Flickering Myth’s Oli Davis sits down with the grand architect of 20th Century Fox’s X-Verse Simon Kinberg to talk about X-Men: Apocalypse, a crossover with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and what – exactly – happened with Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four disaster from 2015? You can watch the interview in the video below, or read it in prose form beneath that.
Simon Kinberg is a fascinating figure. He began his career with 20th Century Fox and their X-Men properties by writing the franchise’s critically-panned third instalment The Last Stand. That was the movie director Bryan Singer put on hold whilst he went to shoot Superman Returns, but the studio made it anyway. If you believe the rumours, it was out of spite…and somewhere in the middle, the young screenwriter Kinberg was caught.
Looking back on that 00s era of superhero movies now, it’s befuddling to think the Cinematic Universe idea wasn’t implemented sooner. Kinberg’s The Last Stand (2006) was sandwiched by Tim Story’s two Fantastic Four movies (2005 and 2007), and these days, those films would be carefully entwined using cameos and post-credits scenes. But then was a different time.
“There wasn’t a conversation back then about it,” Kinberg recalled. “I think Marvel as a studio was just starting out, and this notion of crossing over and telling larger stories that are like a larger tapestry taking place over different movies hadn’t really come into its fruition yet. So none of us were thinking in those terms, and Marvel blazed a way for us. We should’ve been thinking in those terms because that’s obviously the way the comics have always done it, but we weren’t.”
“I just think it’s a radical way to make movies. And I think that usually movie studios are – let’s just say – they’re a little short-sighted. They’re not long-term thinkers. They just want to bang out one movie at a time. And then Marvel showed up and changed the way we all look at movies.”
“Instead of just looking at sequels of individual films, they looked at horizontally how movies could all intersect and inform each other. And I think that part of that is the genius of Kevin Feige and looking at comics, and taking the lead from there. And I think some of it is also how the world works now. We live in a more horizontal world. If you’re on the Internet, you’re not really delving deep into things. You are more sort of tapping and touching and going from one thing to the next that are all interconnected into one large story.”
“So I think the world changed a little bit. I think also the viability of superhero movies changed. They weren’t fringe movies, but they went from being a genre to the dominant tentpole genre now that we have. So all those thing conspire to us looking now at opportunities to tell larger stories.”
Under Kinberg’s guidance, 20th Century Fox has since caught up, with multiple X-Men spin-off movies in development. Weirdly, the one we were here to talk about – X-Men: Apocalypse – has a character oddly similar to Kinberg’s role at Fox. In the film, the X-Men’s central foe is Apocalypse. He sees himself as a God, and strives for the only power he currently lacks: omnipotence.
An omnipotent deity overseeing an entire Universe. Sound familiar?
“Nobody’s asked me that before,” Kinberg laughed, enjoying that I had essentially just called him a power-mad dictator. “Listen, when you actually have to write, you never see yourself as omnipotent. You only see yourself as flawed and scared and terrified that the words aren’t going to come and the page is going to be blank at the end of the day. So I don’t imagine myself as omnipotent. I do certainty enjoy being able to occupy this role of architecting the larger stories of the X-Verse. And that includes Deadpool, Gambit, New Mutants, hopefully Fantastic Four as well. And it’s fun for me, because it’s the way I grew up reading these comics. So as much as it is a radical new way of writing story for film, I grew up this way. And I love it.”
“I’m a big Star Wars fan and a big Expanded Universe fan of Star Wars, as well, and the way that they operate and how those different stories intersect – even thought they’re not always cinematic – was interesting to me. I don’t know. I don’t think of myself as anything other than a very lucky, nerdy writer who gets to play around in a sandbox that was my dream growing up.”
Kinberg had mentioned just a few of the many projects he’s currently involved in. Deadpool 2, the critically-panned Fantastic Four, the “YA” themed New Mutants. He’s even down to write the third Star Wars Anthology movie, after Rogue One and the Young Han Solo film. Once upon a time, Kinberg’s Fantastic Four director Josh Trank was down to direct it. But after their reported disastrous falling out during production, Trank was quietly removed from the project.
But first, Gambit. It was due for an October release this year, but Fox have pushed its date back indefinitely.
“We’ve got to get the script right,” admitted Kinberg. “We just didn’t get the script to the place where we all thought the movie deserved. So we’re still working on the script. We’re very close, actually, to being done with the script. And the hope is that Channing [Tatum] has a couple of movies he has to shoot, but that we would shoot at the end of this year, or the beginning of next year.”
“It’s looking really good,” he continued about the project. “I’m not going to say anything about it content-wise. I think one of the things that I’ve learnt on all these movies – and maybe the lesson was best learned for me on Deadpool – is the most important thing is getting the tone and the voice right. That the storytelling, the actual narrative, the plots are sort of interchangeable and disposable, ultimately.”
“If I ask you what your favourite movies are, you’re not going to tell me about the plot. You’re going to tell me you love this character. And so what we’ve really tried to do with Gambit is make sure that we get the voice of that character right and the tone of the comics 100% on the page. It’s a very unique tone. It’s unique from Deadpool, it’s unique from the X-Men. It’s a heist movie that we’ve never done in these kinds of films before. He’s a con-man. And so that’s really where we’ve spent our time.”
“There was a moment when we were going to shoot the movie at the beginning of this year, and then we felt like it just wasn’t ready. Knowing, hoping, that Gambit is like what Deadpool was – the start of a new franchise within the X-Men universe – we want to make sure we get it right.”
Head to the next page for Simon Kinberg revealing what went wrong with last year’s Fantastic Four movie, his thoughts on a Marvel Cinematic Universe/X-Men crossover and what’s next for the X-Men…