The latest X-Men film risks short-circuiting thanks to its own over-abundance of special effects. The many scenes of characters being consumed by fireballs or crumbling to dust or being hurled backwards by the lightning-like force in the X-Men’s fingertips become increasingly dreary.
This is a young adult drama as much as it is a sci-fi film but doesn’t have anything very fresh to say about the trauma of adolescence as experienced by mutant superheroes.
Jean Grey (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner) is the troubled, flame-haired heroine. Jean (aka Dark Phoenix) is first seen as a child in a flashback in 1975, siting in the back of her parents’ car. Her telekinetic powers cause the radio to jump channels and end up provoking one of those slow motion crashes in which the shattered glass falls like confetti on the passengers’ heads as the vehicle performs somersaults.
With her special powers, it is only to be expected that Jean (played as a child by Summer Fontana) will soon be enrolled in the Hogwarts-like school for gifted youngsters run by the wheelchair-bound Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy). No sooner is she settled here than we are whisked forward in time to 1992.
Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is leading a crew of young daredevils on a mission to rescue some astronauts. During the trip, Jean is engulfed in the middle of a solar flare. This both enhances her powers and gives her a cosmic case of personality disorder.
She becomes “all desire, all rage and all pain” and can no longer contain her emotions. She has father issues, her hormones are running wild and she is about to evolve into the “greatest force in the galaxy”.
Raven doesn’t like the way that Charles is sucking up to the political establishment, going for dinners with the President even as he puts the lives of the X-Men at risk. Charles explains that by getting the X-Men accepted as heroes, he is overturning the suspicion that many of the humans still feel toward these mutants in their midst.
Writer-director Kinberg tries to address the gender imbalance implicit in the title of the film. This may be an X-Men story but the women (as Raven is quickest to point out) are invariably doing the rescuing.
There are also veiled references to President Trump’s immigration policies. When security is threatened, the politicians waste no time at all in setting up mutant internment centres.