Nah, they said. Don’t bother watching X-men: the Dark Phoenix. It has the emotional intensity of a wet sock. It is soulless and has nothing to offer. And I was chuckling inside, smugly certain I could uncover the soul and emotions from under whatever fluff and dross they were buried, since how could a movie based on the Dark Phoenix Saga be completely useless?

I was actually physically shaking with irritation after seeing the movie. So yeah, in a sense it was an emotional experience, just not a positive one. I really really disliked what was done to Dark Phoenix’s story. Well, I did not like the recent reincarnation of X-Men films to begin with. Not the teenage personas and not the actors. Not the lack of epic feels and not… well, ehh, apparently I only watch these X-men movies because of some sort of misplaced loyalty to my younger X-men fangirl self, who would have been so delighted to hear there are going to be popular superhero movies by the dozens in the 21st century.

As I remember it – though it’s been many a year since I read the Dark phoenix saga – it was a great study in the superhero comics maxim best put into words in Spiderman “with great power comes great responsibility”. We have telepath Jean Grey, who accidentally acquires cosmic powers. But the cosmic powers dwarf the human perspective, and she among other things destroys a planet with a population of millions. A creature of cosmic or even just galactic scale is by necessity rather solipsistic, human and humanoid lives not much registering in their considerations. After various eventually unsuccessful attempts to restrict her powers to a human-compatible level, Jean makes the sacrifice and destroys herself, and we readers know it is a sacrifice and not an escape, because we’ve been shown the alluring si

de of Dark Phoenix’s powers. And she does all these decisions herself, not being led by some mys

terious alien foe / personification of vindictive revenge, as in the movie. This is with bothers me the most in this remake. Jean Grey does not have much agency in her own movie. In fact, to borrow a quote from a friend with whom I watched it, “How the titular character manages to be just a statist?”. 


Yeppp. The movie is only very superficially about Jean Grey / Dark Phoenix. It is actually all about Professor Xavier. His mistakes, his intentions, his revelation, his redemption. Jean Grey’s story is but an accessory to this end. The pivotal line in the movie, around which it appears to be spun, is Jean Grey telling Prof X “I forgive you. I understand you did it because of love.” (Or something to that effect.) Precisely what the jealous or controlling or abusive person would love to hear, being (in their own eyes) misguided or over-eager but ultimately well-meaning, and if the other one would just see it was love, pure love that made them restrict or lie or hit… 

I’m also rather resentful that Jean Grey does not get to actually enjoy her powers. She gains them, is happy for like 2 minutes – and not that much happier than your run-of-the-mill teenager going to a house party – and then starts vacillating between anger and distress. So many tears, so much anguish, mostly just because she’s experiencing anger. Like that’s the worst, most unnatural thing for a girl to experience! Like she’s completely unprepared for such a perverse emotion! Oh anger, soooo nasty, that’s not very girly at all! 

(I would like to see a superhero movie about some guy superhero who gains amazing superpowers and immediately freaks out, not actually having fun with them at all. Hides and whimpers, terrified of his super-ability. But no-one in their right mind would script such a movie, since it makes psychologically zero sense. And to be fair I would not, actually, like to see that movie. So I take that back.)

It amazes me that some comic industry dudes in the 1980’s managed to create a storyline which does not raise immediate questions regarding their understanding of female agency, while some movie industry dudes – and this was pretty much an all-male panel – in our enlightened times manage to be such idiots and mess the same storyline so badly. Just, how?!?!? And, why?!?! This story does not appeal to woke women after getting a taste of Captain Marvel, and on the other hand also not trad guys, since it’s on the surface level about some weepy girl. 

I did appreciate Dazzler’s well-deserved appearance on the silver screen, I hope she’ll pop up in later Marvel movies. The villain was quite cool, if psychologically near-parodically clumsy. And other than my irritation and these few good points, the whole movie is just fading from my memory, like nightly fog after dawn.