The troubled and chaotic production included several rewrites and recasts. Before Matthew Modine was cast as the leading man (Shaw), Michael Douglas had originally agreed to play the part. But Douglas quit. Oliver Reed was fired from the cast after fighting at a bar and trying to expose himself to Geena Davis.

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Reviewers criticized the script and acting. Cutthroat Island’s star, Davis, failed to charm audiences. She flunked in delivering wit and humor. Some critics also called the film’s stunts unrealistic. Others blame Cutthroat Island for the demise of its production company, Carolco Pictures. The company lost a whopping $146 million.

Production Budget: $98 millionGross: $18.3 million

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

Sinbad is the biggest box office flop on this list, losing $170 million. The studio, Dreamworks, lost so much money from Sinbad that it almost went bankrupt. People hammered Sinbad for removing Arab and Muslim context from the story. The film replaced Arab references with Greek references.

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Sinbad had a star-studded cast, including Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer. Sinbad had all that star power, but still failed to compete with one of Pixar’s highest grossing films, Finding Nemo , which was released around the same time. Although Brad Pitt voiced Sinbad, people still disliked the character because he was an unappealing, cocky and greedy pirate.

Production Budget: $60 millionGross: $80.8 million


review film x men dark phoenix

Dark Phoenix (2019)

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“You’re always sorry and there’s always a speech. But nobody cares anymore.”

It’s rare for a character to speak dialogue that so perfectly captures the critically flawed foundation of a film as completely as that particular line from “Dark Phoenix,” the last gasp of a franchise that has had remarkable highs and remarkable lows but never quite seen a film that felt so much like nobody cared anymore. Allegedly conceived as a send-off to the characters and cast introduced over the course of “ X-Men: First Class ,” “ X-Men: Days of Future Past ,” and “ X-Men: Apocalypse ,” Simon Kinberg ’s directorial debut simply has nothing going on under the surface, and that's pretty bland too. It is a joyless, lifeless, boring affair that repeats ideas from better X-films and feels more like an obligatory reunion cash grab than a deeply considered goodbye to iconic characters.

When Jean Grey was a child, her parents died in a car accident after their daughter’s psychic powers manifested in a way that put mom to sleep behind the wheel. Professor Charles Xavier ( James McAvoy ) took in the orphaned girl, knowing that he could raise her in a way that controlled her powers, and she became a part of the X-Men, played when she’s older by Sophie Turner . In an early scene in “Dark Phoenix,” the X-Men are sent on a mission to save a crew of a space shuttle that is spinning out of control. Jean Grey, Professor X, Raven ( Jennifer Lawrence ), Beast ( Nicholas Hoult ), Cyclops ( Tye Sheridan ), Quicksilver ( Evan Peters ), Storm ( Alexandra Shipp ), and Nightcrawler ( Kodi Smit-McPhee ) spring into action. What follows is actually the best sequence in the movie as the X-Men combine their powers to save the crew, giving each a brief moment to shine. Jean ends up taking the brunt of what is though to be a solar flare at first but ends up being some sort of interstellar, planet-destroying force. And that force now lives inside Jean.

Renamed the Phoenix by some for the way she cheated death, Jean now has unusual powers that she struggles to control. She’s also flooded by memories of her past that Professor X helped repress, and the combination of her new rage abilities and a sense of betrayal by her father figure leads Phoenix to the dark side. It doesn’t help that an alien being named Vuk (who takes the body of Jessica Chastain ) is encouraging Phoenix to go all space-mental, or that our heroine ends up killing someone she once loved. All of this brings Magneto ( Michael Fassbender ) back into the fold, and a whole lot of things go boom and bam. If you’re even remotely turned off by the trend of blockbusters climaxes that exist almost solely to present CGI versions of things smashing into each other, stay far from “Dark Phoenix.”

Actually, there are plenty of other reasons to stay away from “Dark Phoenix” too. The best “ X-Men ” movies contain a degree of subtext (often about outsiders), but “Dark Phoenix” is all flat text. Everyone says what they mean, feel, and need at all times, leading to dialogue that gets so repetitive that it becomes numbing for the LONG stretches between poorly-directed action sequences (there's one in which X-Men fight trying to cross a street that is comically bad in terms of choreography). People say generic Comic Book Movie Mad-Libs things like “When I lose control things happen ... bad things ... to people I love,” and you start to pray for Magneto/Fassbender to say something remotely witty or, gasp, whimsical. The truth is that Wolverine/Jackman added some playful energy to the other films, and it’s stunning that no one thought that maybe someone else should take on that role here.

It's probably because everyone was too bored to care. Jennifer Lawrence is a wonderful actress in the right material, but she simply can’t be convinced to feign excitement about playing this part one more contractually-mandated time. Jessica Chastain can usually bring depth and nuance to everything she does, but she gets lost in a non-character here. McAvoy and Fassbender have glimpses of the life they once injected in these characters but to contrast these performances to their work in “First Class” and “Days of Future Past” is like seeing an athlete at the beginning and end of their career. The heart’s just not there. And I don’t believe in being mean to young performers, so I’ll just say that Ms. Turner has not been directed here in such a way that convinces me that she can carry a movie. Her take on Grey/Phoenix is so far from what made the character interesting in the comic books that they aren’t really the same at all. One of the key problems with “Dark Phoenix” on a core level is that it’s ostensibly about a woman whose emotions turn dangerous but Turner doesn’t convey a single human one that feels relatable at all. She’s more like an android who has gone haywire than a human or even mutant lost control of her powers. Jean Grey's turn to the dark side needs to be about powerful, relatable, passionate emotion. Here it's just about an actress covered in CGI swirls. 

Everyone seems to agree that this X-venture is the last cinematic one for a long time. Fox is being rolled into the Marvel empire and we probably won’t see Professor X, Magneto, or even Wolverine for years. By then, everyone will have forgotten “Dark Phoenix.” Heck, that will happen by the end of the month. After all, nobody cares anymore.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Film Credits

Dark Phoenix movie poster

Dark Phoenix (2019)

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action including some gunplay, disturbing images, and brief strong language.

113 minutes

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey / Dark Phoenix

James McAvoy as Charles Xavier / Professor X

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr / Magneto

Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkholme / Mystique

Jessica Chastain as Lilandra Neramani

Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy / Beast

Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver

Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers / Cyclops

Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler

Alexandra Shipp as Ororo Munroe / Storm

  • Simon Kinberg

Writer (story "The Dark Phoenix Saga")

  • Chris Claremont
  • Dave Cockrum

Writer (comic book created by)


  • Mauro Fiore
  • Hans Zimmer

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Dark Phoenix Review

This phoenix never burns as bright nor soars as high as the finale of the x-men franchise deserved..

Jim Vejvoda

Dark Phoenix X-Men Movie Photos

Sophie Turner and Jessica Chastain in Twentieth Century Fox’s DARK PHOENIX.

Dark Phoenix is ultimately yet another fumbled take on the classic saga from the Marvel Comics, albeit one without the side plots of The Last Stand. Add to it a jarringly uneven latter half and some underdeveloped cosmic villains, and Dark Phoenix is fortunate to have not fully ended the X-Men’s current big screen run on a completely down note. While the MCU may prove better suited to give so many of these beloved mutant characters the rich dimension and care they deserve, the property itself deservedly needs a good long rest before the X-Men return to the screen.

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X-Men: Dark Phoenix review – mutant franchise fizzles out forgettably

Sophie Turner stars in Jean Grey’s 90s-set origin story that offers glimpses of intrigue before regressing into a dull CGI-fest

A lmost as an aftershock from that gigantic finish to the Marvel Cinematic Universe saga that was Avengers: Endgame , the X-Men series now comes to its own weirdly anticlimactic end. Or maybe it’s truer to say that the prequel series showing the mutants’ younger selves – with James McAvoy rather than Patrick Stewart as Xavier, and Michael Fassbender rather than Ian McKellen as Magneto – has now circled in on itself as far as it can. There is no place to go other than forward to the present day, where we came in .

X-Men: First Class (2011) started us in the 1960s, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) took us to a mind-bendingly alternative 1970s and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) found the mutants in the 1980s with glimpses of Ronald Reagan and William Buckley. Now we are in the early 90s, and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is pointing out the misogyny of the gang’s title: the female mutants are saving everyone’s asses – maybe they should be called the X-Women.

At the centre of this movie is young Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones). Grey’s destiny is the drama’s driving force, although this does potentially raise a strange question. It is no spoiler to point to the existing X-Men movies, in which the older Jean Grey is played by Famke Janssen (who has called out industry sexism after hearing no offer to reprise her role in cameo, unlike McKellen and Stewart), which means the audience is already aware of how her story ends.

But the point here is to show how Jean Grey’s story starts. Writer-director Simon Kinberg shows a very young Grey (played by Summer Fontana) riding in the back of the car with her mom Elaine (Hannah Anderson) and dad John (Scott Shepherd). Her disturbed, unfocused powers lead to calamity and soon Jean is being brought up as a mutant prodigy by Dr Xavier (McAvoy). Later, in the 90s, the X-Men have to make a special mission to rescue Nasa Challenger astronauts from some strange deep-space eruption; Jean Grey almost dies in the attempt but survives, infected by an evil cosmic force. She is now Dark Phoenix.

The most interesting aspect of this film is McAvoy’s Xavier. He is more opaque, more worldly, more secretive – and drinking more heavily. For the first time, we realise that he is not the idealist that we might have imagined. Raven is increasingly angry at Xavier’s recklessness and egotism, risking his pupils’ lives for his own glory – maybe as a result of being too close to the Washington political establishment.

There is a surprise in store for Jean, though due to the superhero-style weightlessness of the film’s events, this surprise doesn’t pack the psychological punch that it should. Fundamentally, we are heading for the same good-versus-evil showdown that closes out Marvel movies, with lots of digital effects. The battle here is certainly spirited, and Jessica Chastain looks intimidating as the alien Vuk – although the role is a waste of her talents. Magneto’s reappearance is sub-par, and so, frankly, is Michael Fassbender’s performance, although his character has been starved of the kind of interest devoted to his old rival Xavier. We are also denied a bullet-time setpiece sequence for Quicksilver (Evan Peters), which were witty features of previous instalments.

The point of a phoenix, dark or otherwise, is that it rises from the flames. But these are the flames in which this franchise has finally gone down.

  • X-Men: First Class
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • X-Men: Apocalypse
  • Jessica Chastain

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Summary In Dark Phoenix, the X-Men face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside ... Read More

Directed By : Simon Kinberg

Written By : Simon Kinberg

Where to Watch

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James McAvoy

Professor charles xavier.

review film x men dark phoenix

Michael Fassbender

Erik lehnsherr, magneto.

review film x men dark phoenix

Jennifer Lawrence

Raven, mystique.

review film x men dark phoenix

Nicholas Hoult

Hank mccoy, beast.

review film x men dark phoenix

Sophie Turner

Jean grey, phoenix.

review film x men dark phoenix

Tye Sheridan

Scott summers, cyclops.

review film x men dark phoenix

Alexandra Shipp

Ororo munroe, storm.

review film x men dark phoenix

Evan Peters

Peter maximoff, quicksilver.

review film x men dark phoenix

Kodi Smit-McPhee

Kurt wagner, nightcrawler.

review film x men dark phoenix

Jessica Chastain

review film x men dark phoenix

Scott Shepherd

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Ato Essandoh

review film x men dark phoenix

Brian d'Arcy James

President of the united states.

review film x men dark phoenix

Halston Sage

Lamar johnson, summer fontana, young jean grey (8yrs old), hannah emily anderson, elaine grey, josh mclaglen, hospital doctor, todd hallowell, julianne jain, critic reviews.

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‘Dark Phoenix’ Review: X-Men Franchise Burns Out With $200 Million Misfire That Has No Reason to Exist

David ehrlich.

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If “ Dark Phoenix ” feels like the nadir of 21st century blockbuster cinema, that’s not because it’s the worst film of its kind — hell, it’s not even the worst installment of its franchise — but rather because it might be the only $200 million tentpole that has no evident reason to exist. The movie industry is sustained by a silent contract between Hollywood and its audience, which stipulates studios and ticket buyers will both spend too much of their money to sit together in a room so dark that no one can see the line that separates art from commerce. The brazen needlessness of the twelfth film in the “ X-Men ” saga is nothing less (and nothing more) than a direct breach of that contract; it’s like watching a superhero movie with the lights on.

“Dark Phoenix” isn’t the first event-free event movie of the mega-franchise era, but this one is different — it’s a perfect storm of pointlessness. Not only does the movie fumble the baton pass between generations and fail to advance the series’ overarching story in any meaningful way, it also hardly seems to try. Not only does it botch the source material’s signature narrative arc, it also does everything in its power to flatten it out. Not only does it waste an excellent cast on a script that reduces all of its characters to basic constructs, it also puts them at the mercy of a first-time director who doesn’t even know how to make them look cool.

Without question, however, the most damning thing about “Dark Phoenix” is that it feels like it’s exactly the film that 21st Century Fox (RIP) had in mind when they hired franchise screenwriter Simon Kinberg to step behind the camera: safe, insubstantial, and skirting the surface of powerful ideas that even the kid-friendly animated series was unafraid to tackle. Diluted blockbusters are a dime a dozen these days, and this one at least has the decency to clock in at less than two hours, but there’s something especially grim and epochal about watching an undead franchise try to force its way through a story that hinges on the prospect of resurrection.

“Dark Phoenix” starts with death, and it’s the first of many scenes that have the bad luck of being very similar to moments from other, better superhero movies from earlier this year. It’s 1975, and a young redheaded girl named Jean Grey is sitting in the backseat of her parents’ car and unconsciously changing the radio station with her psychic abilities (enjoy those two bars from “Werewolves of London,” because it’s all downhill from there). Faster than you can “Shazam!,” little Jean comes face to face with her powers and causes the fatal accident that will haunt her as an adult. As tiresome as it is to see yet another film that opens with a car wreck, Kinberg and his stunt/effects teams deserve credit for staging a crash that’s tactile without being indulgent, and scarring enough to shadow the rest of the plot.

When the action jumps forward to 1992, Jean (once again played by Queen in the North, Sophie Turner ) has become one of the most dependable upperclassmen at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, where she continues to assist the academy’s eponymous headmaster ( James McAvoy ) in his lifelong campaign to establish a lasting harmony between powerful mutants and the masses who fear them. Things are going well! The X-Men have saved the world enough times for the public to see them as more of a necessity than a threat — the President even has a cute little “X” phone in the Oval Office — though Charles acknowledges that his kind are only “one bad day away from being the enemy again.” (“Dark Phoenix” broaches the historical idea of marginalized people being granted conditional privileges, but when that “bad day” eventually comes all conversation of internment camps is shunted to the deepest corners of the background.)

On a personal level, Jean also appears to be in a good place. For one thing, she’s growing closer to Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), whose perpetual eye-laser burns extra hot for her; these two attractive twentysomethings don’t appear to have much in common beyond a big house and good cheekbones, but Kinberg’s script assumes that most people have seen enough of these movies to leave it at that. For another thing, Charles has used his cerebral superpowers to “scaffold” Jean’s broken psyche together, protecting her from the memory (or even the basic knowledge) of what she did to her parents as a child.

review film x men dark phoenix

That sounds like a solid solution with no chance of going horribly wrong! Of course, even geniuses can be idiots, and there’s something ineffably human in the idea that one of the smartest people on the planet might still be liable to hurt someone he loves in a misguided effort to protect them from themselves. This critic is less willing to accept the fact that Charles gets so lost in his own simple metaphor that he forgets how scaffolding is — by definition — temporary.

Alas, “Dark Phoenix” has little interest in meaningfully interrogating the means of Charles’ mission. Kinberg doesn’t have the stomach to approach this as a story about a man trying to minimize a woman’s emotional experience, and so the professor’s questionable ethics are only relevant as a means of pissing off his most powerful student, whose memories come flooding back to her in a rotten torrent of decades-old rage when a dangerous space mission ends with Jean absorbing a raspberry swirl of cosmic gunk.

Instead of reckoning with the latent misogyny of Charles’ actions, Kinberg shoehorns in a cringe-tacular scene where Raven (once again played by an unapologetically bored Jennifer Lawrence) snaps at the unappreciative professor that he should consider calling them “X-Women.” Even though the entire climax of “Dark Phoenix” was reshot to avoid similarities with “Captain Marvel,” the two movies are still bound together by their shared insistence that girl power can be productively expressed through a series of empty postures. “My emotions make me strong!,” Jean declares, but dialogue like that doesn’t resonate when it’s spoken by a character who’s solely defined by her superpowers. What emotions is she talking about? We can only guess.

review film x men dark phoenix

At least “Captain Marvel” boasted a compelling race of alien “villains” who complicated the drama instead of snuffing it out. The ominous energy “Dark Phoenix” collects in its first scenes begins to drain away as soon as a vagabond group of shapeshifting extraterrestrials come to Earth, borrow Jessica Chastain’s body, and — in an especially cruel touch — dye her eyebrows as white as her wig. (Did the galaxy learn nothing from the cosmetic atrocities of the first “Thor” movie?) Chastain is excellent as always, but her character is so underwritten that you’d be hard-pressed to remember its name. IMDB says it’s… Vuk? Why not. Whatever the case, the baddie is little more than a devil on Jean’s shoulder in the second act, and a convenient villain for her to fight in the third. Most of all, Vuk is a well-cast excuse to background Charles’ mind games in favor of some standard-issue alien blather about playing God.

Strangely enough, the reshot finale — set aboard a speeding military train — is the film’s only engaging action sequence, as Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) gets an excellent kill and Magneto ( Michael Fassbender , who’s definitely in this) has some fun with metal. It’s not enough to make up for the dull torpor of the previous fight scene, or the exceedingly silly bit where Fassbender and Turner have a telekinetic clench-off as they battle for mind control over a helicopter, but the last-minute spectacle is hard to take for granted in a movie that hasn’t offered a single memorable image until that point.

It’s not like any of the previous “X-Men” films Kinberg produced have done much to move the needle forward, but their best moments dared to insinuate these superheroes into the real world with a hint of the subversive power they’re intended to represent. Magneto and his half-naked minions flying into Auschwitz and destroying its memory remains one of the most dangerous and excitingly problematic events in any modern blockbuster because it transgresses the simple platitudes that superhero movies typically use to express a character’s trauma.

“Dark Phoenix,” on the other hand, is designed to avoid pushing any buttons. Or doing much of anything else, for that matter. It just sort of happens , and not even the movie itself seems to know why. “Dark Phoenix” promises that the X-Men will rise from the ashes — that Jean Grey will be reborn from her own pain — but there’s no use holding your breath for a miracle; this entire franchise feels like it’s already been interred.

21st Century Fox will release “Dark Phoenix” in theaters June 7.

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Dark Phoenix is a joyless retelling of the X-Men’s most famous story

X-Men: Dark Phoenix forgets what makes the X-Men compelling.

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review film x men dark phoenix

Like the mutants the franchise is built upon, Fox’s X-Men films have developed and honed in a superpower that’s only gotten more powerful with time: squandering megawatt talent and boiling its rich array characters into one-note simulacra of their previous selves from earlier films.

Each film has been progressively worse, from the peak that is First Class (2011), to the fun-but-faulty Days of Future Past (2014), to the downright dismal Apocalypse (2016).

Dark Phoenix is the fourth (and final ) movie in the series, hatched atop the disappointing bones of its predecessors. And it’s the worst of the bunch, a continuation of the franchise’s swan dive into joyless mediocrity, while managing to destroy any affection one might have for Marvel’s merry mutants.

Written and directed by Simon Kinberg, Dark Phoenix is Fox’s second attempt at telling the story of Jean Grey and the destructive cosmic force known as the Phoenix. The Jean Grey and the Phoenix saga is significant as one of only five or so X-Men stories that Fox has shown interest in adapting onscreen, and the only one that doesn’t directly center on the big-name male heroes, like Wolverine, Professor Charles Xavier, or Magneto.

Dark Phoenix’s iteration of the Jean Grey story doesn’t deviate much from the version Kinberg wrote in the criminally horrendous X-Men: The Last Stand (2006): Jean Grey is special. Jean Grey is powerful. Jean Grey becomes too powerful and too unstable for this world, and the X-Men must turn on one of their own.

The central problem with Dark Phoenix, not unlike The Last Stand , is that it forgets that Grey turning into the Phoenix isn’t just her story alone. It’s also a story about her fellow X-Men.

Being a family is the nerve stem of the X-Men, and when you don’t have that nailed down, there’s no emotional investment in watching the Phoenix destroying anything and everything. None of the other characters has a discernible personality or motivation beyond reacting to Jean Grey ( Sophie Turner ); that’s a disservice to the colorful cast of characters that make up this superhero troupe, and an impediment to the storytelling.

Add to that a bunch of jumbled fight scenes that look like they were spat out of a food processor, a dodgy, cringe-inducing script, and Turner struggling with an American accent, and you have a mess that not even a talented acting triumvirate like Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender can save.

Dark Phoenix feels like it was created to put the X-Men out of their misery

The Phoenix Saga is the most recognizable X-Men arc, sitting in the pantheon of superhero stories alongside the death of Uncle Ben in Spider-Man and the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents in a Gotham City alley.

From its beginning in the 1980s comic books created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, the saga has come to life in the 1990s animated series , teased in the X-men: Evolutions animated series, riffed on in the Wolverine and the X-Men animated series, and brought to the big screen in X-Men: The Last Stand . It was most recently teased in X-Men: Apocalypse , Dark Phoenix ’s predecessor.

At this point, the story of the already formidable telepath and telekinetic mutant Jean Grey obtaining uncontrollable and immense power from a cosmic force is not going to take any X-Men fan by surprise. Dark Phoenix won’t surprise you if you’ve already seen Jean Grey turn into the Phoenix and then die multiple times.

Dark Phoenix does make attempts to tweak the story in a couple of favorable ways, at least.

The X-Men, helmed by Raven/Mystique ( Lawrence ) and Charles Xavier ( McAvoy ), have basically become America’s on-call superhero team. They — the team includes Storm ( Alexandra Shipp ), Cyclops ( Tye Sheridan ), Quicksilver ( Evan Peters ), Nightcrawler ( Kodi Smit-McPhee ), and Beast ( Nicholas Hoult ) — have a special line to the president and first-responders when it comes to the most dire of situations. A specific mission launches the X-Men to space, where, of course, a cosmic force (which is not called the Phoenix in this movie) and Jean merge as one.

The original comic book version of the story also involves a space mission, but it characterizes the cosmic power as an entity known as the Phoenix Force. There’s a complex plot involving mind control and psychic dueling that eventually results in Jean Grey being deemed an intergalactic threat. A lot of this is cut or subbed out to make the story easier to understand. Those alterations also end up leaving parts of the story groundless.

Dark Phoenix ’s lone point of intrigue comes from Raven wondering if Charles is maybe enjoying the X-Men’s fame and admiration the X-Men a little too much. Because they’re national heroes now, the X-Men have made the world better for all mutants, who are increasingly seen as good people.

Charles’s ultimate goal is for humans and mutants to co-exist peacefully, and having the X-Men save the world gets him one step closer to that vision. And Charles knows that one bad mutant will paint them all as terrorists, and that the flipside is that one or two or five good mutants can make all mutants seem good.

Raven doesn’t believe the X-Men shouldn’t be risking their lives for this vision, though. Watching the space mission, with Jean absorbing the full cosmic force and surviving in space when any other person would die, really emboldens Raven to voice her discontent.

Lawrence gives a spirited performance, surely someone told her ahead of time that this is the end of her contract. She’s tapped into Katniss Everdeen -levels of defiant, skeptical of Charles’s motives.

And Raven actually offers a nifty riff on Charles’s leadership: a man so focused on making the world a better place that he’s lost sight of the human lives, human lives that are supposed to be his family and friends, at risk.

But this thoughtfulness goes sideways and scampers out the door at around 20 minutes into the movie, when Jean can no longer contain the power that she’s absorbed. All the attention then shifts toward that.

It’s at this point that Dark Phoenix turns into something resembling a 5-year-old smashing around their favorite action figures. Jean makes a few things crash and boom. The X-Men wonder if she’s bad. She’s bad, they all decide. They realize they have to stop her. Magneto, their enemy who is in the midst of building a mutant commune somewhere, even agrees that she needs to be stopped.

Also on Jean’s trail is a shape-shifting alien race, led by a creature named Vuk ( Chastain ). Vuk and her fellow aliens believe that Jean can bring their planet back to life. It’s not entirely clear how this group of aliens know that Jean is capable of creation when all that her cosmic force has shown is destruction. Nor is it clear who Jessica Chastain wronged to be forced into this movie and not in something better, like Captain Marvel .

Nevertheless, Chastain is here with a personality that is just platinum-bleached hair and a stiff robot voice. It’s a sad situation for all involved.

The struggle between Xavier’s mutants and Vuk’s posse leads to some goofy spectacles in which Charles puts a couple fingers to his head to signal that he’s doing telepathy. Magneto bends his legs and looks like he’s pulling an imaginary jump rope taut to signal that he’s manipulating metal. And the rest X-Men zip around in two jumbled, chaotic fight scenes, zapping those aliens with lightning, teleporting them around the place, and smashing them with ruby red concussive optic beams.

Fans of the franchise may notice that super speed isn’t involved in these fights, but that’s not an oversight on my end: Quicksilver is completely forgotten about after the first act of the movie. He’s injured, I guess? I have no idea.

The X-Men, who this movie is supposedly about, are really nothing more than their powers here, and when they’re not fighting, they may as well not matter.

Storm, a character with a rich history that involves being a worshipped as a weather-wielding goddess in Africa, is just around to tell us in a couple lines that, yes, Jean is bad. Cyclops, who will one day become the leader of the X-Men in the series’ canon, exists only to be sad because Jean is bad. Nightcrawler is blue and German and teleports; he concurs with Storm and Cyclops that Jean is bad in a German accent.

There is no explanation, not even from Vuk and the aliens who have been studying this force for a long time, of why Jean’s cosmic force cares about carnal pleasure or desire or anger or wrath or how it even knows human emotions, but it does.

Even Jean understands she’s the bad guy, but she goes around saying several times that she’s can’t control “it” — reminding us in case we forgot or get sidetracked.

Unlike the comic books and several better versions of this story (including the campy animated series), the movie doesn’t try to grapple with the saga’s larger ideas of women’s empowerment being seen as “hysterical” or humanity’s appetite for violence and punishment, nor is it particularly concerned with how this particular story could easily be an allegory for a family dealing with the repercussions of abuse and the violations of trust.

Instead, by just focusing on the light show and the powers (which really aren’t all that visually impressive), Dark Phoenix undercuts the biggest emotional moment of the story. Jean’s ultimate sacrifice at the end of the film (again, like every other iteration of this story) ultimately feels a little hollow without having forged any real connections with the other characters (save for human Eeyore, Cyclops).

At the beginning of the film, Lawrence’s Raven asks if it’s time for her “to move on” from the X-Men. She tries to reason with Hank (a.k.a. Beast), telling him that they could do something better. She thinks that maybe there’s more to life than going through fruitless missions. Dark Phoenix made me wish the people who made this movie would have taken that advice.

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review film x men dark phoenix

Film Review: ‘Dark Phoenix’

The 'X-Men' franchise wraps up — or does it? — with a functionally plotted sequel that attains a note of ominous majesty, thanks to Sophie Turner's presence as an X-Woman consumed by the awesomeness of her power.

By Owen Gleiberman

Owen Gleiberman

Chief Film Critic

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'Dark Phoenix': Sophie Turner as an X-Woman Consumed by her Own Power

How powerful is Phoenix, a.k.a. Jean Grey ( Sophie Turner ), the dark and stormy heroine of “ Dark Phoenix “? It’s 1992, and on one of her first missions as an X-Woman, she is sent up on the X-Jet, along with the scarlet-haired hellion Mystique ( Jennifer Lawrence ), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) in his Bono wraparounds, the chivalrous Beast (Nicholas Hoult), the fearsome Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and all the rest of them. Their job is to save the astronauts who are traveling on the maiden flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

The ship is caught in one of those centrifugal movie thingies that cause a spacecraft to go into a fatal spin cycle. After several of her comrades fail to stabilize the situation, Jean gets beamed out there, and what happens — be warned, this is very scientific — is that she absorbs all the force and light and energy and mojo from the solar flares that are buffeting the Shuttle. (As we learn later on, she absorbs more than that.) She drinks in all that power, soaking it up in vast protoplasmic gusts of swirling magenta CGI. She soaks it up and emerges, essentially, as X-Woman 9.0.

Jean is now so powerful that her skin has tiny pulsating cracks in it, through which we glimpse the light, as if her insides were the detonating core of a nuclear reactor. She’s so powerful that she makes Bruce Banner, after his transformative accident, look like a double-A battery. She’s so powerful that Charles Xavier ( James McAvoy ), the X-Men chief executive who has been Jean’s mentor ever since he saved and fostered her (in ambiguous circumstances) when she was 8 years old, declares, “Her mutation has grown too powerful!” She is, in a word, unstoppable, but as “Dark Phoenix” makes clear, having that much power inside you isn’t a state that anyone would envy.

As the 12th movie to feature the X-Men (that’s counting the two “Deadpool” films), and the one that’s officially been designated as the last installment of the “X-Men” franchise, “Dark Phoenix” arrives with a long and bumpy road of twists and tricks and FX and characters behind it. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, in “Logan” (2017), got a fantastic send-off to the beyond, ending that strain of the series on a dramatic epiphany. Collectively, though, the “X-Men” films, with their densely jumbled sprawl, their offshoots and restarts, their patchwork fusion of “history” and fantasy, are not a series I’m prone to holding in my head all at once (at least, not without it causing a migraine), so the sense that this is now, at long last, the concluding chapter comes down to very little. Okay, it is. But now that the property is under new management, who’s to say they won’t just start the whole damn thing all over again?

A kind of quicksilver do-over of Brett Ratner’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), the maligned and, ultimately, disavowed third installment of the franchise, “Dark Phoenix,” you could say, is a functionally energized and rather bare-bones movie. Jean gets her cosmic power surge, and then, with her loyalty as shattered as her old identity, she goes underground to uncover the mystery of who she is. She lands at Genosha, the farm commune of mutant refugees presided over by Eric ( Michael Fassbender ), and her need to pursue the hidden truth of her origin moves her toward a clash with the guardian of that secret, Professor X.

Yet “Dark Phoenix” took me by surprise. Simon Kinberg, who wrote and directed it (he was the co-screenwriter of “The Last Stand” — this is his first time helming a feature), is a more sensual and intuitive filmmaker than Brett Ratner. He doesn’t pad out a generic story with the rollicking eye candy of mutant effects. He uses effects to tell the story.

Jean drifts through the film in a convulsive trance of intensity that’s a whisper away from traumatized. Trauma looks good on superheroes (it’s part of the lifeblood of the comics), and Sophie Turner, from “Game of Thrones,” with her green eyes and cosmopolitan hauteur, gives Jean a glinting sensual fire, a fusion of triumph and dismay and sheer violence — it’s like watching Vivien Leigh play a vengefully irradiated badass. Jean has good reason to seek vengeance, yet she’s reckless; at a certain point, she kills off one of the most admirable of our heroes. Turner’s damaged conviction holds “Dark Phoenix” together, giving it a treacherous life force.

Because there have been so few superhero films that feature women in the lead roles (you can still count them on one hand — a lopsided situation that is, gratifyingly, beginning to fall by the wayside), it’s understandable that they’ve all dealt, more or less explicitly, with the feminization of power. But “Dark Phoenix” takes blockbuster gender politics a step further, using Jean’s mistress-of-the-universe state to forge an allegory of the rise of women that’s sharply compelling in its renegade/victim edge.

The movie has the wit to cast Jessica Chastain, with white-blonde tresses and barely-there eyebrows, as Vuk, an alien shapeshifter who resembles an albino replicant and tries to enlist the alienated Jean in helping her to take over the planet. You might think of this as the Tilda Swinton role, though Chastain plays it with a repressed fury that’s almost operatic. Vuk is a pure villain, but when she tells Jean that people look askance at Phoenix’s power because that much power in a woman is always demonized, the seduction of her argument holds sway. It’s no wonder that Jean starts to pour power right into her.

The light-show effects have a mid-’90s fanciful cheesiness, and I dug them for that reason. There’s also a visual motif that works terrifically well: When the characters get beamed somewhere, they’re teleported in a split-second whoosh , vaporized into smoky clouds of Crayola granules. Yet Kinberg also knows how to put the metal onscreen. A climactic set piece is set aboard a speeding train, where Magneto and the other X-Men are traveling under guard, and Kinberg stages this sequence with a hellbent majesty that feels like something out of “Snowpiercer.” Fassbender knows how to emote in tandem with the effects — he mind-crumples a train, and you feel every finger of force — and when dozens of machine guns are hovering in the air, blasting away at Chastain, and the bullets dent her but leave her unharmed, the movie achieves a deranged flamboyance.

Does it have a human story to match? Or, rather, a mutant human story? I thought so. James McAvoy’s performance is driven by a compelling ambiguity. His Professor X is vain, controlling, and PR-hungry, not to mention a grand deceiver — all the things Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven accuses him of being. Yet what he says in his own defense is true as well: He’s desperate to protect the status of the X-Men, to not let them slip into being stigmatized, once more, by the world at large. What happened to Jean as a child was cruel, but maybe it was necessary. McAvoy, with his gleam of cunning, plays to both sides of our sympathies, and so does Turner, who gets us to embrace Jean as a superhero, in part, because she’s a destroyer. The pleasure of “Dark Phoenix” is watching her emerge from the wreckage.

Reviewed at AMC Lincoln Square, New York, June 3, 2019. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 114 MIN.

  • Production: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a 20th Century Fox, Bad Hat Harry Productions, The Donners’ Company production, in association with Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment. Producers: Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner, Todd Hallowell. Executive producers: Stan Lee, Josh McLagen.
  • Crew: Director, screenplay: Simon Kinberg. Camera (color, widescreen): Mauro Fiore. Editor: Lee Smith. Music: Hans Zimmer.
  • With: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Alexandra Shipp, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee.

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Dark Phoenix Reviews

review film x men dark phoenix

Dark Phoenix ends up being what everyone feared it would be: a movie that didn’t matter, at all. One that didn’t even try to pay homage to an extraordinary saga that notably influenced the comic-book genre.

Full Review | Original Score: C | Jul 24, 2023

review film x men dark phoenix

This fresh attempt is not poorly made exactly as The Last Stand was; instead it is a fairly risible effort for all new reasons.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/10 | Jul 19, 2023

review film x men dark phoenix

This is not the movie that Dark Phoenix deserves.

Full Review | Apr 11, 2023

I can’t in good conscience recommend that anyone spend their hard earned money to go see this film in theaters, but if you are a die-hard X-Men fan like me you might find that it’s a surprisingly fun ride.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/10 | Jan 22, 2023

review film x men dark phoenix

These Fox X-Men films have been nothing if not inconsistent. But I think "Dark Phoenix" is in the top half of this franchise, due to the honest performances, great action, and decent story.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Jan 11, 2023

review film x men dark phoenix

This time they do justice to the story, not without a few kinks, but still in a way I found entertaining and satisfying.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Aug 20, 2022

review film x men dark phoenix

It's not that Dark Phoenix is a complete disaster - it's that the franchise hasn't changed much in the last 20 years, while the rest of the superhero genre has continued to grow and evolve.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/4 | Mar 2, 2022

review film x men dark phoenix

There are some pretty cheesy lines in this movie that I hope I'll never have to hear again.

Full Review | Original Score: 5.5/10 | Sep 4, 2021

review film x men dark phoenix

It's a disappointment, but not a dumpster fire.

Full Review | Original Score: C+ | Aug 15, 2021

A final farewell that rings like a death knell...

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jun 22, 2021

Not the worst film of the series, but its quality leaves much to be desired. [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review | Apr 26, 2021

review film x men dark phoenix

"Dark Phoenix" feels rushed, as if Kinberg wanted to cram two, maybe three, movies into one while Disney was busy gobbling up the studio and all of its intellectual properties.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Feb 19, 2021

review film x men dark phoenix

If this is to be the final film in its current incarnation, it's an unfortunate end to characters that essentially started the movie superhero boom.

Full Review | Feb 18, 2021

review film x men dark phoenix

Despite the pyro on display Dark Phoenix doesn't catch fire.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jan 31, 2021

review film x men dark phoenix

The action sequences, though well done, aren't enough to shift the tides of this lukewarm superhero film bumbling in the dark for meaning, understanding, and, ultimately, closure.

Full Review | Jan 28, 2021

review film x men dark phoenix

The music by Hans Zimmer is a huge improvement over the last several X-Men chapters.

Full Review | Original Score: 6/10 | Dec 7, 2020

review film x men dark phoenix

The X-Men franchise limps to a conclusion with this lifeless entry that finds director Simon Kinberg in over his head.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.0/4.0 | Nov 20, 2020

review film x men dark phoenix

The spectacle is entertaining, up to a point, but even the digital wizardry wears thin, and Dark Phoenix turns into a standard-brand miasma of explosions, collisions and swirling force fields.

Full Review | Nov 11, 2020

review film x men dark phoenix

What could've been a poignant, epic conclusion to a lengthy franchise ends up being an unmemorable spectacle that's a quick payday for those involved.

Full Review | Sep 25, 2020

review film x men dark phoenix

I'm fairly sure at some point I mumbled 'We get the point already!'

Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4.0 | Sep 5, 2020

review film x men dark phoenix

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‘Dark Phoenix,’ Latest in X-Men Series, Should be the Last

By Peter Travers

Peter Travers

Dark Phoenix doesn’t just suck big time. It’s the worst movie ever in the X-Men series. That’s 12 films since the first X-Men in 2000. Even series low points — that’s you X-Men Apocalypse — offered compensations. Dark Phoenix just lies there like a dying fish, futilely flapping about on land while it waits for the inevitable dying of the light. The degree of awfulness is surprising since the man falling into the abyss with this Phoenix is debuting director Simon Kinberg, who has served long and well as the series producer and sometimes screenwriter. Shouldn’t he know these characters best? You’d think.

Related: Real Reason Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine Is Not in Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix , set in 1992, is part of the X-Men series ( First Class, Days of Future Past, Apocalypse ) in which everyone is younger and hotter. That’s James McEvoy in for Patrick Stewart’s wheelchair-bound Professor X and Michael Fassbender doing the honors for Ian McKellen’s Magneto. And there’s rising star Sophie Turner — the immortal Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones — showing enormous potential as Jean Grey, whose mend-bending gifts make her the most powerful mutant. In an early scene, Jean single-handedly stops a NASA space shuttle from exploding in midair.

Such heroic skills are mightily impressive to everyone in her young crowd, including her teacher Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and students Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Jean’s boyfriend Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). Leading the Jean cheering section is her mentor, the blue-tinted, shapeshifting Raven, played by Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence with a strong surge of Times Up. “The women are always saving the men around here,” she says, suggesting a name change to X-Women. That’s so Raven. But the movie does nothing with it.

Instead, Kinberg sticks us with a series of sequences showing Jean at war with herself. She can’t control her mental abilities. As a child, she caused a deadly car crash with her parents because she couldn’t stand hearing mom play Glen Campbell on the car radio. It’s a little extreme, but point taken. Getting close to Jean can be hazardous and in scene after grindingly repetitive scene Kingberg hammers the idea home. Tortured by guilt, Jean goes to the dark side as, yup, Dark Phoenix, prompting a lot of angst and a digital array of shockingly lousy FX.

To add spice, Kinberg introduces another dangerous woman, an alien named Yuk, played by Jessica Chastain with a look of dazed confusion that reflects what we’re all feeling in the audience. Presumably Yuk wants to absorb Jean’s gifts for herself. The feminization of power? That would be a theme worth developing. But the film devolves into a series of crushingly dull diversions in which the two levitate and stare at each other with laser-beam eyes. Really? That’s all this botch job can come up with? Turner had way more fun sticking it to Littlefinger. So did we.

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More damagingly, Dark Phoenix fails to build even a hint of rooting interest in the X peeps as people. Lip service is paid to these outsiders as outcasts. That’s all. And no one seems more than mildly miffed when under threat from the barely sketched-in world outside. When a major character dies (I’ll never tell), everyone gets back to business as if they were work-slaving in a bank instead of battling global annihilation. Dark Phoenix is purported to be the endgame at Fox for the X series. But is it? Disney and Marvel are poised for a takeover. The film itself stays open-ended, pointing to the release next April of Fox’s The New Mutants . Plagued by delays and reshoots, the troubled production stars Turner’s GoT sister , Maisie Williams, as a Scottish mutant with the disturbing ability to morph into a wolf. Maybe a dash of Stephen King-type horror will help. But Dark Phoenix suggests the X-Men series is played out and beyond saving. Going through the motions is not the same thing as providing a thrilling and viable reason to go to the movies for another dose of X. Anyone for a mercy killing?

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