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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dark Phoenix is the fourth and reportedly final movie in the X-Men: First Class films; it centers on Jean Grey (Game of Thrones' Sophie Turner) in her all-powerful form. The movie has lots of darkness and violence, with mutant vs. mutant, mutant vs. alien, and mutant vs. human battles. Expect several deaths, one of them particularly upsetting, as well as big explosions, lots of destruction, and other typical superpower-conflict byproducts. Language is occasional and includes "s--t," "damn," and one use of "f---ing." There are a couple of passionate kisses between established couples, some scenes of drinking, and some moments of sadness at the loss (or perceived loss) of major characters, as well as the early loss of a parent. It's more women-focused than other X-Men installments and has themes of friendship, teamwork, self-control, and hope.
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What's the story?
DARK PHOENIX starts in 1975, with a flashback to a young Jean Grey, whose telekinetic powers accidentally cause a tragic car crash that leaves her orphaned and handed into the care of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). Fast-forward to 1992, when Professor X, at the president's request, sends the X-Men to space to rescue imperiled astronauts. During the mission, Jean (Sophie Turner) absorbs the cosmic power of a solar flare, with some life-changing side effects: She suddenly transforms into an ever-growing powerful being. Meanwhile, the leader of a dying alien race arrives on Earth, takes over the body of an unlucky woman (Jessica Chastain), and searches for the power residing within Jean. As Jean grows more unpredictable and dangerous, she causes property damage, injures her friends, and discovers a secret that Professor X was hiding about her past. She then leaves the X-Men, tragically kills one of her friends, and ends up teaming up with the alien leader -- who convinces her she should unleash her powers and destroy the world. Can Jean be stopped?
Is it any good?
Turner is well-cast as Jean Grey, but she can't elevate this serviceable but unremarkable final X-Men film into the pantheon of memorable series endings. Writer/director/producer Simon Kinberg focuses on Jean's dark transformation, but that story comes at the expense of several characters who are limited to supporting/barely there roles. In other words, the X-Men who've made the previous First Class films watchable, funny, and clever aren't given enough screen time to shine. And some comic relief would have been welcome amid the grief and intensity of Jean's journey, but not even Quicksilver (Evan Peters) gets more than a zinger or two.
The action sequences are technically well-executed: a flurry of mutants fights first among themselves, then together against a common enemy. Fassbender and McAvoy, no longer the main characters, still play their key roles, but their interactions (until the end) are familiar and unoriginal. The crew deserves an award for Jean's impressive makeup, which apparently isn't just waterproof but also explosion- and near-apocalypse-proof: There's not a moment when Turner doesn't look positively luminous. Another memorable upside is that the film's main and most interesting characters are women, something Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) jokes about early on when she suggests that Charles change the name of the team to "X-Women." Perhaps in the next reboot, the franchise's women warriors will continue to be highlighted.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Dark Phoenix. Big battle scenes are a regular part of superhero movies. Do you think they're necessary to the story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Discuss the gender issues explored in the movie. What does Raven mean when she tells Charles that he should rename the group "X-Women"?
What do you think of the ending? Do you think the X-Men films feel complete now? Do you want another reboot of the franchise?
- In theaters: June 7, 2019
- Cast: Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy
- Director: Simon Kinberg
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Character Strengths: Self-control, Teamwork
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action including some gunplay, disturbing images, and brief strong language
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