"with a wonderful central performance from Sophie Turner, this is the Last Stand we have been waiting for"
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the latest entry in to the Fox Produced X-Men Universe, based on Marvel's iconic comic book arc The Dark Phoenix Saga by John Byrne and Chris Claremont, and I'll start off by saying that I have not read the comic books, my only knowledge of The Dark Phoenix Saga is from the 90's cartoon and the lacklustre and ill fated X-Men: The Last Stand, so I won't be comparing this to the classic comic book run.
After a devastating flash back involving a young Jean Grey, the film opens in the 90's to the X-Men in full comic book accurate uniforms mounting a mission to outer space to rescue NASA astronauts under Presidential order, the mission goes well at first, until a Cosmic Entity ravages the shuttle with Jean still on board, and she emerges unharmed (it's in the trailer, I'm not spoiling anything).
Things then escalate rather quickly as Jean struggles to silence the voices in her head as the Cosmic Entity begins to take over claiming the life of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in the process (again not a spoiler as it is in the trailer). Events unfold leaving the X-Men fractured due to revelations of what Charles did to Jean when she first came to him, Xavier is played wonderfully by James McAvoy, but the stand out for me is Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, which is a good thing, since she is the titular Phoenix. Turner captures the struggle that the character is going through, the duality of her wanting to be good but the Phoenix Force being too strong. The only real misstep being the love story between Jean and Scott (Tye Sheridan), as it wasn't set up in the previous films with this cast, so it wasn't believable, the performances are great, so it isn't the chemistry. I know it has to be there because of the comic book story arc but it felt more epic in the 90's cartoon!
The death of Mystique would have been more impactful had they not used it in the marketing, but it does serve as the lightning rod to fracture the team and bring them back together when it counts. A strength of the film is that it focuses on the Phoenix storyline, rather than having a mess of story threads, with another strength being the internal struggles that they all face.
With the emergence of Jessica Chastain’s Vuk, who wants the Cosmic power for herself, the battle for Jean wages on to a rather impressive set piece involving a Prison transport train, which showcases the powers of the X-Men and their allies as they battle Vuk and her forces, with the effects work being another plus for the film.
There's more good than bad in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the returning actors like Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Evan Peters are great in their roles, and truly embrace them. I would like to see more from this iteration of the X-Men, but since the merger with Disney, I don't see that happening, which is a shame since Simon Kinberg and his creative team have finally pulled off a digestible version of the Phoenix Saga, it's better than the first filmed attempt, whichever way you look at it, but it does fall short in certain areas, like the aforementioned love story between Jean and Scott. But the music from Hans Zimmer is another plus!
It's not the train wreck it is purported to be, it has its problems, especially with the continuity and timeline but I like that they embraced the Cosmic element of the story, something that The Last Stand didn't do, and in my opinion, goes out on a high note. Best thing is to not think about the timeline too much as it is a bit of a headache and things unravel easily because of it, I'd suggest that you just view this as a film and enjoy the ride, with a wonderful central performance from Sophie Turner, this is the Last Stand we have been waiting for.