A lot is riding on X-Men: Dark Phoenix, after the lackluster performance of X-Men: Apocalypse both critically and at the box office.
Speaking to EW, actor Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), director Simon Kinberg, and producer Hutch Parker spoke about the differences between Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, displaying an awareness that hopefully implies the franchise has learned from Apocalypse‘s mistakes.
“I think we took our eye off what has always been the bedrock of the franchise which is these characters,” says Kinberg, who also served as a writer and producer on Apocalypse. “It became about global destruction and visual effects over emotion and character.” Um, agreed.
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.
Yes, this is a great goal. But I find it hard to believe those weren’t goals while writing and shooting Apocalypse. Perhaps the film’s messiness had something to do with the reported inconsistency of director Bryan Singer, who reportedly vanished briefly at one point during filming.
“It’s always dangerous if your script is evolving while you’re shooting,” said Parker, giving some insight into the production process of Apocalypse.
“Certainly, in hindsight, we all feel like the genre has been evolving aesthetically and tonally and that the film didn’t,” continued Parker. “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.”
Turner implied that this evolution in tones and aesthetics will lead to a more realistic, grounded movie—a particularly impressive feat given that at least some of Dark Phoenix will take place in space.
“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,” said Turner. “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.”
“The reference images were a lot of real world imagery,” said Kinberg of the intial Dark Phoenix movie pitch he made to the studio. “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.”
This all sounds great, but, in what has been an inconsistent on-screen universe, particularly when it comes to the adaptation of the “Dark Phoenix” plotline, I am going to remain only cautiously optimistic about this one.