HEAT VISION

'New Mutants' and the Future of 'X-Men'

The long-delayed film is finally opening April 3, but is it possible the story could continue after that?

It’s not a dream! Not a hoax! The New Mutants is finally, finally, coming to theaters. After being delayed for two years, the 20th Century Fox property, now owned by Disney, received a new trailer on Monday morning. The last time we got footage of the horror-centric X-Men spinoff was all the way back on Oct. 13, 2017. It’s enough to make one superstitious, if not already. After rumors of requested reshoots from Fox, director Josh Boone confirmed on Instagram last week that the version of New Mutants coming to his theaters is his original cut and vision. Thankfully, we can avoid the whole #ReleaseTheBooneCut ordeal that was practically a sleeping dragon at this point. While Fox’s central X-Men franchise ended with last summer’s Dark Phoenix, The New Mutants showcases there’s still gas in that tank, and maybe, just maybe, should the film prove successful, then the stories of these characters could find a way to continue on.

Based off of the team created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod, the film focuses on five teenage mutants: Danielle Moonstar/Mirage (Blu Hunt), Rahne Sinclair/Wolfsbane (Maise Williams), Sam Guthrie/Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), Roberto da Costa/Sunspot (Henry Zaga) and Illyana Rasputin/Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy). Kept in a special institute, a far cry from Xavier’s School for Gifted Children, the young mutants are observed by Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga), who has mutant powers of her own. Eschewing costumes and possibly even code-names, The New Mutants aims to be less of a superhero pic and more of a horror movie in the vein of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987).

Dream Warriors are exactly what these new mutants seem to be, fighting off the physical manifestations of their worst fears with their unique powers. At the center of this fight is the question of the extent of Dani Moonstar’s powers. In the comics, she has the ability to create illusions that draw from the fears and desires of those around her. Undoubtedly her abilities are playing into the horrors that her and her fellow “classmates” are experiencing. But to what end? And is there someone manipulating her? Boone has cited “The Demon Bear Saga,” which ran through New Mutants No. 18-20 and was drawn by legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz, as his primary source material for the film. In the comics, the Demon Bear was a demonic manifestation of Dani’s deceased parents that fed off of negative emotions and was created by an unknown adversary. The origins of the Demon Bear is still an unknown in the comics, which makes it the perfect threat for a film so interested in delivering its own perspective on the X-mythos.

Even with New Mutants’ horror leanings, there looks look to be a sizeable display of powers, and most excitingly Illyana’s ability to teleport and draw her Soul Sword from a place known in the comics as Limbo. For as much as the word "grounded" gets tossed around with contemporary superhero adaptations, especially those that aren’t brightly lit and don’t utilize costumes, Boone’s take on New Mutants seems anything but. Character-driven, sure, and superhero-adjacent, yes, but New Mutants looks like its having fun with comic book concepts, and rather than looking for a way to create realism, it is exploring them through a new genre, one rarely seen in movie based on Marvel or DC characters. Even two years later, the same aspect that made The New Mutants so appealing then still has weight now. It looks like a welcome deviation from the norm of superhero pics and a vision that comes entirely from the director’s passion for the property.

Back in 2017, after the release of the initial trailer, Boone discussed his plans for a sequel, confirming that he originally pitched the project to producer Simon Kinberg as a trilogy with each entry exploring a different horror subgenre with the events in the comics serving as the basis. Given the scope of New Mutants comics and the wide cast of characters, there was potential for New Mutants to become a franchise as storied and long-running as Fox’s X-Men series. But Disney’s buyout of 20th Century Fox may change all of that. There was some fan speculation, given the delay, that The New Mutants would be retrofitted into the MCU, with Kevin Feige making changes to add connective tissue. This theory was furthered by Feige’s comments at Comic-Con International in July in which he closed the Marvel Studios panel by saying, “...and there’s no time left to talk about mutants.” It seemed notable that he said “mutants” and not “X-Men.” Marvel Studios’ plans for the merry mutants are still a close-kept secret, and, in fact, their appearance in the MCU doesn’t seem to be part of the immediate future, with upcoming films and story threads pointing towards a more cosmic direction. Still, we can’t help but wonder if the New Mutants, like Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, could fit somewhere in these plans.

Personally, I’d have loved to see the X-Men franchise continue on under the Fox umbrella, separate from the MCU, and free to play fast and loose with continuity, tone and style. Of course there’s fun to be had in seeing the X-Men interact with the Avengers, but neither team needs the other to thrive. As Marvel Comics' recent X-Men relaunch, Dawn of X, has proven, mutants often work better on their own. Even with The New Mutants being released under Disney’s 20th Century Fox banner and through Marvel Entertainment, rather than Marvel Studios, it seems unlikely that future tales of mutants will be issued this way. Still, with The New Mutants seemingly unconnected, or at least loosely associated, with the X-Men films that have come before, Boone’s film does provide an opportunity for a clean slate, be it within its own continuity, the MCU or a Disney+ or Hulu series.

The cast features some of Hollywood's most talented new blood. They are actors most studios would dream of launching a franchise with. And Boone’s seemingly clear vision for where he wants to go is another plus. With hope, audiences will respond to a different kind of superhero story, one that uses our most interesting genre — horror — to propel our most popular one-superhero films. If they do, then hopefully there’s a future for the New Mutants somehow and someway. After all, we could use a little something new.

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