You wouldn’t like Jean Grey when she’s angry. But there’s not much to like about “Dark Phoenix” at all. While the long-running, time-scrambling Fox “X-Men” franchise has been showing diminishing returns since “X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Dark Phoenix,” the directorial debut of writer Simon Kinberg, is the dud of all duds, a boring, flat film that doesn’t seem to even start before it’s over. With this final installment, the franchise goes out with a resounding thud.
If you’re not familiar with Jean Grey, played here by Sophie Turner, and previously by Famke Janssen, we get to know her tragic backstory in “Dark Phoenix.” As a young mutant, she has a hard time controlling her incredibly powerful telekinetic and psychic abilities. She causes a car accident, killing her parents, and is taken under the wing of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), who becomes her de facto father figure and teaches her how to control her gift. But during an attempt to rescue astronauts from the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992 (yup), Jean ends up absorbing a direct hit from a solar flare of sorts. She survives, but her powers are even more acute. And she has a hard time controlling things when she’s emotional, especially since this cosmic incident ripped the Band-Aids off all the childhood trauma she has repressed.
“Dark Phoenix” racks up a rap sheet of offenses (it doesn’t even look remotely like 1992!), but perhaps the worst is proving what “X-Men: Apocalypse” started in its treatment of Oscar Isaac. Despite the caliber and talent of the actor, lackluster writing, directing and editing can warp a performance into something truly dreadful. Now that’s power.