To ponder the live-action cinematic fate of the X-Men movie universe is to be one who can see into the future.
After almost 20 years of convincing us that it was okay for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine to be over 6 feet tall (the character’s way shorter in the comics); masterfully framing the “them vs. us” narrative of superpowered mutants living in a world with humans (a comic-book origin story inspired by a real civil rights movement); and managing to reboot to the Jennifer Lawrence-led “First Class” era and getting four movies out of it, the time has come to say goodbye.
It’s been known for some time that the end was near for this Twentieth Century Fox-produced franchise; Marvel Studios is the best way to experience a live-action Marvel movie now. Not even the success of Ryan Reynolds’s “Deadpool” films could stop the eventual merging of Fox (home to X-Men films since 2000) with Disney and Marvel Studios. And this means that the latter, through their connected Marvel Cinematic Universe — or perhaps via the upcoming Disney+ streaming service — will probably revisit the world of the X-Men. But unfortunately, that makes “Dark Phoenix,” Fox’s last X-effort, seem pointless.
Despite being surprisingly good and the most intense X-Men movie other than the R-rated “Logan,” “Dark Phoenix” — much like its titular protagonist — just can’t escape its own fate. If Thanos is inevitable, these X-Men movies are now irrelevant.
That’s a tough sentiment to work with when trying to say adios to the movie universe that gave birth to the 21st-century era of superhero cinema, but director Simon Kinberg gives it his best effort.
So why then bother seeing this new installment, a reboot within a reboot of the worst X-Men film (2006’s “The Last Stand”)? The deep-space aspect of the related comic-book saga is mostly ignored here again (although there is alien involvement this time). Unbelievably and inexplicably, Jean Grey doesn’t get her cool suit from the comics — the green or the red one. A red shirt? Again? That’s it?
But the film does have enough good aspects. There’s a strong performance from Sophie Turner as Jean; Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) getting to act like a leader for once, especially with no Wolverine in sight; a compelling performance from the man who was almost Batman, Nicholas Hoult, as Beast; and more teeth-grinding between Magneto and Professor X. And if you find yourself humming along to the excellent score of this film, it’s because they somehow persuaded Hans Zimmer to compose it. Yeah, I couldn’t believe that, either.
Unfortunately for X-Men movie fans, it’s been a daunting task to watch any of the franchise’s films since 2008, when the MCU had its big-bang moment with “Iron Man.” Once it was clear that the extended film franchise was going to work, it was hard for some to swallow that while Marvel Studios was weaving movie magic with a B-list roster of Marvel Comics characters, the X-Men remained at Fox — where someone thought it was a good idea for Deadpool to have a sewn-up mouth and for Apocalypse, the all-time towering villain, to be an actual person in makeup and not CGI.
The X-Men movie universe shouldn’t feel bad for itself, though. Spider-Man — the greatest Marvel hero of all, and one whose 2002 Sony film became the first movie ever to have a $100 million weekend — fell victim to the same reboot fate. Much like some of the X-Men spinoffs, “The Amazing Spider-Man” and its sequel weren’t able to capture the same magic in a switch from Tobey Maguire to Andrew Garfield while in the shadow of Marvel Studios. (That’s why Tom Holland’s Spider-Man now web-swings in the MCU, in a joint deal between Sony and Marvel Studios.)
So while we say goodbye to a once-beloved series of films, this farewell doesn’t hurt on the “I love you 3000” level of “Avengers: Endgame.” But it’s still the end of an era — at least with the realization that better X-days are yet to come.