Despite all the storytelling reshuffling, including adding Antonio Banderas as a new villain, there’s hope for this ‘X-Men’ spin-off yet.
Blockbuster fans have basically been trained to fear the word “reshoots.” The mere idea that an initial vision wasn’t executed with 100% accuracy the first time around could send fandoms into a flurry of worry at the click of a mouse. For good reason, because sometimes reshoots result in something like Rogue One or the Fantastic Four reboot.
When news broke recently that The New Mutants is being pushed back a second time — the film is now slated for release in the back half of 2019 as opposed to February (originally it was due this month) — and that director Josh Boone and Fox execs have been butting heads on set, it was admittedly easy to be pessimistic. From the film’s promising first trailer, The New Mutants already feels like a step in a different direction for the X-Men brand, at least genre-wise. But based on the rumors, the horror tinge was an experiment the studio was unwilling to invest in.
The Tracking Board has some new information about what’s purportedly really happening behind the scenes of the film. While this may just fuel the fires of journalistic speculation that will ultimately be compounded by the aforementioned incessant nature of fan culture, several nuggets do stick out from their latest report. And they actually give us hope rather than more cause for concern over the fate of The New Mutants.
To begin, it’s a huge relief that Boone and Fox haven’t reached the point of “irreconcilable” in their “creative differences.” It’s true that the studio wasn’t keen on Boone’s initial horror ideas in the first place because the scares would mean giving up a PG-13 rating. However, both parties came to a kind of happy medium by shooting a creepy version of a YA movie; something like “a cross between Stephen King and John Hughes.”
In theory, such an X-Men film would’ve been fine on its own, given Boone’s experience in the YA genre — he helmed The Fault in Our Stars, and that film is perfectly functional. But this actually reined in more of Boone and co-writer Knate Lee’s original ideas than we’re comfortable hearing. A writer’s room was also brought together to re-conceptualize the New Mutants script multiple times until the horror element was sufficiently suppressed to Fox’s liking.
Well, as fate would have it, an actual Stephen King adaptation hit the world by storm in September 2017, performing beyond anybody’s wildest expectations. The horror boom that really started with Stranger Things hit a fever pitch with IT, and Fox speedily curated a trailer that focused on the scary elements of mutation in the X-Men universe. I personally adored the fact that the New Mutants trailer is so horror-heavy and wasn’t alone in praising it as a riveting direction for the franchise to go in. So, the studio evidently backed off, finally giving Boone more leg room to direct the film that he and Lee had initially pitched. It’s a refreshing thing to note, especially after the entire debacle Fox had previously had with Fantastic Four director Josh Trank. At least this time, Boone seems to be kept in the loop while he hopefully exercises some kind of creative freedom.
That leads to another development that feels more up-in-the-air than anything else: the casting of Antonio Banderas in the role of the New Mutants villain. He is sort of replacing Jon Hamm, who’d been expected to appear as Mr. Sinister in a proper reveal (following the tease at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse). Sinister is a key antagonist in the X-Men comics who would’ve carried on nicely — and perhaps improved upon — the messy execution of Apocalypse in the latter’s eponymous film. Banderas is not expected to take over the role of Sinister from Hamm, yet details about his character, including his identity, are being kept under wraps for now.
Combined, the additional horror elements and removal of the only concrete link The New Mutants had (thus far) to the existing X-Men franchise keeps the film as much of a mystery as it’s always been since it was first teased. However, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if this leads to another spin-off-ish movie for the franchise. Fox’s resident R-rated antihero Deadpool may have some visible links to Professor X and crew, but they are portrayed in a far more tongue-in-cheek manner that keeps the film feeling like a colorful offshoot from the main franchise.
As with any sub-genre shifts in established series, The New Mutants will be a test of the limits of the superhero movie. Ideally, the X-Men franchise ought to continue pushing boundaries when it comes to mature-rated superhero movies, as it’s found a surprising but discernible niche there. According to the Tracking Board’s report, it may have taken a fluke for Fox to come to that conclusion, but it could be for the better.