If you’re seeking a summer chore to catch up on, look no further than Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix (C-), the twelfth and promised final film in 20th Century Fox’s Marvel X-Men series. It is a touch below average in nearly every respect, bringing back some familiar characters from the prequel-era timeline (thank goodness for Michael Fassbender) with not much to do while putting an uninspired Sophie Turner as Jean Grey front and center. She is joined by Jessica Chastain as a one-note shape-shifting alien named Vuk, about whom I didn’t give a flying one. Weak special effects, a rehash story of the series’ third outing and virtually no tension or humor cause this X to mark the spot when this long-running franchise whimpered away from relevance.
It’s an encore from a legend worthy of the bows and two-clawed applause. And although it may not quite justify its extended running time, James Mangold’s Logan (B+) is elegiac and electric, giving Hugh Jackman’s blade-limbed hero a fitting farewell. It’s the first superhero of the sandwich generation as Boomer Wolverine becomes dual caretaker for a senile Professor Xavier, gamely reprised by Patrick Stewart, and a pint-sized mutant played by Dafne Keen. The film is largely a chase movie from a Mexican border town upwards through the U.S. to a Canadian outpost called Eden. Set in a dystopian future, the film features X-Men comic books as clues to part of the story. There’s intriguing background mythology, high stakes action, graphic violence, exciting fight choreography and a badass villain played by Boyd Holbrook. The film absolutely delivers the goods for fans of the X-Men movie franchise and of the Wolverine character in particular. In fact, it’s the dramatic high point for the series. Jackman is wonderful, and Mangold gives the film magnificent lived-in flourishes.