Jim Henley backs up his contrarian contention that X3 is the best of the X-Men films by tackling the most obvious argument against it: That the movie clumsily cobbles together two distinct plot lines—one based (very) loosely on the Dark Phoenix storyline, and another involving a “cure” for mutanthood (continuing the mutant=gay allegory from the previous films, though with the awkward complications that the cure actually works and “sucking the life out of anyone you touch” is a condition for which “cure” seems rather more apt than “liking members of the same sex”). The result is that neither really ends up working. The “cure” story sort of flies, though it’s underdeveloped, and the way that fight is resolved would admittedly have made for an anticlimactic end to the film without the Dark Phoenix finish. But the Dark Phoenix storyline is absurdly rushed; it doesn’t work at all. Jean Grey is resurrected early in the film and loses control of her powers almost immediately… leading to her losing her shit shortly thereafter. We see her make a lot of stuff float, kill off some major characters without much explanation, come on to Wolverine, and then bolt with Magneto. She then stands around in a big red gown for half the film looking vaguely gothy until the time comes to start melting shit. The result is that there’s no proper buildup to the climactic confrontation between the X-Men (well, Wolverine) and Dark Phoenix, which then hurtles to its resolution so quick you might miss it if you’re not Pietro Maximoff. The only actual acting Famke Jansen ends up having to do in X3 after that early vamp scene with Wolverine involves making her “I’m really intense” face for prolonged periods.
Jim’s defense is a little weird. He notes that people often mistakenly suggest carving up a written work that seems to combine too different themes, failing to note the ways they illuminate and complement each other. Which is fine so far as it goes, but he doesn’t really point to any of the ways the “cure” and “Dark Phoenix” storylines really do compliment and illuminate each other. Because they don’t. They’re not peanut butter and jelly; they’re peanut butter and tuna fish. He just says that while the “cure” story might have been made to work on its own (though, as noted, the end would have needed to be tweaked), Dark Phoenix wouldn’t. But his argument is really that the Dark Phoenix story as told in the comics wouldn’t have translated well to film. Well, it wouldn’t have, but that’s not the version we got here either, so pointing out that the Hellfire Club are lame doesn’t seem to the point. What we could’ve gotten in a movie that centered on this story is better pacing as Jean fights with the team over the course of the film (rather than buggering off at the beginning), allowing us to gradually approach a sense of both how cosmically powerful and how incredibly dangerous she is as her abilities and erratic behavior grow in successive scenes. In other words, it could’ve been handled like a somewhat compressed verision of the sixth season of Buffy—which was itself so obviously based on the original Dark Phoenix story that one of the characters alludes to it at one point. Maybe it takes a Joss Whedon to pull it off, but I think that whole “Dark Willow” storyline is a pretty solid proof that such a storyline is filmable, and I don’t think there’s any obvious reason it couldn’t be fit into two hours or so.