Movie review: X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a muted but fine mutant finale
The knives have been out for some time but don't believe the anti-hype.
Tales of massive reshoots, actors wanting out, complaints that the story was already covered in 2006's The Last Stand and the fact that the Disney/Fox merger means that this is a finale, like it or not.
So it's a pleasant surprise to discover that Dark Phoenix is far from awful. It's certainly better than 2016's execrable X-Men: Apocalypse.
If it wasn't the end of this X-iteration, you could even call it a course correction.
There are some very interesting things going on here.
Kinberg, a long-time writer and producer for the X-franchise, makes his directorial debut and appears to have taken the low-key Wolverine send-off Logan as inspiration.
While this involves an apocalyptic cosmic force, it feels more grounded - more about character. It's a muted mutant tale but more welcome than the flat CGI spectacles that have preceded it.
Kinberg tries to do more with motivations, even bringing back Charles Xavier's earlier arrogance from First Class to almost make him - and his hubris - the villain of the piece. There are few attempts at humour. That means no cheesy gags about 90s pop culture - thankfully.
One notable joke comes from Lawrence's Mystique, pointing out to Xavier the casual sexism of being called the X-Men when it's the women who mostly save the day.
The way Lawrence snaps the line, she could almost be addressing the producers.
Not having every moment a set piece is welcome, but despite some smart fight choreography, the overall direction is more function than flourish and that oomph is missing from the finale.
The biggest audience reaction at my screening came when Fassbender's rough-hewn Magneto first appears, but then my screening did have a number of young women in it.
The weak link in the cast is Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, who plays it more wet than empathetic as his better (more powerful) half wrestles with being possessed by an immense cosmic force.
While there are issues, Dark Phoenix provides a more than decent farewell to a series that was always a mixed bag.
Rating : 3 Ticks
FILM: X-Men: Dark Phoenix
STARRING: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence
DIRECTOR: Simon Kinberg
THE SKINNY: It's 1992 and during a mission to rescue the space shuttle crew, Jean Grey (Turner) is possessed by the powerful Phoenix force. Jean's struggle with her enhanced abilities has horrific repercussions for the X-Men.