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Simon Kinberg is refreshingly candid in his appraisal of why Dark Phoenix premiered to such dismal ticket sales. The latest film in the X-Men franchise opened to only $33 million domestically and was critically disregarded. EW’s own Leah Greenblatt deemed it “anticlimactic” and uninterested in “tweaking the tropes of the genre.”
Although many filmmakers would avoid commenting on disappointing box office numbers, Kinberg, the film’s writer and director, took full responsibility for Dark Phoenix‘s poor performance.
“It clearly is a movie that didn’t connect with audiences that didn’t see it, it didn’t connect enough with audiences that did see it. So that’s on me,” Kinberg told KCRW’s The Business.
Kinberg, who made his directorial debut with the film, acknowledged that many issues contributed to the picture’s failure, from consumers’ X-Men fatigue, to the numerous release date changes, to difficulties in working for Fox while it was being acquired by Disney.
However, Kinberg said it’s not painful talking about the film as he genuinely liked working on it.
“I loved making the movie, and I loved the people I made the movie with,” he said.
He also said that many colleagues in the industry have reached out in the wake of Dark Phoenix’s release to support him, including Tim Miller, with whom he collaborated with on the first Deadpool movie.
“He wrote me an email having empathy for a movie that doesn’t work,” Kinberg said. “[He wrote] people will come to see the movie differently, and out of the context of this particular moment, see things in it they will appreciate and that he appreciated as a fan.”
Kinberg also reflected on the fact that a movie’s public perception doesn’t have to interfere with the creator’s own feelings about the project. He said Ridley Scott, whom Kinberg worked with on The Martian, told him that his favorite film he’s worked on was G.I. Jane, even though it’s less praised than his other works like Alien or Gladiator.
“He said it was his favorite because it was just a great process and he learned a lot on the process of making it,” Kinberg. “I’ve thought about that a lot over the years, and I thought about it a whole lot over the last weekend.”
The interview also turned to the subject of sexual misconduct allegations against director Bryan Singer, who helmed numerous X-Men films before Kinberg. When asked if he knew about the accusations, Kinberg responded he didn’t think they were his business back then.
“Not my business. Not something that I saw on set or in the workplace. Otherwise I would have felt like it was my business,” said Kinberg. “Those movies were complicated to make. They were oftentimes hard to make and oftentimes — this is not to excuse any behavior — sometimes they were really good. X-Men: Days of Future Past, the first X-Men movie I made with Bryan as a director, is my favorite of the X-Men movies, certainly that I’ve made.”
Coming up for Kinberg is Universal’s 355, his next directorial effort, as well as reshoots for The New Mutants, the 2020 film poised to be the last in the X-Men film series.
He’s mostly leaving this world behind, as Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige takes over the reins of the characters after Disney’s acquisition. And as he’s peering at the X-Men through the rearview mirror, Kinberg said he still has a lot of love for the franchise.
“I love these characters. I’ll be super excited to see what Marvel does with them,” Kinberg said.