It’s fair to say that X-Men spin-off New Mutants hasn’t had an easy ride to release, regularly delaying and shifting its release dates long before that was a hip and trendy craze to afflict almost all blockbusters (thanks, coronavirus) after first debuting a trailer in 2017.
Now, though, it’s finally here – but will its first showing also be the end? Is New Mutants a one-and-done or, in the grand tradition of superheroic cinema, could there be a sequel?
“In our heart of hearts, we hope [The New Mutants] makes a bunch of money so that we can go make the second one,” director Josh Boone told EW in March – but today, a peculiarly challenging set of circumstances could prevent that from happening.
As Boone implies, the original plan was for New Mutants to kick off a new trilogy of X-Men films following this new gang of superpowered teens (including Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton and Blu Hunt) which would eventually connect with the main series and continue 20th Century Fox’s world-beating X-Men franchise. Who knows? In a different world, perhaps we’d already be on our way to a (heavily-delayed) New Mutants 2.
But rumoured behind-the-scenes problems followed by Disney’s surprise move to buy Fox just kept on pushing that release date, to the point where New Mutants – a low-budget, experimental spin-off – somehow outlasted the wider X-Men movie universe.
Since it was made, Disney’s purchase of Fox and the underperformance of Dark Phoenix has essentially halted the X-Men franchise as we knew it, with the House of Mouse now more likely to reboot the valuable X-Men IP into their own Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“The [Disney/Fox] merger just sort of stopped us in our tracks,” director Boone told Total Film.
“Nobody knew that it was coming, and we were sort of making the movie to be the first in a franchise. None of us had any idea it was going to be bought by another studio or any of those things. So we just sort of rolled with the punches.
“The way that this was originally planned, it was going to come out before Dark Phoenix. Dark Phoenix was going to be two films. All these things – the merger changed all that stuff. Dark Phoenix was changed into one film.
“For New Mutants, I just made sure that I took out this stuff that made it seem like we were setting up an X-Men franchise.”
Maisie Williams as Rahne Sinclair in The New Mutants
This “stuff” included an original New Mutants post-credits scene that would have seen Jon Hamm take the stage as X-Men villain Mr Sinister (who was also hinted at in some other later films in the saga) – later, after it became clear that this storyline wasn’t to be, Antonio Banderas was drafted in instead to play the father of New Mutants character Roberto DaCosta in another post-credits scene. This, too, had to be scrapped, with nothing left in the film that would explicitly need a follow-up – not exactly encouraging signs for sequel prospects.
And after the coronavirus pandemic pushed New Mutants again, the chances of a sequel seem even slimmer. It’s currently unclear how much nervousness around public gatherings will affect the movie box office, and whether cinemagoers will be tempted into New Mutants despite fears of infection. If they’re not sure it’s worth the risk, it seems unlikely New Mutants would get a sequel for the lone reason it may not make enough money to justify it.
Disney certainly don’t seem too keen on pushing the film, declining to screen it for critics at all and releasing it straight into cinemas with only a limited amount of fanfare, especially compared to the publicity campaign for fellow box office test subject Tenet.
In a way, this isn’t hard to understand – New Mutants is an outlier, a film Disney inherited rather than made themselves, and is in a very different horror-themed style to their usual superhero releases. Obviously they might as well release the film and see what happens, but investing in a sequel would be a bigger commitment that they might be willing to engage with.
“Well, Disney and Marvel, they own everything,” Boone said. “The cast and us would certainly go and make another New Mutants movie in a second.
“But I don’t know what Marvel’s plans are, or what Disney’s plans are. I think right now, we just want to get this one out, so that everybody can see it!
Of course, anything is possible. After months without any major cinema releases and without the usual crowding of the summer box office, it could be that New Mutants will become a hit after all – and if that happens, maybe Disney will think again about the possibility of a sequel.
After all, it’s been suggested that Ryan Reynolds’ version of Deadpool (another X-Men/Fox holdover) could survive in the Disney milieu due to his popularity. If New Mutants was a similarly massive success, it’d just be good business sense for Disney to continue with the series.
But considering the low-key release strategy and attempts to remove any franchise set-up, we’d say things don’t look too rosy for a longer New Mutants-themed series to start here. At least we finally got to see this one.