Simon Kinberg, writer, producer and director of Dark Phoenix, has been involved in several other movies within the X-Men franchise. Disappointingly, this does not mean Dark Phoenix measures up well to others in the series. The cast is still good and the final action sequence and special effects throughout are done well, however, this movie is not as engaging as its predecessors.
Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) plays Jean Grey, the Dark Phoenix. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender return as Professor X and Magneto. Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult continue in their roles as Mystique and Beast. Tye Sheridan plays Grey’s romantic interest, Cyclops. Having these familiar actors continue in their roles from previous movies provides continuity within the story.
The Dark Phoenix herself is not villainous and is not portrayed as intrinsically evil. Jean Grey is a hero, the perfect example of what X-Men should strive to achieve, but while attempting to save others she absorbs a powerful entity that strengthens her abilities and reignites a painful memory from her childhood, thereby creating the Dark Phoenix. As presented in the movie, it is unclear how much of the resulting chaos is the Dark Phoenix and how much can be attributed to the entity. The X-Men end up divided over whether she should be destroyed.
There are aliens who follow the entity to Earth, and who want its power for their own use. They clearly need to be stopped, however, compared to other comic book villains, they are not particularly frightening. While their presence is not enough to take the place of the Dark Phoenix as the primary antagonist in the story, they do provide a satisfactory battle between mutants and aliens. The battle on a moving train is one of the highlights of the movie.
A little bit of the humor frequently found in X-Men movies would have helped a lot. Instead, the film kept returning to sad notes and never reached a cathartic level of tragedy. There is not only the concern over what was happening to Jean Gray, but there are also other characters who are hurt or lost in this [purported] series finale. Unfortunately, the concern for other characters merely serves as a much-needed distraction from this weak telling of the Dark Phoenix saga.