Jennifer Lawrence

REVIEW: X-Men: Dark Phoenix

After an accident on a space mission, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) begins to develop powers beyond her control. Her fellow X-Men fight to help her while other forces seek to either destroy or control her.

Oh boy is X-Men: Dark Phoenix a mess. It looks and feels like everyone involved didn’t really care much anymore. For all we know that may have been the case as Disney had bought Fox during the films production or post-production, so it was pretty much presumed that this was likely to be the last X-men film with these characters and actors. The special effects aren’t great, and the makeup and prosthetics are even worse. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is a horrible shade of blue and looks far worse than she did in the previous three films Lawrence played the character in.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix was written and directed by Simon Kinberg who is better known as a writer and producer. In fact, Dark Phoenix was his directorial debut and it wasn’t particularly well directed to be honest. In action sequences they are either incredibly static and not interesting or they’re more chaotic and you have little idea of the space these characters are fighting in relation to one another.

The characterisation of some of the characters in this film is awful, if they are even given much to do. Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters) are often side-lined, while Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) loses his dorky innocence and becomes a coldblooded killer, not dissimilar to the mind-controlled version in X2 and it’s incredibly jarring. The biggest character assassination is Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). He is the absolute worst in this film. He’s self-absorbed and almost power-hungry before things go wrong and when you learn of his involvement in Jean’s trauma it makes him look even worse. While Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is hardly doing anything new – trying to live the quiet life but then gets pulled into a conflict – as least Fassbender actually gives a good performance which is more than a lot of his co-workers did.

I’m a big fan of the found family trope (there’s a reason why the Fast and Furious films are some of my favourites) and even how they shoehorned that idea into the climax of this film couldn’t save it for me. Speaking of the climax, it happens on a train and is one of the most visually uninteresting sequences ever.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a sour note to potentially end this X-Men franchise on. The dialogue is bad with some really cringey lines, the plot is barely there and there are so many factions going after Jean that while I believe it to be comic book accurate, the addition of Jessica Chastain’s undeveloped character and compatriots feels unnecessary and there’s enough going on that it might’ve been a better film without them. I’d prefer to watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine than this. 1/5.

REVIEW: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and what’s left of the X-Men send Logan (Hugh Jackman) to the past in order to try and prevent an event that results in the annihilation of mutants and humans alike in the future.

From the opening scene X-Men: Days of Future Past is firing on all cylinders. You’ve got this small group of mutants fighting for their lives against sentinels (giant killer robots that can adapt to anything) as Kitty Pryde (Elliot Page) sends Bishop (Omar Sy) back in time in order to warn them. The special effects are great, the whole sequence is exciting but it’s also nerve-wracking as it makes it clear how powerful these machines are and that our heroes may not make it out alive. What a way to start a movie and show how awful this apocalyptic future these characters we know are living in.

When Logan is sent to the 1970s, he has to find and reunite the younger versions of Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender). He finds a Charles who is a shell of the man he knows in the future, overwhelmed by his powers and the pain of losing both Erik and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), his shut himself away from the world with only Hank (Nicholas Hoult) for company. Erik meanwhile is in prison in at the Pentagon and Logan knows one person who can help them get him out – Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters). Peter is such a fun character, he’s a bit manic and weird and how his power is shown is really different to what we’ve seen before. He’s a guy who can move super-fast, so it makes sense that to him everything and everyone moves slowly, making a very entertaining scene when you get to see his powers from his point of view.

Days of Future Past sees Erik truly become Magneto. While Charles is still an idealist and Raven is planning to do bad things for good reasons, Erik is firm in his beliefs. He will do anything to protect his fellow mutants even if that means hurting people he once considered to be friends or allies. His power has also grown and thanks to Fassbender’s performance and the costuming, Erik is a foreboding presence when he puts his mind to something.

The balance between what’s happening in the future and in the 1970s is done so well – as is the balance between action and emotion. The action sequences in the future are thrilling, the ones in the past are character-driven and equally exciting but then the scenes where it’s just two characters talking are just as compelling. Whether it’s Logan trying to convince Charles of what the future holds or Erik and Charles reconnecting, it’s just as engaging as the action and spectacle. The best quieter moment is between the old and young Charles Xavier. Seeing both actors playing the same character at vastly different points of their lives together on screen not only gets me in the nerdy part of my heart, but the discussions of hope and perseverance really struck a chord too.

I know I’ve said previously that X2 is my favourite X-Men film, but on this rewatch I was struck by just how impressive X-Men: Days of Future Past is and it might now be my favourite. There’s action and emotion and it’s got some funny moments too. It’s a real celebration of this franchise, its characters and the general story of mutants vs humanity. Just a fantastic film. 5/5.

REVIEW: X-Men: First Class (2011)

Mutants Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) bring together a team of mutants to stop Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) from starting a nuclear war.

I hadn’t seen X-Men: First Class in years and I’d forgotten how good it was! The casting is spot on almost across the board. McAvoy and Fassbender have such great chemistry and while thanks to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s performances in the original trilogy you could sense the years or friendship and respect, seeing how Charles and Erik met and the foundations of their relationship was just great to see. McAvoy and Fassbender both do a great job of showing the younger versions of these iconic characters while still making their own mark on them. Fassbender especially is great at showing the almost warring sides of Erik as he has a single determination for revenge but also likes and understands Charles’s point of view.

The differing ideologies of Erik and Charles don’t only come into play but also Charles and Raven aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Having them being adoptive siblings adds this whole new dynamic to characters we already thought we knew. Raven trying to figure out who she is leads to a lot of the sort of moral conversations about trying to fit in verses being true to yourself that wasn’t always discussed so much in the original trilogy.

The whole 60s vibe on First Class is a lot of fun. The use of Gnarls Barkley’s “Run” during the montage sequence of Erik and Charles recruiting mutants fits perfectly and the score composed by Henry Jackman is one of my favourites in the X-Men franchise and helps make First Class feel like its own thing outside of the rest of the X-Men films we’d seen so far.

Having X-Men: First Class be set during the Cold War adds another level of politics to the usual dynamic of humans vs mutants. There are humans being used by mutants, mutants trying to protect humans – it’s all put together so that the final conflict is truly satisfying.

While Charles, Erik, Mystique and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) are all characters we’ve seen older versions of before, the rest of the mutants – both good and bad – are all new to the films. Naturally not all of them get the same amount of screen time and development but thanks to good casting and chemistry between them means they, and their powers, are all fun to watch.

X-Men: First Class is the near perfect blend of action, humour and fun. The cast is great, as is the special effects and the yellow X-Men uniforms are just the best. X-Men: First Class was the perfect way to reboot/reimagine the franchise and these characters after X-Men: The Last Stand. The subsequent films with these younger versions of the characters might not all have been as impressive as First Class, but it certainly gave the franchise a whole new lease of life. 5/5.

REVIEW: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

x-men apocalypse movie posterWhen the world’s first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) re-emerges after thousands of years, the X-Men must unite to defeat him and his plan to destroy all of humanity.

X-Men: Apocalypse see’s the return of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his students. There’s many familiar faces including Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) and Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) as well as a host of new students. These newer characters, playing younger versions of characters we’ve seen before, all fit in well with the action and do a good job – especially Kodi Smit-McPhee as a young Nightcrawler. Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) also returns and she plays a bigger role and is on a different side to the one you might expect.

Quicksilver steals every scene he’s in. Much like in Days of Future Past, there’s a scene in X-Men: Apocalypse which really shows off his power and it’s both funny and exciting. Plus, he bounces off a lot of the other characters well and brings a level of humour to an otherwise potentially very grim movie.

X-Men: Apocalypse is surprisingly violent comic book superhero movie aimed primarily at kids. There’s scene where characters get brutally beaten and there’s a lot of blood, there’s what could be described as body horror with Angel (Ben Hardy) and overall it’s definitely the darkest and goriest X-Men movie to date. It is jarring and disturbing to see though it does the job of showing how powerful and threatening Apocalypse can be.

While Apocalypse is sometimes an opposing figure, he is not a terrifying villain. His four horseman, bar Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who gets another tragic backstory, are seriously underdeveloped. Angel’s character is non-existent and Psylocke (Olivia Munn) is given little to do, Storm (Alexandra Shipp) fares only slightly better as you encounter her before she becomes a disciple of Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse is an entertaining film, it’s gripping and exciting but it’s the heroes you find yourself more invested in than an average villain. 4/5.