Dark Phoenix supplies this year’s shoo-in for Most Hapless Movie Character.
The X-Men are fighting each other in the street in front of his house, causing all sorts of collateral damage. Aliens posing as humans are invading the planet, including his living room — where one of them reaches into his chest, presumably to pull out his heart (it’s PG-13, so we have to use our imaginations).
But that’s not even the worst part. No, what really made me feel for the guy was that he was driving a Chevy Citation. It’s right there in the driveway in front of his sad little house.
If the invading aliens knew anything about Earth, or transmissions, they would have looked at the car and said, “Oh dear, let’s pull out some other person’s heart. This dude has enough problems.”
When was the last time we saw a Chevy Citation in a movie? You have to applaud the art director for even finding one. It’s not the kind of car that enthusiasts tend to preserve. You’re not likely to be watching Mecum auto auctions and see a 1983 Citation resto-mod being bid up to six figures by ravenous collectors. It’s the kind of car that previous owners would purchase merely to destroy, or best-case scenario, let stand on cinder blocks as a perverse a monument to the dubious wisdom of a car company that named a vehicle after the ticket you got before it was legal to make a right turn on red.
And the poor bastard in Dark Phoenix has been condemned to drive one for at least eight years. The movie is set in 1992, and Chevy ceased production in 1985. Incidentally, that’s two years after the events in X-Men: Apocalypse (Apocalypse is actually a more appropriate name for the car than Citation), the narrative predecessor to Dark Phoenix, and the first to feature Sophie Turner as Jean Gray. Turner just wrapped up her star turn on Game of Thrones, and now returns as a headliner in a Hollywood blockbuster, only to discover how much better the roles are on HBO.
As the movie opens, she’s flying into space to rescue shuttle astronauts whereupon she is engulfed by a sparkly space cloud and knocked out. She awakens with her telekinetic powers turned up to 11, now more powerful than Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who is living on an island commune with other mutants and growing organic crops, so you know that won’t last.
Powerful-but-unstable Jean kills people by accident, feels bad about it, and is approached by an emotionless, pale alien (Jessica Chastain) who tells her to embrace her new powers, and maybe help aliens take over the earth while she’s at it.
Can the various X-Men factions cease bickering in time to stop all of this from happening? It’s the last dumb question to be posed by the franchise in this particular iteration. The X-Men are now owned by Disney, and in the hands of master Marvel puppeteer Kevin Feige, and so are destined for more profitable things.
It’s probably for the best. Dark Phoenix has a cast of lame-duck actors wearing expressions that say, “Check, please,” and the movie has the kind of knotty, suspenseless plotting that makes the veins in your head throb — exactly what happens to Jean when her telekinetic powers are asserted. Also what happened to Amy Irving when she went telekinetic in The Fury, a movie this one resembles, except that it’s neither fun to watch nor very good.
Dark Phoenix. Directed by Simon Kinberg. With Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, and Jennifer Lawrence. Distributed 20th Century Fox.
Parents’ guide: PG-13 (violence)
Running time: 1 hour, 54 mins.