Michael Fassbender returns opposite Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix, the eagerly awaited final chapter of the current X-Men franchise
In Dark Phoenix, the final chapter in the current X-Men franchise, the focus is on Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) one of the most beloved characters in the Xmen universe.
In previous films we watched her struggle to contain herself, but in Dark Phoenix she does the thing she has always been threatening to and finally tilts over into the red zone with Turner nailing her inner turmoil from the opening scene.
The first person she looks for when things get crazy is the most troubled man in the Marvel Comic universe, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) of course.
It's a welcome return for the Kerry-raised Irish actor to the role he has made his own and his first appearance led the hard-bitten New York audience at the preview screening I attended this week to cheer.
It's Fassbender's fourth and final go-round in the role and clearly, there must have been a decision to tie this chapter up with a bang this time because Dark Phoenix is the most explosive episode in the X-Men series to date - but that's not to say that it's also good.
It all starts with an accident in space. The year is 1992 and the Space Shuttle Endeavor has encountered a mysterious alien force just above the Earth's atmosphere, endangering their mission.
The X-Men come to the rescue with a team that includes Jean but no sooner do they find the struggling Nasa ship than some strange hovering cosmic force threatens to kill the helpless astronauts.
Jean is teleported into the shuttle to prevent it from imploding and after she helps get the stranded crew out she takes the full force of the cosmic blast.
There's a lot of blame to go for the foolhardy decision, but Professor X (James McAvoy) receives the sharpest criticism from Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), who realizes how close her crew came to death because their leader wants to cut a dashing figure on the world's stage.
“Why are we called The X-Men? It's the women who are always saving everyone. We should be called The X-Women!” she says after the latest rescue operation, eliciting knowing laughs from over half the audience.
There's also a new female arch nemesis in this go-round, a sinister blond haired alien with no name played by Jessica Chastain. Chastain's character has come to earth because she has witnessed the power that Jean has harnessed and she wants to help her to use that power to kill all humans and replace them with her fellow aliens.
As ambitions go it's pretty clear cut one and so she sets about her task in six-inch heels. Platinum blond and unruffled even when she's been hit with a laser (her contract must have insisted no dishevelment, ever) the inability to cause even a dent in her haute couture soon tilts over into unintended camp.
You can't really look this unruffled after 20 AR-50's have tried to kill you at close range and have failed to even leave a mark on your nice Chanel coat. Unless you're the villain in this movie, that is.
Equally, Chastain's inevitable evil lair turns out to be an opulent upper east side penthouse, as opposed to a one bedroom apartment Woodside, say. These are some swanky aliens, I gather.
As the franchise comes to an end the themes that it put front and center from the beginning like standing up for people who are different, and fighting fascism in all of its forms, are becoming even more urgent in the real world than they are on the big screen, so what once looked like relevant entertainment now looks a bit trite as the real world has taken a darker turn the even the films.
That means as the Dark Phoenix story slowly moves from the relevant to the preposterous you may find your mind wondering, as I did, and becoming less and less invested on the screen.
But don't think that you will have heard the last of them. The X-Men were recently acquired by Disney (among other big properties) in a $71 billion deal with Fox, leaving the next phase for the beloved mutant characters undetermined but virtually assured.
Fassbender is bowing out and gracefully tilting his cap, however. Never say never in Hollywood of course, where big bucks lead to big appearances, but Dark Phoenix looks and feels like the played-out ending not just of a chapter but an X-Men era.
Dark Phoenix opens June 5 nationwide.