2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse has been considered something of a disappointment for the 20th Century Fox franchise, coming after several successes. The film, which netted unusually low critical scores (under 50% on RottenTomatoes) and general fan dissatisfaction, was criticized on a number of levels, including its visuals and general “been-there-done-that” nature of global jeopardy at the hands of a powerful supervillain. Hardcore fans of the X-Men franchise were especially disappointed at the treatment of Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse, who fronted several classic comic storylines in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The film did bring in decent worldwide box office at $543 million, but that was still a 27 percent drop from the gross of the better-received X-Men: Days of Future Past.
But it’s still interesting to see that the film’s detractors now include its own writer and producer, Simon Kinberg, who is also writing 2018’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kinberg and several of the film’s other producers and stars opined about what went wrong on Apocalypse, and how they’re working to hopefully correct it in Dark Phoenix.
“I think we took our eye off what has always been the bedrock of the franchise, which is these characters,” Kinberg said to EW. “It became about global destruction and visual effects over emotion and character. One of the things I went into this film [Dark Phoenix] wanting to do is obviously focus on the characters and give them real emotions to play and come up with a theme that would make it feel relevant and necessary in today’s world.”
Producer Hutch Parker added additional comments, suggesting that the script became confused due to it “evolving while you’re shooting.”
“Certainly, in hindsight, we all feel like the genre has been evolving aesthetically and tonally and that the film didn’t,” Parker said. “There’s a lot that I think is very good in the film but, as a whole, it was struggling to find ways to coalesce, narratively emotionally and in terms of plot. Aesthetically, it felt sort of dated relative to an evolution you were seeing play out everywhere else. We learned a lot from that.”
Actress Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones fame will return to play Jean Grey in the sequel, which will see her transformation/possession by the cosmic entity known as the Dark Phoenix/Phoenix Force. She also commented on the new film in comparison with Apocalypse, although her description is a bit on the fluffy side, simultaneously referring to the film as “gritty” and “fantastical” in the same breath.
“It is so gritty and there are so many fantastical things in this movie and we really wanted it to resonate with every member of the audience who watches it so we had to make to so real as well,” Turner said. “You still get that sense of escapism when people start flying but there’s so much reality in it. I think it will really affect people. And the way Simon shot it — the majority of this movie is handheld, like Steadicam.”
Kinberg goes on to reinforce that idea of “realism” in the X-men universe with his closing comment.
“The reference images were a lot of real world imagery,” he said. “Everything from real disaster footage to what a real lighting bolt looks like when it strikes the ground. What I talked about with the performances and the photography and the visual effects is it needs to all feel organic and it needs to feel like it lives in our world to make it feel relevant again and not so heightened.”
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is scheduled to arrive Nov. 2, 2018.