DARK PHOENIX

By Victoria Alexander

The homoerotic farewell to what the X-MEN has really been about – the unresolved passion between Xavier and Magneto.

The competition between the Marvel and DC superheroes has stalled at Everest’s Base Camp 4. Who will get to the top first? Who turns back?

Of Marvel’s 28 major superheroes, Jean Greg, a.k.a. Dark Phoenix, ranks Number 1 in all-encompassing power. She doesn’t need a helmet to communicate. She doesn’t need fancy hand signals to move massive objects. Everything in nature kisses her ring. Professor Charles Xavier holds down the second position on Marvel’s list.

The Presence is the highest form of being in the DC Universe, having created the angels, namely Michael and Samael. The Presence is known as the God of the Covenant and the creator of the DC Universe and all within it.

Our current highest ranking god, God Almighty, the first Being of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) vanquished all his competitors. The vengeful, jealous, petty God of Abraham, Yahweh to intimates, had a rebranding more suitable as people started to settle and formed a more structured society. He became God the Father. His biggest transformation was brilliant stage-craft – he forgave sins! Sitting in Heaven, his main duty is watching his “likeness” follow the immutable rules as set forth in his architectural design of the Universe. The blueprints are easily seen everywhere.

The creators of the superheroes of Marvel and DC Universes laugh at God Almighty. He’s like the man who has the best vegetable-producing soil in the village. The big man at the time but there is now a supermarket on the corner and skyscrapers are going up all over.

God Almighty didn’t think ahead. He burdened himself with answering prayers and taking sides in military campaigns. He’s called upon to win wars and find lost stuff.

Jean Grey answers to no one. She is a force that transcends the laws of spacetime. All the laws of nature – like gravity, time, space, and the boundaries of the conscious mind – are all forms of matter under her control. Jean Greg has left the human race. She is an entity of her own making.

Jean Grey mated with the Fine Structure Constant.

DARK PHOENIX is the story of how Jean Grey sped past the Godhead. She was born with special gifts that her parents did not notice. Jean is undisciplined and when she refuses to obey her mother’s order to stop changing the car radio’s channel, her father turns away from the road and slams right into a fast -moving truck.

Dad should have kept his eyes on the road. Mom should have noticed her daughter was a petulant child with power over objects. She was moving furniture with her mind before she could walk!

Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) turns up at the hospital and since Jean has no living relatives and he knows she has a big talent, arranges to become her guardian and settles her at his Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters.

Society has finally come around to accepting that there is a mutant in every family and the important agenda at the school is to develop and guide every student’s very special power over Newton’s laws.

In the meantime, we mortals, not gifted with a favorable mutation, can read How to Raise Your I.Q. by Eating Gifted Children by Lewis Frumkes.

At the core of the X-MEN, success is that there is finally a frontier that cannot be brought, won, stolen, or earned. Yes, all men are created equal, but now there’s a glitch. There is a significant difference in separating mutants from non-mutants. Our evolutionary drive is to replace the silverback.

Like it or not: “Anatomy is destiny.”

Every student has a very special skill. So if we were to look at the way the school operates, there would be categories, such as Mental Arts, Physical Superiority, Power over Space, Manipulation of Elements, and so forth. There would be a hierarchy of powers.

The X-MEN creators have made up some really impressive powers. Nobody does anything half-assed. The kid who can start fires burned down a city; the kid who has control over time, took Xavier to watch Jesus carry his cross through the town.

Xavier has a new batch of students. The school’s teachers are X-Men Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and  Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Once fearsome beings, now they give out hall passes, grade papers, and bitch about cost-of-living pay increases.

Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) has seemingly adjusted well to the school. No one knows her disobedience caused the death of her parents. She has a boyfriend who wears wraparound dark sunglasses. If he looks at anyone or even an inanimate object, it suddenly bursts into flames. Xavier has yet to set up an experiment to see what happens if he were to complete the sex act. Would Earth flip its axis?

When astronauts are suddenly in danger, the President asks Xavier to help. The rescue mission is headed by Raven, who does not want to put the students in danger by attempting to save the astronauts. In the risky maneuver, Raven sends Jean Grey into the spacecraft where an energy force attaches to her. This force makes her bigger and stronger, but without Seth Brundle’s psychological awareness of her transformation’s purpose.

Jean Grey’s step into the Godhead – this human can survive in space without any protective clothing – is being watched by Vuk (Jessica Chastain), an alien looking for a planet to colonize. Like Christopher Columbus and the discovery of the New World, it is essential that the natural inhabitants must be wiped out.

While all this is going on, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has been building a rural retreat with scrap metal box buildings. Magneto has put away his helmet and put on a workman’s utility belt. He still looks dashing in black.

While Professor Xavier is mollycoddling “teenagers on the cusp of sexual blossoming” Magneto has accumulated mutants as tough as brass-knuckles. They are the Hells Angels of mutants.

Why is Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPheem) so show-stopping unattractive? He is a major distraction. No matter who is filling the screen with him, I am mesmerized by his wonky teeth.

Neither McAvoy or Fassbender have given their characters any sexual presence. Is it a MeToo thing? Neither Xavier nor Magneto have significant others. How much of cinematic sexual charisma is natural to the performer or, as I believe, the director, cinematographer, and editor all fashion a character’s sexuality. Or, was a young Marlon Brando merely acting? Did Elia Kazan create Brando’s persona?

Sophie Turner’s face holds still. She’s incapable of being whimsical. She has a straight gaze and the way she holds her facial muscles are hypnotic signals of determinism. Instead of her dialogue, I kept hearing her say Commodus’ line regarding his state of mind: “It vexes me. I’m terribly vexed.”

Longtime producer of the X-MEN franchise, Simon Kinberg felt he had spent enough time on X-MEN sets to direct. Along with the assist from four or five credited writers, Kinberg created the story.

Much has been written regarding the delay in releasing DARK PHOENIX. The entire third act – the ending – had to be reshot. Fox’s farewell to the franchise originally had a very different ending that was filmed.

Speaking to Yahoo, James McAvoy confirmed: “The end changed a hell of a lot,” before expanding upon why: “The finale had to change. There was a lot of overlap and parallels with another superhero movie that came out … a while ago.”

Apparently, there are not that many superhero endings out there. I am well aware of the Jungian “seven basic plots” but let’s see some imagination enter the playing field.

However, bringing back Magneto for the finale and his superb big dazzling special effect really heighten the ending. The thing about Magneto is he is always the dark side of Xavier.

Kinberg got the wrong writing team together to help him create the story. He should have gone darker and relied on Fassbender’s sinister Magneto to fight Xavier, Vol and the plasma force for Jean Grey’s soul, or at least, access to her power.

Instead, we are given an ending that shows a meteor firing across the cosmos. Come to your own conclusions. And, as the denouement, the homoerotic farewell to what the X-MEN has really been about – the unresolved passion between Xavier and Magneto.

What could be more romantic than having espresso at an outdoor café in Paris?

Victoria Alexander is a member of the Las Vegas Film Critics Society. Victoria lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

For a complete list of Victoria Alexander’s movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to rottentomatoes.com/critic/victoria-alexander/

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