The New Mutants is the unluckiest film ever.
I mean, think about it. Has there been a film with a worse fate than The New Mutants, the Fox/Disney film adapting the titular “young X-Men” squad of Marvel Comics fame? This is a movie that has routinely been delayed out of sheer bad luck, none of it of its own making. Have any other films of recent memory come so tantalizingly-close to the eyes of the eager, only to be pulled back and bound in cloaks of corporate collusion; like a parent softly but firmly gripping an eager child from running to play with the big kids?
“Not yet, New Mutants, you can play tee-ball when you’re older.” When will that be, Disney? When can The New Mutants play tee-ball?
For the uninvested, the unaware, or the uncaring: a brief retrospective.
Back in 2014, New Mutants director Josh Boone had finished The Fault in Our Stars for Fox, adapting the hit YA novel into a hit YA movie. What was next, after meddling with troubled teens for so long? Troubled superpowered teens.
In fact, Boone was so eager to work on adapting the New Mutants he and co-writer Knate Gwaltney actually created a mock-up comic of what Boone envisioned a trilogy of films adapting the high school heroics of the team. It walked Fox, who at that time was its own company, through a trilogy of New Mutant films that would build on each other. “We used this program called Comic Life, and took all the images we had loved from the series and strung them together to show [Fox] the movie we wanted to do,” said Boone.
Simon Kinberg, a crucial producer on Fox’s X-Men franchise, was a fan of Boone’s pitch. The rest, as they say, is history. Boone was hired in 2015 to direct and co-write, and the production began to attract names like Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor-Joy. With Deadpool premiering in 2016 and Logan trucking along to wow us in 2017, the prospect of these tonally-different X-Men films was looking bright.
Blending his Young Adult-genre experience with a darker approach, The New Mutants entered principal photography in Boston, Massachusetts, in the summer of 2017. Things were going well. There were stories of practical effects and a committed cast and throwing of names like Wes Craven and other sizzle words. Boone mentioned feeling restrained in trying to craft an X-Men “horror movie,” but such is the life of an auteur working for a major studio.
A cut was delivered to Fox that Boone was pleased with, and things seemed relatively on-track.
Did you see It, that scary-clown adaptation of Stephen King’s tome-like 1986 novel? Well the heads at Fox did. And they saw how much money it made over at Warner Bros. Turns out people like scary stuff happening to kids! How messed up is that? Well, here’s Boone’s The New Mutants, all set to be spooky and feature teenagers. With superpowers, no less! Well, here’s our chance boys, let’s make the picture spooky.
So Boone and co. were all set to revisit the set and up the scare-factor, which was more in-keeping with the original vision anyway. Happy ending, right? Taking the good with the bad in the early months of 2018, The New Mutants was getting to marinate a little longer with reshoots being prepared. This caused the film to be pushed back from its April 2018 release date to February of 2019, preventing competition with Deadpool 2 (that’s right, the Merc With a Mouth was already on his second movie at this point) and allowing for adequate time to create the YA horror-fest that would scare the socks off of children looking for simple fun and action as they’ve come to know from the X-Men.
Mere months after being pushed to February, The New Mutants would be delayed again thanks to woes troubling the film that would become Dark Phoenix, the next mainline entry in Fox’s X-Men saga. Another delay caused by something that had nothing to do with the film. With the release schedule over at Fox becoming increasingly backed-up by production hiccups and rewrites in other developing projects, The New Mutants was playing second fiddle to larger productions. Eventually revealed to have had a total revamp of its finale, Dark Phoenix would go down as a messy conclusion to Fox’s X-Men series, wrought with hasty and cliched developments and a lack of quality entertainment.
Meanwhile a larger, mouse-shaped shadow loomed.
A mega-buyout was pending, one in which Disney would absorb 21st Century Fox. With the X-Men rejoining the House of Ideas over in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, the fate of films like The New Mutants and Dark Phoenix seemed insecure.
So with that little $52 billion wrench thrown in, poor Boone and his crew were left in the cold. Those reshoots that were planned for September 2018 had still not taken place, with it being reported in March of 2019 reshoots were still yet to happen. At this point Disney was holding the X-Men in the palm of their gloved hand the way Galactus might hold a planet before deciding whether to eat or spare it.
Later in 2019 Disney finally made a decision. The New Mutants was delayed AGAIN to April 3rd, 2020, with reshoots back on for later in the year. With the advent of Disney’s streaming service, there was some speculation whether the scrappy young mutants would be quietly swept under the rug of VoD-obscurity. Boone was increasingly busy with other projects, and the whole affair was something of a slugfest in which the very cosmos seemed to be walloping The New Mutants with the might of existence every time the film had a glimmer of hope at releasing.
In January, just months ago, a new trailer arrived, and any rumor of a Disney+ launch was halted. We were in the home stretch. For real. The movie was finally actually going to release. What could go wrong? Cue the Alanis Morissette.
The COVID-19 pandemic is far too devastating and intricate a subject for this writer to tackle in a piece about the X-Men, but its effect on Hollywood and the global film industry is positively unprecedented. Unfortunately, blindsiding many parts of the world, the coronavirus has all but shut down the extraneous, non-essential facets of global society.
What chance did The New Mutants have?
Without movie theaters to show movies, Disney announced the delay of several of its spring 2020 films. This included Josh Boone’s The New Mutants. Amidst all this, Boone revealed that the film didn’t even go through with the much-delayed reshoots that were originally intended to up the film’s aforementioned scare-factor.
While the fate of the film industry and film exhibition looks no clearer than when the panic of pandemic set in initially, Disney has still done its part in rescheduling some of its roster for later in 2020. Whether those days will stick remains to be seen, as the effects of coronavirus are increasingly altered to be farther-reaching than anyone could imagine. A film that did not receive a new release date in this reshuffling? The New Mutants.
Did I say “brief” retrospective?
As of this writing, The New Mutants floats in a nebulous space of uncertainty, dictated not by box office projections or wrangling a cast for reshoots, but by forces greater than anything Hollywood could muster. In this case, the spunky fledgling-freaks just didn’t stand a chance; no amount of Hollywood gruff can reason with an infectious virus.
And what if The New Mutants is great? What if it’s really, really good? For all of the hilarious misfortune that has now fallen upon The New Mutants, truly, none of it would directly indicate that the film itself was bad. The New Mutants did nothing wrong. Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time multiple times, The New Mutants has been written off by many due to the prolonged nature of its release, with the presumption being that it was “too bad to put on screens.” This, as far as we know, is simply not true.
In this time where the future of films as a medium, like every other facet of the world, hangs in a state of unknowing, little old New Mutants is just a helpless fall guy. It’s the soldier off the boat who gets nailed by a stray bullet before hitting the beach. It’s the last slice of pizza left to go cold. It’s the cousin whose name you always forget and never talk to.
Stay tuned for more.