Fox

Marvel's mutants don't have a merry movie outlook in the near-future

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What started out as a promising twist on the superhero movie and a potentially clever mix of genres looks like it’s turning into a debacle that 20th Century might prefer to ignore and bury.

During the TCA (Television Critics Association) press tour this week, producer Lauren Shuler-Donner — a longtime producer and shepherd of the X-Men movie series — talked about the franchise moving over to Marvel Studios with the Disney-Fox corporate merger. In the process, she addressed where the merger left the remaining X-Men related projects that Fox is still releasing or was developing.

One of those films is The New Mutants, following a teenage group of mutants learning to develop their abilities. The movie, conceived as a mash-up of horror and superhero elements, was originally supposed to be released last April. (April 13, to be exact.) But concerns about the film’s story and tone resulted in reshoots and the release date being pushed back to Feb. 22, 2019. Continuing creative uncertainty, namely an effort to make the movie scarier, punted the project even further down the calendar to Aug. 2.

Famed New Mutants artist Bill Sienkiewicz confirmed the renewed delays in an interview, according to Bleeding Cool.

Among the changes rumored to be made in reshoots was the introduction of a villain in a post-credits scene. Reportedly, Jon Hamm had originally been cast to play famed X-Men villain Mr. Sinister, but the studio decided to use a different bad guy with Antonio Banderas in the role. There have also been rumblings that a new character, Warlock, had been added to the main story. As a techno-organic alien that can change shape, adding Warlock would surely require a heavy use of digital effects, depending on how he’s used in the script.

All of this has left the movie in a messy, uncertain state, though director Josh Boone is reportedly still working on post-production before he begins work on adapting Stephen King’s The Stand for a CBS All Access series, which he is co-writing, co-producing and directing.

But is The New Mutants such a mess that Fox might nix its theatrical release and try to salvage whatever it can by selling the movie to a streaming provider? Apparently, there have been rumors that Fox might be talking to Hulu about taking the film. Shuler-Donner addressed this while talking to the press at TCA.

“They worked hard on it,” said Shuler Donner about the film’s production team, “I want to see it released (theatrically), I’d hate to see it thrown at Hulu.”

That quote comes from Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva, who also reports that a decision like moving a theatrical release to streaming won’t be made until the Disney-Fox merger becomes official. If The New Mutants gets pushed to Hulu, the good news is that fans would get to see it. Of course, that also means the movie didn’t go to theaters and almost certainly wouldn’t get a sequel. What may have began as a bold attempt to stand out could turn out to be an ambitious failure.

Another X-movie that we might not see at all is Gambit, which Channing Tatum still wants to make and had hopes of co-directing with his creative partner Reid Carolin. But the Disney-Fox merger has put a hold on any development there. Several directors have been attached to the project over the years, including Rupert Wyatt, Doug Liman and Gore Verbinski, only to eventually drop out. According to The Playlist, Tatum and Carolin tried to get their Magic Mike and Logan Lucky director, Steven Soderbergh, on board, but he has no interest in doing a superhero movie. (That’s unfortunate; a Soderbergh take on superheroes would be a must-see.)

Addtionally, Shuler-Donner acknowledged the inevitability that Wolverine will eventually be recast if and when Marvel decides to its own X-Men movies. It could be quite some time before Marvel gets around to the X-Men. If Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants are disasters, the studio will likely want to give audiences time to forget and regain an appetite for those characters.

In the meantime, movie sites can generate content by guessing who could take over for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. (I’d start a list with Tom Hardy and Taylor Kitsch, but maybe that’s something we can discuss on the podcast sometime soon.)

X-Men: Dark Phoenix pushed back again, days after first trailer touts Feb. 14 release

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How much regard does Fox really have for Dark Phoenix (likely to be the studio’s final X-Men film before Marvel takes over)? Less than two days after debuting the movie’s first trailer, the release date has been pushed back for the film.

Yes, really. After advertising a Feb. 14, 2019 release, Fox announced on Friday that Dark Phoenix is being moved to June 7. Just like that.

When I first saw film reporter Jeff Sneider tweet the following, I honestly thought it had to be a joke:

Sneider is a reliable, veteran reporter who has covered Hollywood for years, so there was no reason not to believe him. His reputation is at stake with something like this. However, after he went on a rant last week that many saw as unhinged, it briefly occurred to me that maybe Sneider was making a joke. But there was nothing among the surrounding tweets on his timeline to indicate that he was mocking anything (or anyone).

In fact, the Dark Phoenix news was one of a handful of dominoes that fell on the Fox movie slate. First, an “untitled Deadpool movie” is being released on Dec. 21. That bumps Alita: Battle Angel to Feb. 14 and pushes the next X-Men film to that June 7 date. And that kicks another X-Men-related film, Gambit (a movie some doubt will ever be made, to a March 13, 2020 release.

There’s a whole lot to unpack there, stoking plenty of speculation. Does this mean Fox thinks more highly of Alita than Dark Phoenix? Probably, because that could be a future franchise for the studio if it’s successful while the X-Men will become part of the Marvel cinematic universe, thanks to the Disney-Fox merger.

As Forbes’ Scott Mendelson points out, this also gets Alita away from some potentially crushing competition in late December, such as Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bumblebee and the heavy Oscar contenders. Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro notes that Alita and Dark Phoenix could have better openings in China with the new release dates, something that’s a huge factor in international box office these days.

Yet bumping Dark Phoenix a third time (it was originally supposed to open this November before Fox pushed it back for reshoots) doesn’t dispel the perception that the movie could be a mess.

What about Fox releasing another Deadpool movie this year? No, Ryan Reynolds and company didn’t whip together another original film five months after Deadpool 2 hit theaters. According to several reports, the “untitled Deadpool movie” will either be a PG-13 version of the film or Deadpool 2 with additional footage spliced in. Reynolds tweeting a picture of Deadpool reading a book to Fred Savage, a callback to The Princess Bride, may have hinted at such an approach.

Then there’s Gambit, seemingly the outcast of Fox’s X-Men movie universe. Once upon a time, this was a project that generated excitement with Channing Tatum attached to star as a hugely popular character among X-Men comic book fans. But the movie hasn’t been able to keep a director with Rupert Wyatt, Doug Liman and Gore Verbinski each dropping out of a troubled production.

Part of the problem with Gambit has been finding the right tone, especially after the success of Deadpool. Should this be a hard-R movie or have more comedic elements? It appears that Fox is leaning more in that comedy direction, with producer Simon Kinberg (also Dark Phoenix’s director) telling IGN that Gambit will be more of a romantic comedy. Likely anticipating fans shrieking with outrage, Kinberg insists he’s talking more about tone than overall approach.

Even with trying to keep an open mind, that sounds kind of awful. To be fair, the best superhero movies (i.e., Marvel movies) have plenty of comedic elements, even if the stories are ultimately serious. Maybe that fits the character of Gambit. Diehard fans will have to vouch for that. Personally, I’ve never been a fan and his popularity came during a time when I wasn’t reading many comic books. And we’re still talking about a movie that doesn’t have a director.

It’s too easy to dismiss anything Fox does with its Marvel properties and just presume they’re all better off going back to Marvel Studios. But it’s also understandable when Fox has only had recent success with Deadpool and badly handled the X-Men and Fantastic Four.