As of the time of writing this, The New Mutants has been out for three days, and so far, both the critical and financial response has been…well, pretty pathetic for a major blockbuster with a $70 million+ budget. Its opening weekend has only brought in $9 million which is abysmal for film in one of the most successful movies franchises of the last 20 years; and it’s garnered a laughable Rotten Tomatoes score of 32% (out of 100). And it’s not as if the studio can blame it all on the coronavirus pandemic, when Tenet has been doing extremely well at the box office despite everything that’s going on at the moment.
So why did this film fail so spectacularly? Well to answer that question we’ll have to jump in our DeLorean’s, and travel back in time to the year of 2016…
Ah 2016…everyone was either dabbing, flipping plastic water bottles, or partaking in the “Mannequin Challenge”; simpler times, eh? 2016 was also a strong year for cinema, especially for the superhero genre. The third instalment of the Captain America trilogy, “Captain America: Civil War” was the highest grossing film of that year, and the amazing critical and financial response to Deadpool showed studios that the public were definitely on board for more adult-oriented and quirky comic-book movies. Dozens of upcoming superhero flicks were announced that year too. And one of the ones that stood out the most, was The New Mutants, which was going to be an edgy spin-off of the X-Men movies.
That March, Simon Kinberg, a co-producer on the film, commented on the movie, which was still in the early stages of pre-production at the time. He said that screenwriters Josh Boone and Nate Lee were working on the script, and that Boone would be helming the film as its director. He explained that the film would be different from the core X-Men films, and would be, “maybe not as different as Deadpool, but it has its own unique, original voice to it”. Kinberg also stated that the film would have a young adult “vibe”, and that there was potential for characters seen in previous films to appear, namely Warpath, Sunspot, and Professor X, who all have ties to the New Mutants in the comics.
After that brief expose in March, not much came out for a while afterwards. In June of 2017, the full cast list was announced. The film was packed full of young adult actors (young-adult actors, not young adult-actors; this isn’t that type of movie…). This included stars Maisie Williams (of Game of Thrones fame), Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton (from Stranger Things), Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, and Henry Zaga. Also, with the cast announcement came a set release date of April 13th 2018.
Filming commenced in July of 2017, and all was quiet. Looking back in hindsight, this was the calm before the storm. By the time filming had finished that September, Josh Boone had been exhausted of all his passion and enthusiasm for the film. According to reports, Boone was forced to tone down a lot of the originally planned horror elements of the film due to 20th Century Fox exec’s putting pressure on him to make the film have more of a widespread appeal.
Boone delivered a cut of the film to Fox that he and his editors were happy with, and it tested as well as initial screenings of Deadpool did. Three days of additional photography were planned to complete the movie that Boone had agreed upon. However, following the successful release of the film “IT” the studio cut the first trailer for The New Mutants to focus on the “scary elements from the film, essentially selling it as a straight-up horror movie”. This proved a success, and Fox decided to make the film more like Boone’s original vision rather than completing the version that they had been making during production.
Damn you’ve got to feel bad for Josh Boone. He’s taken the brunt of the hate for the film over the last couple days, but it wasn’t really his fault. He had a clear vision; Fox said no to that vison; he made something that studio liked, despite it putting so much stress and pressure on him; then only to be told to change it back to how it was originally supposed to be.
In January 2018, the film’s release date was pushed back to February 22, 2019. This allowed it to avoid “Deadpool 2” which had just been moved to a date that would have had both films in theatres at the same time competing at the box office. It also allowed time for the reshoots required to incorporate more of the horror-elements that the studios and Boone wanted to include.
Fox again delayed the film’s release in March 2018, moving it away from the new February 2019 release date for “ X-Men Dark Phoenix” to August 2, 2019 by then, the reshoots required for the film were rumoured to be more extensive than previously thought, with 20th Century Fox apparently now wanting at least half of the film to be reshot, putting Boone and the cast under even more pressure.
It was at this point that fans and movie buffs alike began to grow concerned with just how much the film was being pushed back; and the fact that 50% of the film was going to be scrapped didn’t give much reassurance.
Then…then the house of mouse came in and stomped on this film’s chances of ever being successful, and from that day forward, not a whimper was heard from the team behind The New Mutants. It’s just like my mum always says, “It’s all fun and games until a multi-billion dollar multimedia conglomerate purchases your studio”.
Following the acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney in March 2019, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the planned reshoots had still not taken place and there were “none planned so far”. The report indicated that further movement on the film appeared to be dependent on Josh Boone, and that there was a chance the film may not be released per its Fox release schedule and could instead be released on Disney+ or Hulu, both streaming services owned by Disney.
Disney later decided against this even though they claimed to see little box office potential for The New Mutants. Insider sources claim that Disney were contractually obligated to release any upcoming Fox projects when the acquisition was made, but this hasn’t been confirmed by Disney.
It’s release date was then pushed back for the third time, to April 3rd 2020.
On March 7, 2020, Boone stated that the film was complete. Shortly after, he explained that work on the film had halted when Disney’s acquisition of Fox had begun and so no reshoots ever took place on the film, even standard pickups that had already been scheduled during initial production. At that time, around 75 percent of the film had been edited while much of the film’s visual effects were also not finished. By the time the acquisition was completed, Boone had moved on and was about to begin work on a new television series, The Stand. The work required to finish the film when Boone returned involved completing the visual effects and editing alongside co-writer Lee, which took several months. Reshoots for the film could have been scheduled at that point, but Boone found that the cast had aged too much since principal photography had taken place. It was at this point Josh Boone realised that, whether he was happy with the finished product or not, that nothing more could be done to film. With no other choice, he delivered his final cut to Disney…
Disney removed The New Mutants from its release schedule, along with several other films, on March 12, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was looking to reschedule the film’s release to a later 2020 date.
Finally, after 4 long years of production, the film was released on the 28th of August 2020. I mean, let’s face it, Disney just dumped this film in cinemas, knowing full well that it wasn’t great and wouldn’t make much money. But they had to release it at some point, so why not at the tail end of a global pandemic when cinemas had only recently reopened; a quiet send-off for an unremarkable movie.
Critics were harsh on the film, but at the end of the day, not even the director had faith in the film, so you can’t expect critics to be enthusiastic about it. This didn’t stop star Maise Williams from memeing it on Twitter though. In response to an article dissing the film, she joked, “Sounds like a must see (fairy emoji)! Get your tickets now (star emoji)”.
It’s a real shame too, because The New Mutants had a chance at being one of the most unique superhero films of all time, but studio meddling and poor executive decisions got in the way of it being something really special. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it sure as hell won’t be the last, but hopefully studios take notice of what happens when you come down on creatives and take note of what not to do going forward.
Well that was a quick recap of the woeful journey of The New Mutants troubled production. I hope you enjoyed!