Here’s the new myth-making one needs to follow the story in the new X-Men movie, “Dark Phoenix”: There is a cosmic cloud of energy floating in space. This is the energy that caused the initial creation of the universe.
As soon as that is mentioned, the speaker (Jessica Chastain) goes on to say that the cloud destroys everything it touches. And if the moviegoer isn’t sufficiently dizzy trying to put together the attributes of this all creating, all destroying substance, then he has to reckon with the cloud’s having been attracted to character Jean Grey. And with its having heightened her super-powers without killing her.
So what is the nature of this cosmic cloud? The ham-handed dialogue of “Dark Phoenix” causes problems like that fairly regularly. Consider the title. What is the “Dark Phoenix?” Grey was momentarily unconscious after her touching the cloud. Can she be said to have died or disappeared and then some back, arising from her own metaphoric ashes? Not really.
Then, too, the movie has a “lump, lump problem” and a “can’t tell the players without a program” problem.
It starts off with the X-Men, students and faculty at a New York state academy for humans with super powers. It is 1992, for some reason. Actually there are several dates given early in the film. In 1972, Jean Grey is adopted informally by professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy in this film). By the year of the space shuttle Endeavor disaster, Jean (Sophie Turner) ought to be about 30 years old.
So she is one of the band of adult “mutants” from the school that prof. X sends off into space to save the crew of the benighted space craft. Why he didn’t just allow NASA to have his school’s plane/space ship, the movie doesn’t say. Obviously his technology is way ahead of theirs. And ahead of 1992. And ahead of what we can do today.
While Jean and the gang are up there saving astronauts, she is hit by the cosmic cloud. Good action though there. Then the action stops. After a considerable amount of talking, she hears that her biologic father is still alive and she goes to see him.
We don’t see her travel from the academy. We don’t know how she gets to his house, or where it is. There is a brief skirmish out in the street, something that starts off looking like a gunfight in a 50s Western. But that’s over quickly and we learn there is a rival mutant oasis set up by Mag-neat-o (Michael Fassbender).
We don’t see her go there. We don’t know where it is. We don’t know how the U.S. military finds her. Then there’s one of the movie’s helicopter scenes. Then another lump of talk. Then a big lump of action, and so on. Lump, lump, lump, without the story moving forward because of anything we learn during the fights and chases.
The character identity trouble is probably worse because Hollywood has us trying to remember all that happened in several different superhero series. At some point we had a changing of the guard in the X-men shows so that Patrick Stewart was no longer prof. X and Ian McKellan was no longer Mag-neat-o and so on.
Well, some of us miss Rebecca Romijn and James “Taco Bell” Marsden. And every new X-Men movie, we find we have to learn to get used to the new cast all over again.
OK. So the new movie has big problems because of imprecise language, forces its older audience to relearn its cast, comes at ticketholders in globs, and is oddly preoccupied with distant dates. But how are the fighting and chasing scenes in the movie? Not bad. First-time director Simon Kinberg, who also wrote the screenplay, is surprisingly successful with the action stuff. It’s the words he seems unable to manage.
But this is the last X-Men movie, at least for a member or two of the most recent cast of mutants. And some moviegoers will just have to collect the entire set.