WARNING; The following contains major spoilers for Dark Phoenix, in theaters now.
Wolverine's "Berserker Mode" has been a staple of X-Men comics for decades, where the feral mutant loses control and goes into a mindless state killing anything and everything in sight. On the big screen, this was translated in Logan through X-24, an evil clone, and in X-Men: Apocalypse when the younger X-Men freed Wolverine from the Weapon X facility at Alkali Lake.
While Hugh Jackman doesn't come out of retirement for Dark Phoenix, one mutant does go into a similar fit of rage. What results is an unforgiving assault on a squad of X-enemies, with this punishment surprisingly dished out by the unlikeliest candidate: Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee).
Kurt Wagner proves to be the real MVP of a relatively lukewarm film, kickstarted by him teleporting and rescuing several astronauts from the Endeavor spaceship when the Phoenix begins to devour it in orbit. He remains stoic and inspirational throughout, with a quiet intensity matching the reclusive 'elf' we've encountered for years in the comics and numerous cartoons.
Given his close relationship with Logan in the source material, it makes sense for McPhee's character to not really be the man of religion here he was in X2: X-Men United, and he pays tribute to the bond from the books by doling out a bloody brand of justice we'd usually associate with an unhinged Wolverine.
In this movie, when Magneto's new Brotherhood arrive at a New York townhouse to kill Sophie Turner's Jean Grey in the final act, Kurt and the X-Men arrive to stop them so they can take her in alive. However, after a huge battle between Jean and Jessica Chastain's Vuk, the government's special-ops team of mutant hunters is able to gather everyone (except Vuk) and place inhibitor collars on their necks.
With Jean in custody, they're all taken to a secret facility via train, only for Vuk's alien army to attack so she can continue extracting the Phoenix from Jean. The aliens make a big mistake, though, by slaying one of the innocent soldiers -- someone who earlier admitted to Kurt his kids still viewed the X-Men as heroes. This triggers Nightcrawler and sends him into a kill-mode as he decides to fight for humanity and mankind like never before.
It surpasses the scene in X2 when he was brainwashed and tried to kill the president in the Oval Office, with the blue-skinned mutant not just teleporting and knocking opponents out, but actually murdering them in cold blood, moving rapidly from one target to the next. While we don't see much gore, we do witness Kurt basking in the glory of each victim hitting the floor.
He uses the dead soldiers' knives, teleporting and stabbing aliens left, right and center. He also utilizes his jagged-edged tail, wrapping it around one of the aliens' necks and snapping it, following up by then whipping the tail to mercilessly impale another. That's right: The pointy-end goes straight through one of his enemies' throats, reminding us this isn't Alan Cumming's poetic take on the character.
Kurt isn't a scripture-reciting, shy savior anymore, and he tops it off by teleporting around Vuk in rapid fashion as if he were Quicksilver, slicing and dicing her up at every angle. She uses her portion of the Phoenix Force, however, to heal and eventually incapacitate him, but up until this point, no-one's able to seriously wound her like Kurt. She actually shows fear for the first time, cementing this rampaging, blue-devil version of Nightcrawler as the darkest and most brutal we've ever seen in the field of battle.
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.