Review: ‘Dark Phoenix’ is the final plunge for a franchise that forgot how to soar

An unusual contradiction of expectations await the arrival of “Dark Phoenix.” For reasons motivated more by corporate hegemony than pure storytelling, the 12th entry in the “X-Men” franchise is essentially the last under the 21st Century Fox umbrella, following the studio’s acquisition by Disney earlier this March.

So, suddenly and somewhat startlingly, “Dark Phoenix’s” responsibilities are multiple, not the least of which is to provide a sense of finality. Depending on where your franchise loyalties lie, that may not be nearly as important as fixing the mistakes of 2006’s Brett Ratner-directed “X-Men: The Last Stand”; after “Days of Future Past” – still the most memorable of this recent run of “X-Men” extravaganzas – nuked its timeline in 2014 in ways we still don’t quite understand, the franchise had a clean slate to revisit the beloved Dark Phoenix comics storyline, and to tell it the right way.

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Review: Deadpool delivers on the hype without sacrificing substance

This review first appeared in the Daily Lobo, the independent student newspaper of the University of New Mexico. You can see the original review here

It’s almost a farce in itself, getting settled in to watch Deadpool as trailers for upcoming superhero flicks like Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War play, when we feel like we’ve seen those particular movies a dozen times already.

Rest assured that Deadpool is the freshest Marvel entry since Guardians of the Galaxy, combining the best elements of successful superhero films with the creative freedom of an R-rating and a passion to bring the spirit of Deadpool to the screen…for real this time.

The result is a thoroughly entertaining film that, while it grasps its title character’s unique nature by the horns, it doesn’t go overboard with it.

That, in particular, is a pleasant surprise and one of Deadpool’s biggest strengths. While the film was hyped for taking a popular superhero adaptation to uncharted territory in terms of debauchery and raunchiness, Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller realized that they shouldn’t sacrifice substance for the sake of shock value.

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After all, to a degree rarely seen in the superhero genre, the character of Deadpool is just as much a part of the spectacle as the action is, perhaps even more so.

Make no mistake, the film is definitively a hard R, with enough blood, sex and profanity to make Captain America blush. But in making Deadpool as unapologetically faithful to its audience as it is to the source material, the film also has a heart that raises it a notch or two above what most were probably expecting of it. 

Ryan Reynolds truly is born for the part of the merc with a mouth, bringing not only Deadpool’s twisted sense of humor and relentlessness (his motto being “Maximum Effort”) to the screen, but also infusing him with a sentimentality that gives unexpected weight and stakes to the action and story.

Deadpool is also structured in a way that is very appealing, essentially an origin story told via flashbacks. It helps a lot with pacing, and gives the film a certain energy and flow that persists even through its few slower sequences early on.

The story is decidedly small-scale compared to other superhero films, but it’s also in essence a very personal story of revenge and, yes, love that it feels ok. Deadpool himself certainly is larger than life, and that is more than enough, especially with the knowledge that a script for a sequel is already being worked on.

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Aside from the gritty action, the humor is also top-notch. The script is so well written to accommodate both sides of Deadpool’s personality, but his fourth-wall breaking, Wolverine-bashing, mercilessly-chastising side is what audiences pay to see, and Reynolds delivers every line with the perfect blend of sarcasm and wit.

There’s also some pretty funny moments with the introductions of X-Men Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and T.J. Miller effectively goes toe-to-toe with Wade Wilson as his pal Weasel.

It’s as much a testament to the focused direction as it is the passion imbued in the final product by its cast and crew that Deadpool manages to deliver so successfully everything it was hyped to be. In the process, it also surprises its audience by reminding us that its creators had every intention of giving us a film that has as much heart and story as it has style.

If only younger fans could use that as an excuse for their parents to take them.

In a Nutshell

Deadpool makes fun of the cinematic universe it’s now a part of not only through its mockery of it, but in its personality that takes so many risks and exceeds at pulling off what so many thought might never happen. Hollywood might try and adapt its formula, but Deadpool stands on its own as a true beast of a film, as much about the passion of bringing it to life as it is about embracing its mature nature.

8.9 / 10



Deadpool is rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity 

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller

Directed by Tim Miller