X-Men: Apocalypse is not a very good movie, but it is an extremely comic book-y movie, which is to say that it feels very much like a one-to-one translation of your typical X-Men comic. Rather than focusing on making audiences really care about the characters, Apocalypse prioritizes action and visual spectacle.
While that approach certainly makes for very good gifs, it also makes for lackluster films—something X-Men: Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg is keenly aware of. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Kinberg, who also wrote and produced Apocalypse, added to Jennifer Lawrence’s recent take in which she called previous X-productions “chaos,” and admitted that somewhere along the way the team behind the film lost their way:
“I think we took our eye off what has always been the bedrock of the franchise which is these characters. It became about global destruction and visual effects over emotion and character.”
You’ll recall that a good chunk of Apocalypse’s climax involves Magneto screaming into the sky as he attempts to reverse the earth’s magnetic poles. A whole lotta things get destroyed across the world and you’re meant to see the sequence as a big deal, but ultimately it ends up feeling like every other generic comic book movie’s end of the world scenario.
That being said, Kinberg mentioned that Apocalypse’s weaknesses helped him understand what he wanted to do with Dark Phoenix, a film with the potential to be similarly FX-heavy at the expense of real character development. Rather than simply letting the VFX department run wild with Dark Phoenix’s effects, however, Kinberg made of point of using things like footage of real disasters and photos of how lightning actually strikes the ground so that things actually look, you know, real-ish.
Despite the literally cosmic scale of Dark Phoenix’s plot, Kinberg emphasized that he approached his film knowing that the key to making it really work was giving the characters a chance to feel like real people:
“One of the things I went into this film 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.”
Actor Sophie Turner added that, unlike most of the other X-Men films to date, Dark Phoenix is supposedly gritty in a very necessary way so as to balance out its more fantastical elements. Part of achieving that, Turner explained, was shooting the vast majority of the film with handheld cameras.
While it’s good to hear that Fox was cool with Kinberg dialing things back for Dark Phoenix, the movie’s definitely going to need at least a touch of over-the-top-ness if it’s going to work. Might I suggest a dramatic monologue in which Jean, after eating a star and murdering billions in a galaxy far away, announces to the world that she is life, death, and fire incarnate?