It’s October 13, 2017. I’m just a couple of weeks into my new gig at The Ringer, and I’m doing a pretty straightforward blog about the first trailer for The New Mutants, a horror-tinged extension of the X-Men universe set to come out the following April. All signs point to the film being another exciting pivot for the 20th Century Fox franchise after the R-rated tandem of Logan and Deadpool found critical acclaim, significant hauls at the box office, and in the case of Logan, an Oscar nomination. Nobody was expecting New Mutants to show up at the Academy Awards or anything, but a superhero movie with jump scares was an intriguing idea.
Well, New Mutants is still intriguing, but not for any of the reasons intended. It’s now August 2020 and New Mutants has still, rather infamously, not been released. Instead of being an experimental horror offshoot, the movie is now the final relic of a cinematic universe that’s all but extinct—or it will be if it ever gets to theaters. That remains a pretty big if, since the movie has already been delayed five times and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made the prospect of American theaters reopening in 2020 a highly questionable endeavor.
If New Mutants was a troubled project before 2020, the effects of the pandemic have all but confirmed that this is a cursed artifact—the superhero equivalent of Terry Gilliam’s doomed Don Quixote adaptation. How exactly did we get here, and just how many things went wrong for New Mutants along the way? Let’s look back through all the delays, rumored reshoots, and chaotic miscellany that’s surrounded this project for as long as I’ve been a blog boy.
20th Century Fox announces that filmmaker Josh Boone, fresh off the YA megahit The Fault in Our Stars, will direct and cowrite the X-Men spinoff New Mutants. Boone’s bona fides, along with the fact that this project will adapt a comic series that focuses on a group of teenage mutants, appears to suggest that the X-Men franchise is looking to appeal to the YA market. Boone will hype up the film further by later describing New Mutants as a “full-fledged horror movie.”
On September 12, Boone posts to his Instagram that New Mutants is in its last week of shooting. This puts the film in a solid position to hit its original release date of April 13, 2018 (lol). With a young cast led by Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things) and a newly revealed movie logo spattered with blood, New Mutants is shaping up to deliver on its promise of “Stephen King meets John Hughes.”
Meanwhile, there are rumors that Boone felt “neutered” while working on the movie because the studio wanted New Mutants to avoid having an R rating like Deadpool and Logan. (Presumably so that New Mutants could appeal more to teens.)
The aforementioned first trailer for New Mutants is released. The mutant protagonists are living in a creepy-looking asylum overrun by doctors who definitely don’t have their best interests in mind. The asylum itself—the film was shot on location at Medfield State Hospital in Massachusetts, the same place Shutter Island was filmed—might also be haunting these poor teens. The laundry situation is even worse than it was in my old apartment.
Consider New Mutants sufficiently hyped for its April 2018 release, I sure hope nothing happens ...
Welp, New Mutants is pushed back from April 13, 2018, to February 22, 2019. The main reason for the delay, per 20th Century Fox, was to avoid overlap with Deadpool 2, which was slated to come out on May 18. There are, however, rumors that the studio wants some more significant reshoots for New Mutants to spice up the scares in response to the positive reaction to the jump scare in the first trailer. This is kinda rich, considering that seems like what Boone wanted to do all along.
New Mutants receives another new release date, moving from February 2019 to August 2019. It’s at this point that the extent of the film’s reshoots are reported—as much as 50 percent of New Mutants could be reshot, and additional characters are added. The larger issue, as was previously reported, is that the movie wasn’t deemed “scary enough” and 20th Century Fox wants the movie to be as tonally distinct in the superhero genre as Logan and the original Deadpool were.
After months of speculation, Disney officially acquires the film and TV assets of 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion. That means that Disney now has control of the X-Men franchise—and there is already speculation that the company wants to integrate mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But before we can think about what the X-Men will be like in the MCU, there’s still the matter of Dark Phoenix and New Mutants, the final two films in the franchise.
As Dark Phoenix settles on a June 7 release date, New Mutants is pushed back yet again to April 3, 2020. There are continued rumors about planned reshoots, indicating that no reshoots ever happened in 2018 as originally planned. Being caught in the middle of one of the biggest media mergers of all time is yet another obstacle for a film that’s beginning to feel as haunted as the mutants’ asylum.
Also March 2019
“Who knows when the fuck that’s gonna come out,” says Maisie Williams, talking about New Mutants with Rolling Stone for a dual profile with her Game of Thrones costar and best friend Sophie Turner.
After Dark Phoenix is critically panned and bombs at the box office, Disney CEO Bob Iger says 20th Century Fox has been “well below where we hoped it would be when we made [the Fox] acquisition.” (Personally, I’m not sure what Disney expected when they treated the movie with such indifference. Granted, Dark Phoenix was quite bad.)
That Fox criticism extended to New Mutants; Disney was reportedly “unimpressed” by the movie and questioned the film’s box office potential. Nevertheless, Boone’s movie was still slated to—finally—come out in April 2020.
Further confirmation that New Mutants would actually be released and wasn’t just some elaborate yearslong prank came at the start of 2020, when the film got its first trailer in more than two years.
“This place takes your greatest fear, and makes you live through it,” one character says, ostensibly making the New Mutants asylum not unlike the cursed ship of Event Horizon, a perfect movie. It also seems like all this time on the shelf and potential reshoots haven’t distilled the movie’s scares one bit. Our teenage mutants are terrorized by possible hallucinations and forces unknown. Plus, we don’t have to wait much longer to find out, since the film is coming out in a few months ...
With COVID-19 sweeping across the globe, major studios have to reshuffle their movie release schedules as theaters shut down. Tentpoles like Fast 9, Top Gun: Maverick, No Time to Die, and Black Widow are moved to the end of 2020 or into 2021—and yes, New Mutants is along for the ride. Thanks to events entirely out of its control, the movie is delayed once again, and its new release date remains TBD while Disney sorts out what to do with its projects.
Meanwhile, Boone clarifies to Entertainment Weekly that, despite literal years of speculation, New Mutants reshoots never actually happened. “If there hadn’t been a merger, I’m sure we would’ve done reshoots the same way every movie does pickups,” Boone said. “We didn’t even do that because by the time the merger was done and everything was settled, everybody’s older.”
Actors being a few years older might not sound like a big deal for most movies, but it’s more of an issue when you’re dealing with a principal cast in their late teens and early 20s. The upside of not being able to do reshoots is that Boone gets to release a movie that’s closer to his original vision—as long as New Mutants can actually, for the love of god, find its way to the big screen.
While movie theaters reopening this summer remains a contentious (and potentially unsafe) proposition, Disney has enough faith to schedule what is—as of this writing, at least—the fifth and final New Mutants release date. The movie is now scheduled to come out on August 28, 2020. That is [deep breath] 868 days from New Mutants’ original release date of April 13, 2018. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are dark corners of the web where people question whether the movie even exists at all.
For a uniquely subdued and entirely remote Comic-Con, Fox has a New Mutants panel because, well, the movie is technically coming out in a month. As part of their presentation, the opening minutes of the film are previewed—further evidence that New Mutants was a real project that had an actual production in 2017.
Also, if you’re wondering why Disney hasn’t given up on New Mutants as a theatrical release and put the movie on one of its streaming services (Disney+ or Hulu), Boone explained to Collider that it’s a contractual matter. The film was guaranteed a theatrical release; hence the persistent rescheduling, and the particular kind of schadenfreude that’s surrounded this project for as long my current employment situation.
COVID-19 cases might still be rising in the United States, but Disney remains steadfast in keeping New Mutants’ release date. (Though as Christopher Nolan has found out the hard way, the window for theater reopenings is subject to constant change.) But even if the debut is relegated to drive-in theaters, perhaps it’s best to just let New Mutants see the light of day—and finally allow Boone and his cast and crew to get some closure on a project that has sat on the shelf longer than some cinematic universes have existed.
And if New Mutants is delayed once more to fall 2020 or beyond, I could be swayed into believing Medfield State Hospital is haunted grounds.