Chances are you’ve never seen The New Mutants. The X-Men adjacent horror flick fell through the cracks during Disney’s acquisition of Fox. It’s a shame because, well, it’s pretty good.
Not The Best, But Far From The Worst
It’s not on the level of Logan or X-2, but it’s leagues above the worst the X-Men franchise has to offer—*cough* X-Men Origins: Wolverine *cough*—The New Mutants doesn’t even bill itself as an X-Men movie, which probably contributed to its poor performance at the box office. Then again, it could just be the film’s cursed production.
The New Mutants Was Going To Be A Trilogy
It started after the completion of the 2014 20th Century Fox film The Fault in Our Stars when director Josh Boone approached the studio with an idea for a trilogy of movies based on the Marvel comic New Mutants. Boone even created a comic using panels from various issues to illustrate to producer Simon Kinberg what a potential film adaptation would look like. Kinberg liked Boone’s concept, and in 2015, Fox hired Boone to direct The New Mutants based on a script from Boone himself and childhood friend Knate Lee.The movie would revolve around five young mutants being held in a secret facility against their will. While there, they must learn how to use their special abilities to fight their past and help each other escape once they learn the facility’s true intentions. The New Mutants would consist of the five characters from the comic: Rahne Sinclair/Wolfsbane, Illyana Rasputin/Magik, Sam Guthrie/Cannonball, Dani Moonstar/Mirage and Roberto da Costa/Sunspot.
Familiar X-Men Characters Were Supposed To Appear
Fox originally intended for the film to have more overt connections to the X-Men franchise and set the movie three years after X-Men: Apocalypse (2016). In 2016, the screenplay for The New Mutants was finished and featured Professor X and Storm in prominent roles. Boone described the movie as “unique” within the X-Men series and said it would have a “young adult vibe.”
The first big change to the movie (but certainly not the last) was the removal of James McAvoy’s Professor X from the script. Next up, following the fairly tepid response to X-Men Apocalypse (2016), the movie’s time period was changed from the ’80s to the present day. Boone, for his part, weathered the stormy production well, claiming that the mandated change in the setting wouldn’t affect the largely confined nature of the story very much.
The New Mutants started shooting in April of 2017 on location in Boston, Massachusettes. The movie had secured Game of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams in the role of Rahne and Anya Taylor-Joy as Illyana as well as several other young rising stars.
The Horror Aspect
What didn’t sit well with the director was Fox’s note to tone down the horror aspect Boon had envisioned for the film. The decision left the director feeling a bit “neutered” and left the film feeling more like The Breakfast Club rather than A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, one of Boone’s biggest influences for the movie. Boone swallowed his pride, however, and delivered a cut of the movie to Fox in time for the The New Mutants planned 2018 release.Unfortunately for the already put-upon director, Fox decided after the success of It (2017) that they wanted Boon to go and put all the horror back into the movie. To accommodate the necessary reshoots, the movie’s release was pushed to February 2019. Fox soon pushed the release back again to August 2019 to distance the film from the February release of the next proper X-Men film, Dark Phoenix.
As reshoots were slated to begin, Disney acquired Fox, leaving the ultimate fate of The New Mutants in their hands. Disney’s first move was to bump the release date again, this time to April 2020, to accommodate their existing MCU schedule.
Meanwhile, members of the cast were blowing up in popularity, making it difficult to reunite everyone for the still-needed reshoots. Eventually, the horror elements were put back into The New Mutants, but real-world horror, COVID-19, would further hamper the film’s release.
A Major Flop Upon Release
Eventually, The New Mutants was released into theaters in August of 2020, smack dab in the middle of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the movie’s box office reflects this. The film limped its way to a global box-office take of $49.2 million. Not good, considering the movie’s budget was estimated to be between $67-80 million.Critics hated the movie—it holds a 36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—and it ultimately faded into obscurity on Disney +. Despite all of that, the troubled production, the change of tone, and the horrible reception, the movie is actually pretty good.
Why The New Mutants Is Worth Watching
The New Mutants actually manages to feel like a horror movie with superhero elements rather than a superhero movie with horror elements—an important distinction. When Marvel tried to market Doctor Strange as part of a “horror movie,” everyone who had actually seen the movie rolled their eyes. Every Disney Marvel movie is a Marvel movie first and foremost, that’s its genre. Just because a Marvel movie happens to have a little more gore in it or a little more espionage or sci-fi doesn’t mean it’s not still a Marvel movie.
Even more impressive, the movie manages to have some actually LGBTQ representation in the relationship between Rahne and Dani instead of whatever Endgame was trying to do with that one guy mentioning his husband disappearing in the blip.
Bottom line: if you miss the old X-Men movies, enjoy sapphic love stories, and prefer your superheroes with a side of horror, The New Mutants is streaming right now on Disney+. Give it a watch.