Review

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Review: A Joyless Finale

  • First Released Jun 7, 2019
    released
  • movie

The X-Franchise should have quit while it was ahead

We've been here before. For whatever reason, X-Men movie franchises seem completely unable to move away from Jean Grey's ultimate downfall as the Dark Phoenix. It happened back in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand and it's happening now with X-Men: Dark Phoenix. But were any lessons learned from the first time around?

The answer is an unfortunate but resounding: No.

Clocking in at a few minutes shy of two hours, Dark Phoenix certainly doesn't seem like it should be a movie that overstays its welcome--by the conventions of the superhero genre it should have another forty-five minutes at the very least. Yet, somehow, it manages to make all but a scant handful of scenes feel inexorable, inexplicably boring. It drags on listlessly, completely unsure what to do with any of its characters--not even Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), the titular "Phoenix" of Dark Phoenix has any real clarity or purpose. She's got a new power now, and it's causing her psychic mutation to go haywire. That's about as complicated or nuanced as things get.

Meanwhile, the rest of the cast putters around just as directionlessly. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) has a handful of zingers ("You might want to think about changing the name to X-Women") directed at her childhood friend/adoptive brother, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who, at some point of screen, has taken a full-on pivot from well-meaning-but-doomed altruist to fame-grubbing asshole for no discernable reason. Sure, this incarnation of Xavier might be a little more faithful to his comic book self but it simply doesn't track--and makes absolutely no effort to track--back to the McAvoy version of the character we've spent three prior films getting to know. Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) is there, but really only to emote awkwardly at Jean whenever the camera is on him. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is around, too, but only for a handful of scenes--none of them managing to capture what made the character memorable or funny in previous films.

Magneto (Michael Fassbender) would be the most baffling of the lot, flip-flopping his motivations and emotional realities seemingly at random and in the middle of his scenes, but that dubious honor has to go to Jessica Chastain, whose character apparently does get named a grand total of once, and is otherwise never directly addressed again--so good luck trying to remember it when you leave the theater, and god help you if you're like me and happened to miss the throwaway line the first time around.

Name confusion aside, Chastain plays a villainous alien who wants the power--don't call it the "Phoenix Force," the movie never does--that resides within Jean. There's some vague exposition about how the power would help resurrect their race or terraform the Earth or something but it never quite becomes clear how or why just like it never becomes clear what role Jean plays in any of this. There are other aliens on Earth, too, but they all look like humans--presumably to save on that VFX and makeup budget--and Chastain is apparently their leader--or maybe some sort of princess? Who knows--the movie certainly doesn't seem to care, so why should we?

The end result is an absolutely baffling sequence of inexplicably drawn out scenes wherein various physic mutants scrunch up their faces at the camera while objects fly around them and buildings crunch and collapse. They occasionally monologue to one another about learning important life lessons, or about being scared of their own power, or about recovering from trauma, but they may as well be talking about the weather for all the impact it has.

There are, of course, other mutants whose powers aren't mentally based--but the movie doesn't seem to have any idea what to do with them. Storm (Alexandra Shipp) is back, but instead of being able to control the weather on a god-like scale, she spends the majority of her time on screen zapping people with lightning fingers like Raiden from Mortal Kombat. Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) makes a return, too, with his iconic "BAMF" teleportation inexplicably dubbed over with what honest-to-god sounds like a totally unaltered whip crack sound effect. He has a handful of neat fighting moments, but only really gets to shine for less than a minute at the very end.

Chances are, at about the halfway mark, you'll find yourself desperately wondering when the movie is going to put itself out of its misery--or, at best, wondering what the point of any of this is. Not even the major set-piece battles that bring familiar mutants together to showcase their powers feel like they have any real point or purpose outside of, well, being major set-piece battles to bring familiar mutants together.

It's hard to really pinpoint just where everything started going wrong. You could blame it on the cast being too large, or the script trying to juggle too many things, or the narrative not really knowing what it wanted to say or how it wanted to say it, but the reality is it doesn't really matter. The sum of Dark Phoenix's parts is a mess--a mess that, at the end of the day, might have a handful of pretty okay fight scenes and some well-tailored costumes, but still a mess. Sure, it may be slightly closer to adapting the actual Dark Phoenix Saga source material than 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, but only by default.

Back To Top
The Good
One or two of the fight scenes have a handful of cool choreography
The Bad
The characters seem motivated by absolutely nothing
Logic, worldbuilding, and continuity don't seem to matter
No discernable plot
A cast full of otherwise skilled actors phoning it in
What is Jessica Chastain's character's deal, even?
2
Terrible
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Meg Downey is an Associate Entertainment Editor here at GameSpot. She's a pretty big fan of giant monsters and an even bigger fan of superheroes, giant or otherwise.
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rickjamesia

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So did they ever explain why Magneto is not in prison and/or deported (and probably in prison in some other country) and instead is given a huge plot of land, after all the terrible stuff he was trying to do in Apocalypse?

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Sofrito77

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Sofrito77  Online

Can you please STOP mixing the movie reviews into the section on the front page that come to for GAME reviews. Stop with this bait-and-click garbage. List them SEPARATE or something. I don't know who's idea this was but it's MORONIC. Change this or I will stop coming to this site. This is the last site that I come to outside of YouTube for game reviews and if you don't change it, I won't be coming back here at all.

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rickjamesia

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@Sofrito77: Are you literally going to post this on every movie related article?

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Sofrito77

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Edited By Sofrito77  Online

@rickjamesia: does it matter? The point of these forums is to post my opinion, so I'll do so.

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enzyme36

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Could not disagree more with this review. Great film... some of the best Xmen fights in the whole series. WIll miss this cast and these movies.

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markswaine1

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Edited By markswaine1

I watched this tonight and thought it was a great sci-fi film, loaded with action and a grounded plot. The concept of the X-Men turning against one of their own was pulled off better in this film than last stand. And First Class and onwards are still miles better than the first three X-Men films because theres less politics and more true to the comics. There was some great set peices showcasing the skills of the X-Men and the Brotherhood, Nightcrawler going mental was a brilliant scene.

The final fight scene was pretty violent and it was interesting to see them in a darker light. The bromance between Xavier and Magneto is still on form. And Sophie Turner (despite a slight awkward American accent) does a fine job balancing Jean grey and the Phoenix. There are some dazzling light shows in the form of the Phoenix using her powers. There are definitely missed opportunities for cameos e.g. Deadpool, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Jubilee, Havoc, Ice Man, Syrin, X-23 from Logan, Pyro, Gambit, where the hell are they? this was also a perfect opportunity to recast the new Wolverine in a cameo role. They could have even somehow used Thanos' snap (without explanation) to resurrect the X-Men who died between the events of First Class and Days of Future Past. It was also disappointing that Quicksilver's and Magneto story arc wasn't continued, bringing the Scarlet Witch into the story (finally) would have been a great way to finalise this story.

The Dark Phoenix is never going to win any Oscars, but it was never trying to. Go and see this expecting to see nothing but another entertaining X-Men film. Apart from the missed opportunities, I'd give this a comfortable 8/10.

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rickjamesia

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@markswaine1: The X-Men didn't turn against one of their own at all in this movie. One single X-man turned against one of their own and he chickened out before he even actually got to her.

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markswaine1

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@rickjamesia: "The X-Men didn't turn against one of their own at all in this movie. One single X-man turned against one of their own and he chickened out before he even actually got to her"? Your comment is contradictory.

Besides, read my post again, I said the concept. There were aspects of rivalry between the X-Men and Jean Grey in the interests apprehending Jean Grey (and the Phoenix if we're going to be technical), and by your own admission one of them didn't even succeed. Still a good film regardless.

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ikcizokm

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Best part about this movie was the very brief scene with Dazzler entertaining the kids.

For me, everything the reviewer said was spot on. Zero character development. No exposition on the aliens. Honestly, it was 2 hours of Jean running around going from one manic episode to the next. And some of the best lines from the trailers weren't even in the movie.

Ato Essandoh is a great actor, but his part was so minimal I wondered why he was even there. Would have preferred him to be the main antagonist over Jessica Chastain, who, once again, obviously has it in her contract that she must have a scene where she runs in high heels.

Very glad that the rights to Xmen are now back with Marvel so we can get a proper Xmen movie in the MCU soon.

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commander

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Edited By commander

I just saw the movie and the only thing terrible thing about it is the reviews it is getting. A 2 out of 10? I'm sorry but you just thrown all objectivity out of the window. I give the movie an 8 out of 10, at least, and I've been watching movies since the beginning of the eighties.

If I was subjective I gave it a 9 out of 10 because after all I'm an x-men fan , when it comes to movies, I never was into reading the comics. This isn't the best x men movie, but it surely does come close.

and yeah sophie turner was not a mistake to cast her, she did a wonderfull job, what an actress, fassbender, mcavoy and lawrence deliver as well. The special effects, story line, music all top notch. Don't be fooled by the bad reviews.

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toffifee

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Edited By toffifee

@commander: I have also watched movies since the eighties and LOVE X-men. This is no 8 out of 10, in my opinion. And how are you objective but not the Gamespot reviewer?

Sophie Turner is the only saving grace in this movie. She is awesome as Dark Phoenix. The script is bad, the acting from the others are lacking and the fight scenes are not very good. The story is just horrible. No need for Jessica Chastain at all and why is "The Phoenix Saga" put in one movie? And why are we not getting the stylistic phoenix in fire around Jean Grey? The little glimpse of that was far too little.

The thing that baffles me the most is that the same person that wrote the script for this movie also wrote the script for Logan and Days of Future past, both movies I loved.

2/10 is a bit low, imo. It's better than Apocalypse, but then anything is.

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commander

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Edited By commander

@toffifee: Because the acting, special effects, and even the music are so well done. You just can't look past that en give this movie a 2/10

and it's true sophie turner is carrying this movie, but you could say the same about superman movies, or batman movies, and it's not like the other characters are completely forgetablle, nightcrawler was pretty well done. Fassbender, mcavoy and lawrence deliver like always.

Sure there wasn't much character development, but we know most of the characters anyway through first class and it's sequels. This isn't such a type of movie as well. It grabs you by the throat from the very beginning.

This movie has epic scenes, I'm not going to name them to avoid any spoilers.

Maybe you should look at user reviews, this 2/10 looks more ridiculous with the minute.

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toffifee

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@commander: But it doesn't matter what user reviews say. This person thought this was a 2/10. Should she think something else just because users think it's better than she did? I thought The Witcher 3 was an 8 out of 10. Most think I am insane, but it's an opinion.

I actually thought most of the actors in this movie did a poor job and, in my opinion, you can't compare X-men to Batman. X-men is a team and as such no one person should carry the movie. Batman is motherbleeding Batman (the Christian Bale version) and he and whatever bad guy is in the movie is carrying it. I just feel like most of the X-men could have been left out of the movie because they added nothing.

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commander

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Edited By commander

@toffifee: of course it mattters what user reviews say, if this reviewer gives this movie a 2/10 and a big part of the population find this a great movie then he/she isn't a very good reviewer.

The whole point of being a professional critic is to be a guide for the people who are thinking about seeing this movie. A 2/10 says, no one should see this movie, it is that bad.

This is a very bad review no matter how you sugarcoat it, there are too many people who find this a great movie. and they come from every part of the population, even experienced viewers like myself.

and you finding the witcher an 8/10 is completely different, 8/10 is still good, I would have given the same score. And 10/10 is understandable if you look at the graphics in the witcher 3.

and the x-men isn't batman, but it's not like the other actors did a bad job, yeah I know you think they did, but that's not what a lot of other people think, including myself, and I'm quite sure people who teach in acting shools would say the same thing.

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randallsilver

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Funny how the continuity was mentioned yet again. NONE of the X- Men films follow it. It sometimes feels that each and everyone of them are in a different universe altogether. For example:

- a young Emma Frost is saved in X- Men 2, but she's a grown-up villain in that crap "First Class."

- Or Jubilee in X2 and Psylocke in X3 both turning up in Apocalypse by, um... time travel, I guess?

- So Logan has his adamantium removed, only to have it back in Future Past? Oh, and Xavier is there too, in his own body...

- Have you looked at what age everyone should be since they appeared in First Class and so on? How Magneto still alive? Everyone ages VERY slowly.

- Trask invented the Sentinels about 40 years before they finally attacked the mutants? Huh?

And many, MANY more. When I was very bored one day, I downloaded Apocalyps and watched. I will not make that mistake again with Dark Phoenix. Not ever watching that one, thanks.

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toffifee

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@randallsilver: "- Trask invented the Sentinels about 40 years before they finally attacked the mutants? Huh?"

Ha! I never thought of that. Damnit. I wanted Days of Future Past to be perfect, like it is in my mind. :)

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randallsilver

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@toffifee: To be clear, I actually did like Future Past. But a 90+ years old Magneto, completely revived Xavier, Wolverine back with adamantium claws and underground sentinels for 4 decades were HUGE plot holes to me (and it's not even all).

However, if you consider it a completely stand- alone film, it is actually quite good. So, let's view it like that and just enjoy it :-)

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esqueejy

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Edited By esqueejy

Yikes. Frankly, I selfishly blame it all on them never giving Iceman any respect hehe. He was always a favorite of mine when I was little. Every single XMen movie to date has felt like a highway robbery to me for that one missing piece (and frequently for other reasons too). He was core to the entire team, even if he only rarely got to be the major focus of the plots. Boggles my mind that they've done so many XMen movies and treated him like a throwaway extra the entire time. That alone should tell you how much they actually gave a shit about the material.

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JSprunk

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I'd give this movie a 0 for Sophie Turner being in it alone.

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toffifee

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@jsprunk: Just have to jump in here and say that she is fantastic as Dark Phoenix. The movie sucks though.

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yeknomdab

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The real question: is it better to watch Dark Phoenix than being forced to waste an entire evening playing something as mind-numbingly vapid as Fartnite?

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Kuruption84

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Edited By Kuruption84

While I believe it's probably bad, I don't believe it's 2/10 bad. Everyone seems to just want Disney to hurry up and reboot the franchise no matter how bad monopolies are.

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A_one

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@Kuruption84: nah it's just really fucking bad, lol

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Kuruption84

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@a_one: You've seen it?

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wolfpup7

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Yowzers, this is disappointing.

How the heck do they allow this when Deadpool and Logan are so great? I’d say Deadpool and Logan are actually better than almost all the Disney Marvel films, so it’s not like Fox can’t make good ones.

I was super disappointed by First Class, actually enjoyed Days of Future Past, even if it wasn’t 1/100th what it should have been, and then super disappointed by Apocalypse again. There were some great moments...Jennifer Lawrence and Fasbender are really great, but ultimate it was a bunch of bad writing and then some dull cgi at the end.

This sounds like more of the same.

And then to do it with a story I’d actually love to be told right. It’s a story I think they can’t do without obviously good writing, but also without setting it up over the course of at least a 10 year shared universe.

Ugh.

And I reeeeeally hope stuff on par with Logan and Deadpool can exist at marvel.

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ZombieVirolina

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Was anyone REALLY surprised?

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Kuruption84

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@ZombieVirolina: Yes. Anyone without Disney blinders would be. The last movie wasn't good, but the first two weren't bad, not to mention Logan and the Deadpool movies were pretty good.

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ZombieVirolina

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Edited By ZombieVirolina

@Kuruption84: I wasn’t surprised in the least. DoFP was just okay and Apocalypse was just cringy. The X series suffers because of its playing fast and loose with the timelines and never really following the rules either the comics or even the writers of this series have set for it. It’s pretty much a stream of consciousness thing right now we’re just supposed to go with because the narrative never stays coherent enough to follow along.

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wolfpup7

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@ZombieVirolina: I sort of am. Logan and Deadpool are amazing. Some of the best films ever, easily.

Why the hell didn’t they think to write this prior to filming?!?

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RxVitaminR

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Edited By RxVitaminR

I’m assuming this was Fox’s last X-men movie. Disney will undoubtably reboot and crush this horrible, horribleness that was the previous and current series.

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Ovirew

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Only reason to see it is for Chastain, got it. XD

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

Fox tainting the X-Well before Disney takes over. : p

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tronny2011

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Ok it may have had a shit rating but it was not all that bad...yes I suppose it may have been a re-hash of the 00s version but hey..I have seen worse...

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wolfpup7

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@tronny2011: I’ll probably get some enjoyment from it then. I still want to see it.

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RxVitaminR

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@tronny2011: I’ll still redbox it and see what I get from it. I’m certainly not paying theatre money if it’s this bad.

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PlaystationZone

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This was made by old 20th century fox before Disney buy them out . Time Disney to reboot it by marvel .

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Malaphisis

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haha yes!

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No_Intelligence

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Everytime they do a phoenix story, in 1 film, it's bound to fail. It's like trying to do venom, without spiderman. Phoenix and Jean Grey only works because you care about Scott Summers, and you know all the details with Professor X, it takes a lot of time to have the audience like these characters.

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RxVitaminR

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@No_Intelligence: Disney and Marvel will make it right...I really, really hope.

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Sepewrath

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Edited By Sepewrath

@No_Intelligence: Yeah never understood why on 2 separate occasions, they tried to do the Phoenix story within one movie with the only buildup being one scene in the prior movie. Phoenix and Apocalypse are two things they should have and could have built towards.

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Pierce_Sparrow

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That's really a damn shame. It should be a crime to screw up such a monumental piece of comic book history. The Dark Phoenix story is one of the best storylines in comic book history. If you're not going to make it the very best it can be, what's the point?

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Sepewrath

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@Pierce_Sparrow: The mistake they've made twice now is trying to encompass this multi-layered story in a single movie. I could understand the first time, but after seeing what Marvel was doing--how they didn't come up with the idea to build towards something, I'll never get.

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cramseyLA25

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@Pierce_Sparrow: The character isn't likable.

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wolfpup7

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Edited By wolfpup7

@cramseyla25: what character?

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