Dark Phoenix ★★★

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Scavenger Hunt 51 - #5 - Watch a movie featuring either your favorite film-score composer or your favorite cinematographer.

"Are you a scared little girl who answers to a man in a chair or are you the most powerful creature on the planet?"

I'm as close to a lifelong X-fan as you can be. The classic animated series was one of the first cartoons I remember watching as a kid growing up in the 90s and I was also a fan of that show's Saturday morning audience-friendly follow-up, X-Men: Evolution. As far as superheroes go, only the Dark Knight outranks my love for the X-gang.

I count myself very fortunate to have grown up seeing these beautifully weird characters change in new and exciting ways through multiple films and timelines. To me, unlike most of their ilk, the way these movies present mutants as a minority seeking acceptance in a myopic world always resonated with me. In my opinion, this approach to super-storytelling reached its apex in the exhilarating X2, one of my very favorite films.

Just like the world we live in, a lot has changed in the mutants' world since I sat in a theater beholding a brainwashed Nightcrawler's dance of death in that film's opening sequence. More than fifteen years later, it seems this special cinematic universe has finally reached its conclusion.

Those close to me know that the film that I was most eager to see in 2019 (other than Episode IX, of course) was Dark Phoenix. Not only is this amazing cast back for another round, they're also bringing to life what is arguably the most iconic of X-sagas. After the spectacular misfire that is X-Men: The Last Stand, calling a second adaptation of this storyline a risky move is an understatement.

While I certainly see why some audiences and critics are reacting unfavorably to this seemingly final entry in the established X-Men franchise, I myself--shocker--really liked this. While it's certainly not one of the best offerings the series has given us nor the sublime adaptation its source material deserves, it's got enough winning pieces to make it a success in my book.

Sophie Turner does a fine job as our titular force of nature and the story, despite feeling like it would've benefited from more fleshing out, is miles better than the first Phoenix go-around. It's an imperfect film to be sure, with lukewarm moments that should instead crackle with life but it's also one with a refreshingly feminist message at its core. To me, that is something that not only feels authentic and faithful to the X-Men comic books, it's something that understands the intention of the original Dark Phoenix saga itself.

I chose this as my "favorite composer" entry for Scavenger Hunt 51 because Hans Zimmer scored it. It's fitting that the score is easily one of the best of the series and a complement to some of the coolest visuals we've gotten from these movies.

Despite its shortcomings, Dark Phoenix gave me one more much appreciated chance to spend two hours with these characters before they become the newest cogs in the Marvel machine. We'll absolutely see them again in the next few years but I can't help feeling wistful at the likely jettisoning of the ballsy sociopolitical undertones that made me love the X-Men even more as an adult than I did as a child.

This may not be the ending I wanted but it's one I'm glad I have nonetheless. I hope these films and the extraordinary beings at the heart of them continue to inspire every kid unsure of his or her place in this world.

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