In 1975, a little girl was in an accident on the road which killed her parents and left her to struggle on alone. Well, almost alone: she was adopted by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), who signed her up for his special school, one which catered for young people with extraordinary powers, or Mutants, as they were named in the mainstream. The girl was Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), and it was she who caused the accident with her nascent psychic powers, abilities that Xavier recognised as having the potential to be extraordinarily effective, and now, in 1992, a mission of his X-Men to rescue the crew of a Space Shuttle has her facing a future that will see her immensely strong...
Dark Phoenix was a comic book plotline that had been tried before in Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand, and that was judged a disappointment after two well-received Bryan Singer-directed efforts which established the franchise, and it could be argued, the whole of the Marvel movies empire. Yet if Ratner's endeavours were a letdown for the fans and casual audiences alike, this was nothing short of a disaster, with its chief talent Simon Kinberg seemingly dithering about what shape his film should take, and reshooting great swathes of it without really solving whatever problems he had with it. Whether behind the scenes tussles or a general malaise with a samey series, it flopped.
It didn't help that it was released a short while after Avengers: Endgame, only the most successful movie at the world box office, and it appeared audiences simply wanted that franchise and its MCU spin-offs, whereas the 20th Century Fox-derived one was looking distinctly past it after one too many efforts that all but the most dedicated aficionado would have trouble distinguishing from its predecessors, or its immediate predecessors at any rate. There was a difference here, ostensibly, in that the baddie was one of the X-Men - Jean - but she wasn't really, as you would not be too shocked to see her come good eventually and the actual villains be generic space aliens.
Space aliens who can adopt human form, not unlike the antagonists of the far bigger, female-led Marvel instalment Captain Marvel of the same year: was there just a fatigue setting in, or was the appetite purely sated by the Avengers pieces, leaving the X-Men labouring under the deadly reaction of "Who gives a shit?" Kinberg was suitably chastened and went public to shoulder the blame, but he also pointed the finger at Disney, as if they had deliberately sabotaged their new acquisition so as to quietly sweep the finale under the carpet, all the better to reboot it under the MCU banner with a new cast and more continuity with Marvel's overarching storylines. If all this makes you feel exhausted even if you haven't watched Dark Phoenix, then no wonder it failed to ignite the interest of the punters.
Yet as was the case with a lot of these things, the "worst movie evah!" brigade were distorting perception of a movie that wasn't that bad, it wasn't that great either, but as a basic superpersons throwing stuff around and zapping other superpersons example, it had been well-funded, and was not too confusing in drawing its lines of conflict. An early theme of how justified an authority figure can be in guiding the lives of those under its tutelage is dropped fairly sharpish - cue uncertain "Did Professor X have his pupils' best interests at heart?" searching questions which are potentially interesting but have no traction since of course he did. Then the more current to the twenty-tens concern about how to keep a team of people - be they friends or nations - together through thick and thin when there are forces every day trying to split them apart made itself plain, again not much of an earth shaker when it was resolved with hardly any lasting effect at all. But that could have been because it was advertised as the final entry in this franchise. There were chances it could have taken, but Kinberg played safe, and that was more or less the only cinematic crime here. Music by Hans Zimmer.