Josh Boone

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.)