Following on the successful performances of 2011's X-Men: First Class and 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past, many were hoping that last year's X-Men: Apocalypse would be another exceptional entry in the X-Men film series, especially with this movie being Apocalypse's full live action debut. While X-Men: Apocalypse generally isn't considered a critical flop at the level of something like Batman & Robin or Green Lantern, ultimately it wasn't nearly as well received as its "First Class" predecessors. Looking back on making the movie, writer and producer Simon Kinberg realizes that X-Men: Apocalypse's biggest mistake was taking the focus off enhancing the characters in favor of showing off a grand, explosive spectacle. Kinberg explained:
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.
While X-Men: Apocalypse certainly wasn't the first time the X-Men were called upon to save the world, the destruction wreaked by Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen was certainly on a wider scale than what previous villains had accomplished...aside from the future Sentinels, of course, but thankfully that timeline was changed. While the X-Men movies certainly need to be packed with action (like most superhero movies), that can't supersede the development of the characters.
But lack of character work isn't the only problem that the X-Men: Apocalypse team honed in on. Producer Hutch Parker mentioned that while the movie does have some good elements, the creative minds involved didn't do enough to evolve it from what had come before. In Parker's words:
It's always dangerous if your script is 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. 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.
Fortunately, it sounds like mistakes have been learned from just in time for X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Simon Kinberg, who is directing the next main X-Men installment, told EW that along with focusing on the main characters and giving them real emotions, he also included "a theme that would make it feel relevant and necessary in today's world." X-Men: Dark Phoenix will also go for a more grounded take with its adaptation of The Dark Phoenix Saga, though there will still be plenty of fantastical elements.