Dark Phoenix arrives in theaters this weekend as the conclusion of Fox's X-Men saga, and a do-over of sorts for first-time director Simon Kinberg, a franchise veteran who co-wrote 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, which wove in elements of the seminal "Dark Phoenix Saga" as a subplot, to the satisfaction of few. However, early reviews suggest second time may not be a charm for the series.
While CBR's own review regards Dark Phoenix as a decent-enough entry in the tumultuous franchise, the film has a 21 percent critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the lowest-rated X-Men feature.
While that sounds bad, it is only when you read what critics have to say about the film that you become aware the 19-year-old series is ending on a low note. Rotten Tomatoes' critic consensus reads, "Dark Phoenix ends an era of the X-Men franchise by taking a second stab at adapting a classic comics arc -- with deeply disappointing results."
What follows are among Dark Phoenix's most brutal reviews:
Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service: "What’s truly amazing about Dark Phoenix is watching the charismatic, award-winning, star-packed cast flail about in this poorly written nonsense cartoon. McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult all agreed to come back for the film, despite the expiration of their 'X-Men' contracts, and one hopes they were paid handsomely for the favor. It’s actually astonishing to watch Lawrence suiting back up in the blue makeup to deliver faux girl power lines about how they really should call it the 'X-Women.'...Despite the caliber and talent of the actor, lackluster writing, directing and editing can warp a performance into something truly dreadful. Now that’s power."
Soren Andersen, Seattle Times: "Phoenix is a joyless addition to the long-running X-Men franchise — 12 movies over 18 years — and one is left with the impression that the series has been too long at the fair. Performances feel enervated, particularly in the case of Michael Fassbender, who plays Magneto, and Jennifer Lawrence, as the blue-hued shape-shifter Mystique. Lawrence has said she wants to move on from the role, and now she will. And she should. The juice has been squeezed out of her with respect to the part."
William Bibbiani, TheWrap: "For a story as big as the one Dark Phoenix wants to tell, it’s a very tiny motion picture, full of events that could have transpired (and many of them did) in just about any other X-Men movie. Turner makes the most of her increased screen time, trying with some success to infuse the simplistic and irrational storyline with some humanity, but everyone else looks like they’re more interested in what craft service made for lunch that day. It’s a whole lot of nothing, made from the scraps of something great, assembled with Scotch tape, and ready to fall over....It would be wonderful to report that Dark Phoenix was an impressive send-off to this long-running franchise (especially since the next film, New Mutants, isn’t coming out anytime soon). In a strange way, it might have been preferable if this was the most embarrassing film in the series, since at least then there’d be a reason to remember it."
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times: "Turner undergoes another dramatic pivot under very different if equally fantastical circumstances. If she deserved better than Game of Thrones finally gave her, she deserves even better here. Written and directed by Simon Kinberg, this muddled sequel to 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse plays like a sigh of exhaustion from an increasingly rudderless blockbuster franchise."
Matt Goldberg, Collider: "When Marvel Studios inevitably reboots X-Men, a movie like Dark Phoenix will be a forgotten relic. The characters and their world deserve better, but we’ll have to wait until their next evolution."
Emily Asher-Perrin, Tor.com: "The problem with Dark Phoenix is not that it’s a bad film, but rather that it’s a vacant one. Very little actually happens, be it character development or epic set pieces or thoughtful interactions or even enjoyable special effects. It exists, the characters move through it as though they’re being directed through a badly rendered MMORPG, people say how they’re feeling rather than show it, and the film seems to end before it ever really started. Ideas are tossed into the mix and then promptly discarded before the next sequence of events. Scenes full of dialogue seem to hinge on points that are never actually made. Somewhere in the middle of it all, the plot of Dark Phoenix happens, but it’s not particularly moving or engaging. It’s like watching someone painstakingly fill in a Connect-the-Dots page when you can already tell what the picture is meant to be at a glance."
Sean Mulvihill, FanboyNation.com: "A fittingly frustrating conclusion to the X-Men saga, Dark Phoenix is a tedious slog of superhero nonsense that takes the once-promising crew of X-Men: First Class and squanders them one last time in an incoherent mess that stands as one of the worst X-Men films to date."
Directed and written by Simon Kinberg, Dark Phoenix stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Holt, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters and Jessica Chastain. The film opens Friday nationwide.