“Finally” seems to be the subtextual word for the latest and final (again) offering in the X-Men universe, ‘The New Mutants’, following the core X-Men films saying goodbye with the bittersweet ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’, that failed to do too well and proved to be one of the most disappointing summer flicks in years, commercially. ‘The New Mutants’ has ricocheted in and out of development hell multiple times over the past few years ever since it has been announced, and now finally seems to have its eyes on a release date, albeit as a marked end rather than an intended start to a trilogy that the makers imagined and pitched.
With Fox’s absorption by Disney, the original trilogy planned for ‘The New Mutants’ has been scrapped and this will thus be the final, final X-Men film to come out from Fox Studios before Disney utilizes the properties in its own expansive cinematic universe. Here is all we currently know of Fox’s ‘The New Mutants’, which can also safely be called the last X-Men film in quite some time, even if it isn’t directly part of the mutant canon.
The New Mutants Plot: What is it about?
‘The New Mutants’ is a standalone spin-off that Fox gave the greenlight to, inspired from the success of ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan’ that weren’t strictly or solely superhero movies and were meant for a more mature audience. It is based on the eponymous comic book series by Bill Sienkiewicz and legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont set within the Marvel and X-Men universe, and focusing on, as the name would suggest, younger mutants who are held in a secret facility against their will, just as they are discovering their abilities, powers and mutations in a fight to save themselves from a diabolical villain within the facility and escape.
The premise shows a lot of promise, and I especially have to commend director Josh Boone’s dedication to the project: he may almost completely be credited now that the project is (finally!) seeing its realisation and conclusion — from creating his own comic books from original panels to pitch the idea to Simon Kinberg for a potential ‘New Mutants’ trilogy, to fighting studio resistance to seeing the project through according to his own vision, to dealing with extensive re-shoots, to the studio backtracking and deciding to go with the director’s original approach, and then re-shoots for about half of the film, again. This film and Boone have been through a lot together, and the best I can hope is that the film’s idea of experimentation in the genre, and of Boone’s in trying something “very, very different” succeeds.
Boone’s original vision for the film involved going “full horror” with the material, with the scary bits emerging from the many horrors that lurk within the walls of the yet undisclosed mental institution. Your closest hint would be what the Transigen organisation from ‘Logan’ was doing to those children, including Laura (X-23), except that here, it is expected to be much, much more sinister. Furthermore, to ensure the creeps, the mental institution used in the film is the same as the one used in ‘Shutter Island’, the Medfield State Hospital. Boone states that at least 60-70% of the film has been shot in and around the campus, and we are already down with the creeps, even the ones returning from the memory of ‘Shutter Island’.
The film’s first major breakdown happened when the studio resisted the completely scary tone of the film, and formed a writers’ room to tear down the script and piece it together again, in the process, shifting its tone from horror to somewhat “young adult” like in a manner. However, inspired by the success of ‘It’, which was a completely R-Rated horror movie with younger protagonists, and owing to the increasingly positive reactions its own test screenings had, ‘The Young Mutants’ was allowed to be akin to its directors’ original vision, who preferred to go the classic horror way. As a testament to that, sources state that most of the scares in the film are practical effects, and only 10% are through green screen.
The ‘Heroes’ and ‘Villain’
While I hardly think that the film is going to have the traditional heroes and villains, it sure is going to have the relative good and bad guys. The New Mutants faction within the X-Men universe primarily consists of the mutants nicknamed Magik, Wolfsbane, Cannonball, Sunspot and Mirage, each having a unique set of abilities to their names that the young mutants use to get out of the secret sinister facility. Magik is a Russian sorceress with the ability to use “teleportation disks” to travel. Wolfsbane is a Scottish mutant with the ability to turn into a wolf. She is of course different from a werewolf.
Cannonball, quite literally that, is a mutant with the ability to propel himself into the air akin to a cannonball with the firepower and everything, and is also able to manipulate these abilities to harness them for flight. Sunspot has the ability to harness and manipulate solar energy while Mirage has the ability to create illusions from the fears and desires of a person’s mind. Now, as stated in the official synopsis for the film, apart from the physical enforcement of their intimidating secret facility, the new mutants would also have to battle inner demons and come to terms with the extent of their abilities and mutations. Dr. Cecilia Reyes appears in the film too, as a mentor to the group and from the trailers, seems to be the only one on their side in the facility. She is also a mutant and possesses the ability to create energy shields around herself.
The primary villain of the film as outlined by Josh Boone was touted to be Demon Bear, as in the primary story of the New Mutants. He also has a direct connection with the childhood of Mirage (called Moonstar in some comic book issues), so it would make a lot of sense too. However, the crew moved away from it citing it to not be in consonance with the overall scope of the film, that has been described more along the lines of a “Breakfast Club detention/Cuckoo’s Nest institutional setting: a haunted-house movie with a bunch of hormonal teenagers. We haven’t seen a superhero movie whose genre is more like The Shining than ”we’re teenagers let’s save the world”.
Going by what’s been said, and since no primary villain has yet been revealed, my guess is that the antagonist in the film will either be a sinister doctor who is hell bent on experimenting on the young mutants for the sake of some deep seated obsession (think more along the lines of William Stryker from the canon X-Men series or Dr. Zander Rice from ‘Logan’). Furthermore, there is going to be a confirmed post credits scene that will feature Antonio Banderas as an undisclosed villain. This was changed from an earlier version (when a trilogy was planned) wherein Jon Hamm would play Dr. Sinister, a villain who was also teased at the end of ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’. However, I am not sure how a post credits scene would play out, given that the film is a final outing and there are going to be no sequels whatsoever.
The New Mutants Cast: Who is in it?
The crew and casting directors went to great lengths to ensure that ethnically appropriate actors were cast for portraying these characters of various ethnicities themselves, something that even Josh Boone confided his vision in. The cast too, although we haven’t seen much of them in the roles except for the teaser trailer, seems to be in line with the YA/Horror genre amalgamation that the makers have envisioned, and has a lot of popular television faces including Anya Taylor Joy as Illyana Rasputin/Magik, Maisie Williams as Rahne Sinclaire/Wolfsbane, Charlie Heaton as Sam Guthrie/Cannonball, Henry Zaga as Roberto da Costa/Sunspot, Blu Hunt as Danielle Moonstar/Mirage, and Alice Braga as Dr. Cecilia Reyes, their mentor. Furthermore, as told in the previous section, Antonio Banderas will be making an appearance in a post credits scene as a yet undisclosed villain.
The New Mutants Crew: Who is behind it?
‘The New Mutants’ is going to be an official adaptation of the comic book lore of the same name, helmed by director Josh Boone for whom this seems more like a passion project, given that he has been in appreciation of the comic book series and characters while growing up as well. He will be penning the script himself along with Knate Lee.
The New Mutants Release Date: When will it premiere?
After numerous delays, re-shoots and uncertainties, ‘The New Mutants’ is finally (told you) slated for a release date of April 3, 2020 and is touted to be the final Fox X-Men film, and among the first film properties under Fox to be distributed by Disney, after this year’s ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’.