• Ben Erickson

Dark Phoenix

The last film of the Fox-produced X-Men franchise, Dark Phoenix arrives for some as a satisfying catharsis of a much-beloved series and for others as an overdue termination. Directed by Simon Kinberg, writer for the series since X-Men: The Last Stand, crack number two at the Phoenix force comic arc stars Sophie Turner in the lead role, with none other than the immutable Hans Zimmer brought on board to compose. The series has seen Michael Kamen, John Ottman, John Powell, Harry Gregson-Williams, Henry Jackman, and Marco Beltrami, plus Tom Holkenborg and Tyler Bates if you count the Deadpool films. When half the franchise has been composed by his lackeys it seems only fitting that Zimmer should be the one to devour the corpse, with the composer emancipating himself no less from his self-imposed superhero exile for the occasion. Several film music enthusiasts have spoken of this score as a Zimmer revival, calling back to his '90s era peak days, but the only thing this rumour has accomplished is to set up others like myself for disappointment. There is no hint of Zimmer's earlier melodic impulse and new-age techniques, nor does the score take account of music from earlier X-Men films, from which there is a great legacy to draw on. Instead it is so obviously derivative of his despotic approach of recent years as to be gimmicky. Using a soprano vocal for a 'phoenix bird call', or whatever incidental interpretation you prefer to use, and a floundering excuse of a theme, it begs the question why he has not yet made the leap from film scoring to concert music? Between the release of his latest tour album, The World of Hans Zimmer, and the way he organizes his scores conceptually, as if they are giant suites rather than distinguished narratives, it is pretty clearly what he wants to do. I love early Zimmer scores, and I wish I had had the opportunity to write about them during their release as I would have savoured every minute, but I cannot abide by this dreck. The score for Dark Phoenix serves to kill even those reverent feelings I hold for scores of past years; two thrums down.